Mindbrews Podcast coming in Soon! Stay Tuned!

Mental HealthSpace to JournalTravel

Breaking Free: How I Left a Toxic Job for a Life of Organic Farming in Auroville

A portrait of a 20-something woman living on a farm after quitting her job
That is me.

The fluorescent lights of the office buzzed overhead, casting a harsh glow over the cluttered desk where the she sat, engulfed in a sea of paperwork and corporate indifference. This wasn’t the life she had envisioned. Amidst the daily grind, her spirit languished, yet within her, a resolute spark endured. It was on a crisp November night, fueled by frustration and a yearning for authenticity, that she resolved to reclaim her life. No longer willing to tolerate the disrespect and toxicity of her workplace, she chose to step into the unknown, driven by a fierce determination to rediscover her connection with nature and her own self-worth.

If there is one emotion that is stronger than love in this world, it has got to be anger. Its innate ability to compel one to push out of their comfort zone and pursue the unknown for diversely singular reasons is commendable, albeit dramatic. 

The inception of this story takes place on a relatively cold November night, when I decided that I no longer wanted to tolerate a disrespectful and toxic workplace. In our country, bad work culture does not usually fit the bill for “suitable reasons for leaving jobs”. It’s almost like we are expected to endure it because, let’s face it, it is eventually going to happen in some form or another. But the lack of humane treatment made me so furious that, at the time, I thought the only way I could win this battle is if I took back my power. And so, I did. It took one email, 60 days of notice period and a steadfast self-belief despite numerous logon ke bathe (white noise) to arrive at the rise of a somewhat lost, somewhat bold, but mostly repurposed version of myself.

Dormitory in the backyard.
The dorms are pretty rustic and come with a bed and bathroom. Electricity is limited on the farm.
The dorms are pretty rustic and come with a bed and bathroom. Electricity is limited on the farm.

So, upon the advice of a friend and with the power of the internet, I found an interesting volunteering program on organic farming and sustainable living in Auroville, where I could both live and work on the farm. I am a big nature lover, and always wanted to learn farming, so I decided to enroll in this program.

The enchanting Buddha Garden

My host Priya, a British citizen, settled in this commune situated on the outskirts of Puducherry many moons ago. She subsequently set up the dreamy Buddha Garden in the greener belt of Auroville. This is where I was going to get a crash course in organic farming. I was greeted with her kind smile and warm words as I made my way to the dormitory in the backyard, which would become my home for the next couple of weeks.                                                                                                      

Over the next few days, I spent my mornings planting and harvesting, making compost manures and reconnecting deeper with nature. This was followed by community breakfasts, where all the volunteers would eat together a delicious meal along with salad made with fresh produce — harvested by us! Ah, the joys of real farm-to-fork experience.   

What my lunches on the farm looked like.
What my lunches on the farm looked like.

The other volunteers living on the farm were mostly Europeans, though we did have a handful of Indian volunteers, too. We all got along well, and spent a lot of our time in the community kitchen, which was also the only place that had access to Wi-Fi. We would discuss our schedules during breakfast and sometimes make plans to get together later for fun activities.

My ride on this trip.
My ride on this trip.

In My Farm Girl Era 

Even though this was the end of February, summers in Puducherry can be cruel; so we also had a few low days where the heat made it impossible to go outdoors. We spent the time vegetating under coconut trees on the farm, catching up on reading and occasionally exchanging notes on things you would talk about only with someone you just met. I also rented a cute bicycle and explored the nooks and crannies of the place, occasionally stopping by at the popular Auroville Bakery, and indulging myself in their sweet delicacies.

I found myself going back for Auroville Bakery’s daily batch of freshly baked breads and cakes.
I found myself going back for Auroville Bakery’s daily batch of freshly baked breads and cakes.

The Visitors Centre, located near the Matri Mandir1, had a calendar listing daily events, activities, workshops, etc. There were tons of activities one could choose from, but few that I especially enjoyed were the forest tour and movie night at the Sadhana Forest, meditation at the Matri Mandir, participating in Chinese Tea ceremony, experiencing sound healing baths and volunteering at the Solar Kitchen.

Drumming circle with fellow volunteers and Aurovillians.
Drumming circle with fellow volunteers and Aurovillians.

Now one thing that I absolutely love about the Auroville community is that the people are extremely friendly and welcoming. There was this one time where this group of African volunteers who also happened to be drummers were staying on the farm adjacent to ours. They were having a jamming session by the bonfire, so a bunch of us decided to check it out. Little did we know that half of the township was going to turn up there, dancing our hearts away into the night to the rhythm and energy of the fire and people around. It was truly one of the most magical nights I’ve ever had! 

Found myself a nice spot for reading on the terrace of the water tank.

Reflection 

As my time on the farm was coming to end, I realized that most often we are not sure why we begin certain journeys. The mundane madness of daily life messes our mind up and creates an illusion of control. Yet somehow keeping an open mind and working with soil allowed me to connect deeper with myself, and heal the parts that needed healing. The discomfort of living on the farm was charmingly offset by the camaraderie of fellow travellers and volunteers who opened their hearts to me. I learnt to let go of my inhibitions, connect with people without the guise of a reason — be it money, position or power, all while getting my hands dirty and having the time of my life! 

I did not go to Auroville to seek answers to my existential questions or to find my life’s purpose. I just wanted to get away from the chaos around me. And yet, as with all great cinematic endings, I landed my dream job, the interview for which I gave at the farm! Life does work in mysterious ways, huh… 

As she walked away from the rustic gates of the Buddha Garden, her departure was not just from the farm but from an old version of herself that she had left behind in the soil she tended. The weeks spent in the embrace of Auroville’s greener pastures had woven new threads into the fabric of her being. Planting, harvesting, and living in communion with the land and fellow dreamers had rekindled a light within her that the dull office lights had never dimmed. With a gentle smile and a heart fortified by newfound resilience, she carried with her not just memories of lush fields and shared harvests but a profound transformation. The experience had reshaped her, guiding her to a path where every sunrise promised fresh beginnings and a clearer sense of purpose.

Glossary:
Word: Matri Mandir
Sentence within the article: The Visitors Centre, located near the Matri Mandir, had a calendar listing daily events, activities, workshops, etc.
Meaning: The Matrimandir is an edifice of spiritual significance, for practitioners of integral yoga, in the centre of Auroville established by the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.