swaraj
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The month of October is round the corner and the fervent anticipation of Bhoomi Utsav comes along with it. A day-long celebration of togetherness, interdependence, independence, sustainable innovations and community-connect! 

In the backdrop of the current era of excessive dependency on other machines and men to do even the simplest of daily tasks, we decided to bring back the concept of self-sustenance to the forefront by choosing the theme of ‘Swaraj’ for this year’s Utsav.

We Indians are all too familiar with the word ‘Swaraj’ as propagated by Gandhiji, which broadly encapsulated the concept of India’s freedom from foreign dominion. But have we stopped and pondered over what it really means to be self-sustaining; what it means to follow the concept of Swaraj in our practical lives? Interestingly, the Vedic word ‘Swaraj’ itself not just means ‘self-rule’ but also ‘self-restraint’, unlike the popular notion of independence which points towards freedom from all restraint.

swaraj

“It is Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves”, says Mahatma Gandhi. When can we rule ourselves wholly? When we learn to first sustain ourselves completely and take care of at least the basic facets of living ourselves. This is the age where food not cooked not by hands anymore, but by popping pre-packaged sachets into the microwave. One where we have almost forgotten how it feels to wash clothes by hand. Times where it’s not uncommon to see a single person use a 6-seater car on the roads. Thanks to these convenient crutches, our lives have become pretty comfortable, albeit at the cost of great discomfort to Mother Earth.

Quite often, very nonchalantly we blindside the impact our actions have on us, the people around and the environment. Let’s take a simple example of a carry bag. Each time we don’t carry our own bags to the supermarkets, we are passively, yet profoundly encouraging the plastic manufacturers to deplete precious natural resources on the production end and actively contribute to indigestible waste at the consumption end. This is also an inherent aspect of Swaraj, wherein you are cognizant of the impact of the choices you make.

Speaking of choices and their impacts, even as mundane a task as grocery shopping has a weighty backdrop of Swaraj. India was colonized by the British for decades and has finally obtained political independence. But a relevant question to raise today is that are we still being deceptively colonized by masters who wear suits and not khakis anymore? Merely walking down an aisle of a random supermarket today is akin to taking an inexpensive trip around the world, what with chocolates from the US, cheese from Switzerland and even bananas from Philippines (despite India ranking first in banana production). Ironically, the freshest of our local produce ends up in some American/European supermarket!.

Contrarily, let’s not laud ourselves for purchasing only ‘Made-In-India’ labeled merchandise and soothe our conscience. True self-reliance involves careful and conscious choice-making of products which cause the least impact on your own self, your community, and your surroundings. Buying directly from the first line of producers from local markets is one highly promising step towards adopting a Swaraj way of life. Even better would be if we could start making our own basic essentials of food, clothing, toiletries and the like, and imbibe Swaraj into the core of our beings, elevating from ‘Made-In-India’ to ‘Self-Made-In-India’.

This is nothing new for us. Our ancestors have been masters at the art of self-sustenance. Even as recent as half a century ago we used to eat food from locally grown produce, make our own utensils, wear clothes which were untouched by any kind of machinery, together build our own and the neighbor’s humble abodes, sing and dance joyously without the aid of speakers or youtube and much more.

Let’s not forget that we all are children of this culturally, ethnically, linguistically, geographically and demographically rich land. Owing to this quantum of abundance, right in our own vicinities we can obtain all the skills, products and resources we could possibly need to live life with as much luxury as conscience. We don’t need corporations to spoon-feed our livelihoods, for each one of us are self-reliant entrepreneurs in our regards. All we need to do is to re-orient ourselves to look out for opportunities to educate, engage and enlighten ourselves. And one good start to this journey would be to celebrate Bhoomi Utsav with us. A whole day dedicated to glorify the power of self-reliance or Swaraj!

Come join this green fete on 2nd October 2018 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm in Bhoomi College, Off Sarjapur road, Bangalore, India.

This article – penned by our Sustainable Living fellow Pratibha Balasubramanian – is an elaboration on the concept of ‘Swaraj’, which is the current year’s theme of ‘Bhoomi Utsav’- an annual event of Bhoomi College celebrated on the eve of Gandhi Jayanthi (October 2nd).

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