Gandhiji would have been delighted with HOW @ Bhoomi College!

by Rema Kumar

Gandhiji would have been delighted with HOW @ Bhoomi College!

A day at Bhoomi college begins with an hour of HOW- hands on work. The Bhoomi fellows engage with either gardening, working in the kitchen or taking responsibility for cleanliness of the work rooms and library. Gandhiji would have fully endorsed the idea and the practice of giving primacy to working with hands there by honoring it. To him this would mean going against the capitalist logic of demeaning productive work done with hands and considering it less important. Living out the value that all labour is equally socially necessary in an educational institution would have appealed to the holistic educationist in him. 

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

- Gandhi

Gandhiji was one of the greatest deep thinkers of all time- but he had time for day-to-day work, mundane work. Or is it that being in touch with the mundane actually makes us more meditative and deeper thinkers? At Bhoomi, seeing the whole, learning from many great thinkers, understanding underlying processes, questioning the TINA mind-set and finding solutions – are all part of the intellectual quest. Also valuing hands-on-work, owning up our feelings and spiritual selves, like Gandhiji did, are all part of our holistic quest.

So he would have loved to see Bhoomi fellows, connecting with soil, becoming intimate with the process of growing food organically and engaging in the act of bread labour. To see people  cheerfully and enthusiastically learning to be farmers rather than only valuing intellectual effort would have made him happy too. He would have felt a deep resonance listening in to their animated conversations and discussions about how to grow low cost nutritious food. To see them scurrying about composting, mulching, weeding, sowing and doing a hundred little thing that need to be done and treating with reverence the act of growing food would have brought on the twinkle in his eyes!

Gandhiji was one of the greatest deep thinkers of all time- but he had time for day-to-day work, mundane work. Or is it that being in touch with the mundane actually makes us more meditative and deeper thinkers?

Our diet experimenters trying their hands at putting together a wholesome salad, gathering herbs for a rejuvenating drink or kahsayam/infusion, sharing recipes and their personal practices would have made sense to the healthcare researcher in him. He would have shared their enthusiasm and deep concern for wholesome nutritious food and commitment to making it. Taking their experiments forward and trying it out on their fellow Bhoomivasis   (he is known to have done the same with his fellow ashramites ) would have amused him  no end. His sense of humour would have been tickled watching them play guessing games with their friends asking them to figure out the ingredients or assuring them that no harm would come to them!

The Bhoomi cleaners at work in the morning, co-owning the space and taking the responsibility for its upkeep would have appealed to scavenger/cleaner in him. The practice what you preach examples he would see in action; a group engaging in questioning a wasteful /consumerist economy that puts a premium on non-manual labour with a broom and mop in hand!  A few members willingly taking on the responsibility of doing the boiler duty so that hot water is available to all. (Only solar energy is used in Bhoomi buildings – hence no electric boilers.) The values of simplicity and minimalism that is practiced in aesthetics as well, be it making a rangoli of flowers, pebbles or seeds gathered from the garden or using recycled paper craft decorations!

Gandhiji would have been joyous to see Bhoomi fellows donning many hats, discovering/owning different facets of themselves and finding great joy in it too.  A lawyer proudly claiming that she is truly a seed keeper, a finance professional stating that being a farmer is what gives him greatest joy, a marketing executive and a retired army colonel singing folk songs while mopping the floor, an educationist announcing to the group that she is a herb gatherer and healer at heart! And in this asking themselves the question that Tolstoy – one of the many who inspired Gandhiji - had so eloquently asked, “But why should we do a hundred other things which serfs formerly did for us? Because we think it is necessary so to do; that human dignity demands it; that it is duty, the obligation, of man.” 

The stories he would witness of many a transformation, of many a discovery made by the fellows by losing themselves in the service of others; of enjoying the synergy between manual and intellectual work; of building community by working together  would have surely warmed his heart…

Gandhiji would have surely been delighted with hands-on-work at Bhoomi College!