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Adaptation Upon Arrival

sarada's passage to navdanya part II

May 28, 2010 by saradagrace

Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India. They have helped 54 community seed banks across the country, training over 500,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades. They are actively involved in the rejuvenation of indigenous knowledge, for the protection of biological and cultural diversity.

‘Navdanya’ means “nine crops” that represent India’s collective source of food security.

For the first time, I can see the mountains. In Rishikesh, although the city is built into the sides of the hills, the mountains seem distant in the fog, heat and pollution.

Only in the early morning and evening can the mountain tops be seen at all, and while there is a sense of them all around, they are like ghosts looming somewhere far overhead, felt rather than seen.

Swaying Mango Trees and a Symphony of Birds

Nestled at the base of the Himalayas, outside of the city of Dehradun, the mountains bookmark the sky, greeting the great sprawling Indian plains–I have arrived. Dusty, exhausted and overwhelmed by days of travel, sickness and the heat which is so new to my body, I notice for the first time the sounds of birds. Birds of more kinds than I can count, mango trees swaying in the breeze and trees reaching their leaves toward the sky. In Rishikesh the trees have all dropped their leaves in the dry season, and the green is like a breath of clean air for my vision.

I am taken to my room – in a long hallway of rooms facing out toward the farm. The buildings are made of mud, rich in hand mixed painted color. The man who shows me to the room offers me great kindness when he takes me by the shoulders and tells me that I am welcome here. He tells me that ‘I am home’, and that I can know that this is true. Cultural appropriateness aside, I hug him, and then immediately leap back, embarrassed. He laughs, and tells me to sleep.

I lay on the porch and rest in the breeze. Lazily opening my eyes at an unknown ‘whoosh’ sound, I am surprised to see that the mango forest is suddenly covered in beautiful white birds. Strutting slowly, they watch the ground for bugs before snaking their heads out to reach for their food.

Self-directed Navdanya Interns at Sunset

If there is one thing I have learned during my time in India it is this: things are not as expected – and Navdanya is no exception. It turns out that I had not been expected by the farm staff. Somehow there was no communication between the offices in New Delhi and the Farm, so there is no set project ready for me here (although I hear this is often the case with the Delhi interns also).

Speaking to the other interns who are here, they share stories of the moment they discovered that their internships were truly ‘up to them’, and the projects that have emerged from this freedom. The person that I have been communicating with by email from Canada (my ‘supervisor’) left the organization last week without a word, so I was able to meet with another person here this morning who will be able to serve as my official ‘supervisor’. His first words of supervision? “Find something you like, and do it!” Ok! Here I go!

Farmer Training Circle – True Revolutionaries

The farm is at work all of the time, and yet the work itself is more a part of life than something separate. It is the work of creating food, sharing food, sorting out community life, cleaning seed, meeting with the farmers, sweeping the floors. It is a life of imminence and magnificent presence. This morning I sat for hours with a group of women sorting tiny rocks from lentil seeds, listening to the lilt of Hindi and watching the rain pour down.

My busy mind struggles with the variability of life here. I have been hurrying for years it feels, rushing to complete one known for another unknown. Time has sped up, leaving me feeling oftentimes lost in the confusion of fast-paced hustle. Could it be that Navdanya will offer the chance to learn in a pace that is so different from that which I usually push myself toward? That it could offer me the freedom to explore to the depth that I want to go?

A Matter of Sorting

As I write this I can hear the sunset call to prayers coming from the nearby community. There is an owl hooting in a nearby tree, and the sky is filled with the flush of pigeons. I have crushed spearmint leaves on my hands from where I spent a blissful hour weeding this afternoon, and the sky is shifting to a beautiful shade of purple.

Could all of the last week have happened in the same India? The crowded, garbage filled streets, the poverty, the devotion along the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh? This space of mangos, earth and place? I have been blessed with the appearance of so many unexpected angels on this journey. In arriving at Navdanya I feel I have met another.

There is a man here named Edwin Toone, who is doing a photography project for a book on Navdanya. He will be traveling to some of the farms across India that are a part of the network of Organic farm workers, and documenting their stories. Perhaps I will have the chance to join him. Only tomorrow will tell. I will spend this week defining the work that I will do – and working each day with a different part of the farm.

I met a woman in the library tonight who tells me, “It is all connected. Here, there, everywhere. Somehow everything is connected at Navdanya too. I just have to understand how.” I feel the same way.


Yogini, activist, and humanitarian, Sarada Eastham, is a former YDC graduate and Youth Coordinator at RYYO, living an inspired life as a student of International and Community Development. Her internship with Navdanya, a biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Doon Valley, Uttranchal, will unfold before us as she spends the next two months immersed in the richness of this heated political and environmental climate.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Your words are so vivid I can almost imagine myself there. When you talk about the warm welcome you recieved, the new tempo of life and the beauty of the natural world around you, I am reminded of how I felt when I visited Yasodhara the first time in January. Thank you

    Comment by Sheila — May 29, 2010 @ 7:37 am

  2. Thanks for this lovely and vibrant reflection, Sarada! Your energy and bright personality shine through, and I can’t wait to hear about the rest of your adventures with Navdanya.

    “Find something you like, and do it” ~ those are words to live by, in life, in general! I’m sure that once you find that something, you will have much to offer the community. Keep us posted!

    Comment by roseanne — May 29, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  3. Your words are so beautiful and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing this experience. It sounds like there is much to be learned from the Indian culture. I look forward to hearing more!
    Hari Om

    Comment by Nicole — June 1, 2010 @ 6:19 am

  4. Sarada,

    Enjoyed your post! I am just finishing up a book on the politics of food. I visited Navdanya and interviewed Dr. Shiva and have a whole chapter on seeds. Check-out my website: http://www.compostdiary.com/ Thanks! Spring

    Comment by Spring Gillard — June 9, 2010 @ 11:51 am

  5. Thank you for the comments everyone. Spring, it is great to read about your work. There are so many people working with sustainability including food, water and air sovereignty. They are important issues that affect us all, and I am so happy that dialogue is starting to become more prevalent. Thank you, Yasodhara community for championing the importance of the life that sustains us all!

    Comment by Sarada Eastham — July 27, 2010 @ 11:39 pm

  6. I’m loving your posts…I will be starting as an intern with Navdanya in a few weeks and am feeling even more inspired after finding your blog!

    Comment by Stephanie — September 14, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

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