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We are not an alternative school.
We are the alternative to schooling.

Sowing seeds of hope for a sustainable future


Shishir Ghosh

Apr 29, 2020


It is officially over a month since the country has been locked down to rein in the pandemic. As learners, each one of us has had our own unique experiences with endless cycles of coping and bouncing back. But the common thread that runs through us all is the ardour to keep learning alive. In an attempt to facilitate learners to navigate through these unsettling times, Out of the Box with Beyond 8 was born. Support has poured in for this initiative from industry experts belonging to myriad fields such as farming, public policy, music, healthcare and education, leading to an impressive lineup of guests in the episodes to come.

In last week’s edition of Out of the Box with Beyond 8, we had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Alladi Mahadevan, a passionate organic farmer and founder of Green Embryo - the midst of his own flourishing produce and animals at his farm in Madurantakam! He has been an advocate for organic farming since the beginning of his career and moreso, during the pandemic. We are a handful of the privileged in our country that bear minimal impact of the lockdown during this outbreak. However, the ripple effect caused by this situation has affected local farmers in a devastating way. Months of labour under the scorching sun is now going to waste with a broken link between farmers and quarantined consumers. Fortunately, good samaritans like Alladi are no strangers to magnanimity and sustainable farming. Since he launched himself into the agriculture sector in 1995, it has become more than a profession. It has become his sole purpose or Ikigai to give dejected farmers a new lease of life. In this interview we managed to tap into his genius and get his insights into the role of young learners in being self-sufficient as well as being environmentally conscious citizens.

The inevitability of self-sufficiency

Our priorities in life have unarguably been rejigged in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. Air travel, social events and religious gatherings have taken a backseat and our focus is now, sustenance and frugal living. In Mr. Alladi's opinion, this is a good time to imbibe self-sufficiency by growing our own food. Though it may appear like a daunting task to the average teenager, he believes it is possible by starting small in our own gardens or backyards. Most of the supplies we need to get started are easily available on our own kitchen shelves and scraps. When we grow our own vegetables, fruits and herbs, a world of knowledge about farming automatically opens up before us - we appreciate the work that goes into putting food on our tables as well as the conditions needed for each crop to thrive. He believes that self-sufficiency will end our greed, make us more respectful of the planet and will eventually pave the way for social responsibility as well.

Cleaner alternatives to chemicals

Mr. Alladi believes that a pandemic like the one we are facing at the moment, is a foreboding for future catastrophes if we do not take immediate remedial action. In order to avert further damage, we must understand the implications of the products we use and foods we consume on a daily basis. Right from the cleaning agents we use in homes, to the soaps we use on our own bodies, these products may make our lives a lot easier - however they pose a grave risk to our water bodies and their ecosystems. Eventually, these chemicals will sneakily find a way back into our lives again, which isn’t a remotely comfortable thought. Unwittingly, we assist our chances of becoming ill, through the choices we make. Mr. Alladi urges young learners to push for chemical-free, greener alternatives to the products we use - as these choices are well within our controls. Caring for the environment is a crucial life skill for youngsters to equip themselves with to preserve the planet that they will inherit.

Sparking the tribe spirit

When asked to talk about the greatest challenge for the farming community during these times, Mr. Alladi reminisced the time when acres of watermelons were rotting away because corporations and juice shops were indefinitely shut down. Losses like these are highly unfortunate, not to mention wasteful, because Chennai clamours for these luscious fruits in the summer. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. When more people convene for a good cause, the probability of a positive result increases. Mr. Alladi believes that when communities come together, there is greater scope for innovation and action, and therefore, a more rapid response to problems. At the moment, it is not feasible for farmers to deliver their wares to individual households in the city. However when the community as a whole comes together to support the cause, farmers will be more encouraged to grow organic produce and all of us will reap the benefits of nutritious and locally sourced fruits and vegetables as well.

If you missed the live session, please view the complete recording here. Mr. Alladi can be reached on his Facebook page, The Organic Farm , for any support you may need to get started with sustainable farming or enabling farmers. We are all but prisoners of hope during these tough times, but by joining forces with activists like Mr. Alladi, we learn that a life lived for others is a life worth living. Stay tuned for our next edition of Out of the Box with Beyond 8 on Friday, May 1, 2020 at 11:00 AM, live on Facebook where we will be in conversation with Mr. Ashwin Mahesh about how young learners can play a role in public problem-solving during the pandemic.

About Out of the Box with Beyond 8

Be it the way we learn or teach, there are always better ways to do it and often they lie out of the box, on the paths less taken.Out of the Box with Beyond 8 is an initiative that encourages the education fraternity to push the boundaries and challenge the status quo.

We are not an alternative school.
We are the alternative to schooling.

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