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Carved from the Lands of Change

sarada's passage to navdanya conclusion

October 30, 2010 by saradagrace

The storms wake me at night, winds calling forth two months of rain and threatening to rip the tin from the rooftops before the water comes, a wall of wet, plastering the tin back in place and beating it down with tiny fists. Lightning illuminates the corners of the bed, and in this place, I sometimes wonder if the sky is made of fire.

The mango fruit are heavy on the branches now, dipping toward the earth as though surrendering themselves to harvest. New birds have appeared with the beginning of the monsoons, and I can hear them calling to one another in the breeze. For the last month words have escaped me. I have found them this lazy afternoon, sitting in the whitewashed breezeway, surrounded by sleeping dogs. I am sheltered from the heat by stone latticework walls, creating patterns that jump and dance as the wind blows through the trees.

Blanket of the Himalayas

Last month, I travelled North into the blanket of the Himalayas, blue mountains that unfold endlessly toward the sky. I went to attend a farmers training, as well as to sit in on a meditation course at a retreat centre in the folds of the hills behind McLeod Ganj, home of the Tibetan community in exile and residence for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

En route (somewhere between the collision with the cow and the sleepy carnival that is the technological city of Hyderabad) our bus jumped over a pit in the road, lept toward the cliff edge and careened sideways, coming to rest with the back tire spinning squeakily over thin air.

At first I called it a ‘bus accident’ but have since come to realize that it was more an ‘incident’ than ‘accident’, as the bus drivers and passengers alike nonchalantly clambered out, investigated the damage, built a ramp to lift the bus back onto the road, repositioned the 4 motorbikes that were hitched to the top of the bus, recounted passengers who were making the trip clasping to the rooftop and patiently reloaded the bus in an incredibly orderly fashion.

The last month has been a lesson in mind and body, listening and patience. At first, it seemed as though all was the same. I walked, wandered, attended the farmers training and learned. The Tibetan community has committed to becoming fully organic in their food production and hopes to be able to gather traditional Tibetan seeds that can be replanted in Indian soil.  Homeless and displaced, the community seeks to find a way to dig deeper into India, to find themselves in this place of lowland heat and a cacophony of different languages.

"Building a Tibetan future within Indian soil"

Their place here is tenuous, and one monk told me that Tibetan seeds can help them to feel that they can build a Tibetan future within Indian soil, sowing earth for a shared future in the deep hopes of belonging and place. “It is important to scatter seeds” one Monk told me. “Seeds of all sort. Seeds of peace, seeds of hope. Seeds of awareness. Seeds of wheat, seeds of millet and ancient seeds of lentil. I would even like some seeds of chocolate!”

Then the pain started. Radiating through my hip and back, I sat, I watched, I lay, I dreamed this pain, seeking the source and fighting off fear and frustration. I felt vulnerable and alone, wondering how I would manage in this fragile body, damaged by such a circumstantial ‘bump’ in the road. It was when I started to relax into this new sensation in my body that the teachers started to appear.

Unexpected angels, arriving in the form of new and old friends, offered to help with my backpack, to find me food and to share bits of themselves to assist with my journey. Rendered helpless by the war raging between my shoulder blades and hips, I watched, learned and discovered deep pools of gratitude for the gifts of Mother India.

"It is important to scatter seeds"

It was three weeks before I was able to make the return journey to Navdanya, and three more until I was able to come to a new understanding of purpose. I have always felt oriented around my body. I live, laugh, love and experience through my limbs, through movement and through the interaction of my body with the earth, soil and water.

During my time in India I have been called outside of myself, my senses teased with smells, sights, tastes and the clear shock of new experiences piled one on top of another. I have learned that healing requires returning back inside, reclaiming the senses and focusing my energy on the steadiness of breath, the stability of my core and the softness of being with gentleness.

In all of this, I have found a new place and a new sense of purpose outside of my physical body. I have shifted the focus of my work to that of the office: writing, organizing and helping with the planning of the systems that underlie the work that takes place in fields around the country. I found work waiting for me in the form of a food charter that one of the local communities is writing; documenting traditional seed, naming the community seed keepers, and recording the places and plants that fill the land that the community sits upon.

The work is good, although not sweat filled labor of the type that I am in the habit of referring to as ‘a hard days work’. The work is gentle, and the work is sharp as a scythe, carving away at the old ways of thinking, the ways that distract the land from its purpose and fill it with untruths. I read as much as I can, trying to understand how we have allowed our systems of food, water and air to become so far removed from us. I try to understand how we can rebuild, reclaim and rewrite our futures so that like the Tibetan community, other communities can also find place and help to build land that will nurture and carry rather than harm.

"The Old Ways are Reemerging"

My work at Navdanya has taken me into all of the caverns of work here, from the hands to the head, each infused with heart. In the midst of the language, the confusion of layers of conflict, acronyms of multinational corporations, international financial institutions and government policies that try to separate people from place and people from themselves, the old ways are reemerging.

Communities plant, record and seek a new home, carved from the lands of change. We are coming home and finding a new way into ourselves, our bodies and our communities.

As the afternoon sun wanes, setting into the golden light that I will forever imagine infused with the ripeness of fresh split mangos and the strutting of white stilted egrets, I leave my perch in the whitewashed hall and move to stand in the light. Taking off my shoes, I plant my toes and reach up, touching leaves with my outstretched fingertips. I too have been replanted during my time here.

Seeds of the Future

Small seeds of change have perched themselves, teetering lightly before settling into the moist soil of my consciousness. I have learned about patience, practice, humor and humility and the deep, abiding power of people and place. I have learned to shape chapatti (the delicious Indian flat bread) and to gently cajole spiders the size of my palm. Mostly I have learned about the power of the seed and the magic that can happen when a seed is planted and nourished.

I will leave India in one week, this country unfolding beneath me as I speed away. I am touched by this place, as I am touched by any place that I find myself. I can more clearly see the connections, the interactions which weave us tightly together across the great blue of this world. I can smell the sun warmed earth and taste the richness of harvest. Yes, seeds have been planted, and here they will grow.

Yogini, activist, and humanitarian, Sarada Eastham concludes her six-part series of her internship with Navdanya; a biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Northern India. To follow Sarada on her next philanthropic endeavors, visit her blog: Seeds of Change


  1. Sarada, you are a force of nature. It’s so good to read about your journey, thank you for writing.
    Light, water and ground for all your seeds!

    Comment by karin scarth — October 30, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

  2. Great stuff Sarada! And a good reminder to nourish seeds so they can reveal their magic, its not enough to just plant them.
    Hari Om Danuta

    Comment by Danuta Karpinska — October 31, 2010 @ 2:52 am

  3. Sarada you have a wonderful way with words. you make what you are writing about come alive in a way that is inspiring and wonderful. Keep up the good work

    Comment by Pat Lundy — November 12, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  4. Sarada, Your reflections have been very inspiring. I hope that when you return from India, you will find another focus for your writing and that we will hear more from you.

    Comment by Janet Brown — November 14, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

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