The year was 2010. An Indian who was working in US since last 20 years left his comfortable job and returned to India.  All by himself, he settled near a small village called Mandangad in Maharashtra. The place he settled is a forest. For kilometers one can not see any human but trees and bushes. The nearest town is 14 km away. For first 3 years, he stayed there alone. During day time he would volunteer and teach English to school children and in the evenings he would spend time with himself and reflect. He calls it meditation. People called him crazy.

They still do but there was a reason of him being there. What was it?

Welcome to the world of Sapnaranch- A home away from home. A farm which has hosted over 100 volunteers from more than 17 different nations [and the list is increasing!]. This place gives you the space to experiment and explore yourself and other things. Hasmukh [the crazy guy referred above] says that this farm works on the principle of forgiving design which means that one is allowed to do mistakes. Learning environment is what he loves to call this place. Indeed, it is. Everything in this place is either built by Hasmukh or by the volunteers. The constant attempt is to make this farm run on sustainable living.

DSC_0220-EditStay of two weeks in the farm gave a lot of options to try new things. Doing construction using bamboo along with learning some basics of tools, learning Yoga in the mornings [by one of the volunteers],weeding the field of watermelons and harvesting the bananas was quite engaging. The discussion over meals was something I always looked forward too! Everyday the meal was prepared by all volunteers coming together and contributing in some way or other [which gives you the space to try different cuisine anytime like we had Pizza one day in presence of a volunteer from Italy]. The kitchen time is fun time.

DSC_0003-EditAlong with volunteers, Sapnaranch is also a family to pets. Currently we have dogs and cats. Entire day you will find them either roaming or sleeping in the farm but as soon as the clock shows 4’O clock, you can find them near the area where their food is prepared. One might forget the time but they will not let you do so. Adorable they are! [and yes they don’t bite]

Still the question remains unanswered as to why is this person staying in such a remote area? And the strange thing is the support he is getting from people all around the world. Does this make all of them crazy? Might be.

Having experienced this craziness, I can say that this craziness is better than being sane. So the crazy guy has a dream project called EBHLE [Experience Based Holistic Learning Environment] wherein he wants to build a learning environment for children on a huge piece of land. In this learning environment, children will design their own curriculum and will have space to pursue their interests. Unlike schools which have a four walled classroom, this place will be surrounded by nature. Children won’t be asked to shut their mouth and brain every time something clicks them instead facilitators here will be more of listeners. They will serve as guide to them when required. The same environment will have a residential community which will practice sustainable living. A lot of other interesting things are planned for the learning environment, one of which is that every home for children will be a geodesic dome, each having host parents and host grandparents. The environment will be an inclusive one.

The project is very ambitious and seems impossible to many but the reality is that it is taking shape and gaining a lot of support. For Hasmukh, this is something he breathes every single day. Period.

“So Hasmukh, what are few things people must come prepared with before coming to farm?”

“Two things are must, zero expectations and good sense of humor.”

One can check out from this place but can’t leave.