Five years ago, Rajan Venkatesh became a farmer in Sawantwadi, in Maharashtra State, India. This was a very surprising choice. Not only are farmers committing suicide in extremely high numbers because the weather and the market are devastatingly unpredictable, but Venkatesh had never been a farmer before. He is highly educated; he’s a former journalist with the Times of India and taught journalism in Mumbai and New Delhi. Moreover, for many years, he was an educator, running Bodhshala, a rural mountain village school in Uttarakhand. Deeply interested in the functioning of traditional Indian society and its livelihoods, Venkatesh is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s vision: what is good for the community, what strengthens it, what makes families prosperous – this has to be the curriculum, the matters to be learned or studied. To follow these principles, Venkatesh made himself a learner again and became a farmer in the Indian countryside. His insights into community building in rural India offer some tantalizing glimpses how India can survive the juggernaut of modernity with its soul and communities intact.
Radio evolve’s Thomas Steininger talks with Rajan Venkatesh about the impact of modernism on Indian society and his own Ghandian vision for communal development.