KOZHIKODE: Unbelievable, but every bit true. It is the gripping tale of a US-born Malayali, who gave up a promising IT career in America, to start life anew as an organic farmer in Wayanad. Roy Jacob has made the seemingly impossible, possible, through sheer dint of hard work and can-do attitude. “Though my parents were from Kerala, I grew up in the United States. I was so disconnected from nature that I hated rain! I had been working as an IT consultant in Houston, Texas for nearly five years.
Then came the realisation that I was paying taxes for a system that I did not believe in,” Roy says, adding, “Later when the US troops intervened in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) I realised I couldn’t take it any longer”. And he quit. Just like that. “I decided there must be a better way of living, a way of life not based on competition, violence and endless ‘growth’, but rather based on cooperation, justice, harmony with nature, etc.
After a long struggle, I quit my job, sold my belongings, and left America in search of a better way of living and being, both externally and internally,” he said, looking back on his life-changing decision.
He came down to Wayanad in 2003 and bought a patch of land at Tirunelly. It was a different life. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, enjoying the tranquil surroundings. “Living among the tribals, I started to pick up the ropes of organic farming.
It was good that I started on a small scale since I knew next to nothing about farming at the time. The villagers would come over and show me how to do various things on my land and to live in a way that was closely connected to the local ecosystem,” he recalls.
But it was getting used to the new surroundings and a life far removed from the one he had experienced as a US citizen that turned out to be the real challenge for Roy.
“Getting used to leeches, snakes, life without electricity or running water, and a new language - it all took time,” he says. For the next few years he went to work with Kanavu, an alternative school--exclusively meant for educating tribal children -- in Wayanad set up by pioneering educationist K J Baby. Later, Roy moved on to a 20 cent plot of paddy land near Kanavu, where he built a bamboo hut.
In 2012, Roy bought a three-acre plot at This silery, near Mananthavady.
“The idea was to move to a bigger place with some more friends to explore the nature, and bring about a sustainable community instead of one-man moving everything,” Roy said.
“The idea was to move to a bigger place with some more friends to explore more, and bring about a sustainable community instead of one man moving everything,” Roy said.
He then planted different varieties of crops on this piece of land and tried different methods on each, drawing from some of the ideas of Fukuoka as well as experimenting on his own. This was also when Roy started nurturing a fruit forest. Of late, he has started building a ‘mud house.’
Now, Roy is much more than a farmer. He has become an active proponent of gift culture and alternative living. He has been facilitating youth jams, and also doing workshops in gender and active listening across the country.
For Roy, the transition from the techie life in Texas to organic farming in Wayanad has taught him important lessons on nature, life and happiness. Roy’s philosophy is quite simple, yet profound.
“The city life had its temptations. But when I became close to nature, I started doing something creative on the land. If you want to live the creative life that you aspire for, I would say you need to create spaces that are in tune with that,” he said.