The Optimist Citizen

A cycler’s journey to rediscover ancient wisdom of rural India and renovate the villages with it

Ankit Arora, a former journalist and cycle-explorer made a journey to discover the real culture and life of the people in rural India. Giving him revelations about the richness of ancient wisdom of these rural hamlets. He decided to learn this knowledge and reapply them back to the village to fit the modern world construct. His eco-village model is making self-sustainable communities in small villages and tribal communities.

About Innisfree Farm

The eco-village concept called ‘Innisfree farm’ started by Ankit Arora is revolutionizing Indian villages through its age-old wisdom. The houses and other daily use items are made from recycled things. It reduced waste and decreased their annual expenditure noticeably. This entire concept took months to build and perfect. Some changes in the concept village included using a dry toilet, living in houses made of used bottles and other plastic wastes instead of concrete and other building materials.

Reinventing Rural India

“There are two mud buildings created from organic elements such as red and brown mud. These are available locally. The walls are built using an ancient tribal technique of combining mud with binding substances. Substances used were jaggery, honey, and egg yolk. Hexagon and octagon-shaped houses provide cost-effective thermal insulation and natural malleability while lowering carbon emissions. Natural termite repellents, such as a layer plastered with a combination of water and holistic herbs including neem leaves, kadukkai seeds, green chillies, garlic, turmeric, and lime, are used on the walls,” he explains.

The dry toilet is a technique inspired by ancient times where five to six feet holes are dug into the ground and the excretions are covered with a substance that masks the foul smell. The natural process of decay and degeneration makes it into a natural fertilizer. This fertilizer is ready to use for the farmers in about two months time.

The Ideology

He tells that Innisfree farm intends to be “a community where one may practice all kinds of arts, crafts, organic farming, and create natural mud dwellings.” He used organic materials such as red and brown mud, jaggery, honey, and egg yolk to create buildings with cost-effective thermal insulation and natural malleability using an ancient tribal technique. A mud couch is made from plastic wrappers.

“I survived off a barter system, where I traded my abilities for a place to stay.” “I worked with artists to construct wooden sculptures in Maharashtra and Bangalore, weaved khadi shirts, and learned how to make mud dwellings for peasants in isolated hamlets in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu as I pedaled across rural India,” he recounts.

Ankit visited with the couple and discussed his experiences and lessons learned. “I explained to Sreedevi how rural India is drifting away from a traditional lifestyle, causing our rich culture and legacy to dwindle. I saw that the rural people prefer to live in concrete structures and avoid employing traditional expertise to make eco-friendly mud huts. Organic farming does not produce the promised results is an ideology within rural India. I wanted to debunk their misconceptions,” he explains. ”

Reviving Sustainable Farming

Ankit decided to give back to the communities by educating them about sustainable agriculture and recycling. His experiences encouraged local artist Sridevi and her ex-army spouse Colonel Balasubramanian to build a self-sustaining hamlet with him. He met them in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu, during the statewide lockdown. He has been educating farmers on organic farming in recent months. “I share my expertise of how to produce rich soil and manufacture jeevamrut. It is a mixture of gram flour, cow dung, cow urine, soil, and jaggery,” he explains.

The Impact

The farm has become a haven for the local population, offering jobs and training for local farmers. By encouraging the use of renewable energy and proper waste management, I hope to disseminate traditional knowledge of environmental protection and climate change.” Ankit observes.

He wants to duplicate self-sustaining village models throughout India. “I intend to continue my tour and visit the rest of India. My goal is to study, educate, cultivate, grow, and spread the idea of sustainable living to people from all walks of life. As I continue my path of self-discovery. Restore lost and hidden Indian art and craft. And assist people in living a happy and sustainable life,” he says.

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