It was in the year 2008, Kalyan had a well paying job but wasn’t satisfied with the work he was doing. He walked in one day resigned and set out on a mission that his heart called for. This is what he had got to say –
“On my 30th birthday, a friend asked – ‘How many years do you have to be socially productive now?’ Maybe 30, I said, and multiplied it with 365 days. Suddenly, I had about 10,000 days staring at me, and there I was on my first day, doing nothing. We always used to talk about what we can do for other people, but it was only talk all the time. So I decided to make those 10K days count. The very next day, I went back to my workplace and submitted the papers for my resignation,” recalls Kalyan Akkipeddi.
For the past 8 years, Kalyan has been extensively working in the construction of a ProtoVillage – the prototype of an abundant rural community that is being built for and by the villagers themselves. The idea is to build something that can be replicated all across the country.
It might seem like a simple thought but it was not all that easy for Kalyan to travel through this path. After quitting his job, Kalyan wanted to travel the country and know everything about poverty in this country. This might sound quite a exciting thing to do, but here comes the needed challenge he added to this lifetime journey, that throughout the journey he shouldn’t have to pay for his food and accommodation.
Understanding poverty was quite a confusing subject for Kalyan. What he heard about poverty in the initial days of his corporate world was things related to poverty line, bottom of the pyramid etc. He felt that if a person could live an entire day with Rs. 100, the world could definitely be at a better place than it is today.
With this mid set Kalyan’s journey to look into the problem of the poor took nearly two and a half years. But, finally what he understood was instead of working towards eradicating poverty, why doesn’t he strive towards creating a sustainable eco-system where they work for their living. “That sounded a lot more empowering to me than removing something that I did not even understand,” he said.
And thus, the idea of ProtoVillage was born.
Kalyan came to his home town Anathapur and travelled about 166 villages to zero down on Tekulodu village. He did not set big goals and raise any expectations with his presence among the villagers. He simply noted their lifestyle and engaged with the villagers. After seeing him visiting everyday to the village, the villagers offered him a house to stay. He decided that he would eat at a different house each day and provide an extra set of hands for whatever that family did for a living. During dinner with a different family every night, he would open his questionnaire and document the financial health of the family members. In about 100 days, he had worked with all 100 families in the village.
After conversing with the villagers for all those days, he understood the financial position of village. Finally, Kalyan chose one family that was earning just Rs. 6,500 per annum, and started working with them. The idea was to stabilise their earnings through farming. And in about eight months’ time, Kalyan, the farmer, and the farmer’s wife, turned an uncultivable piece of land into a productive patch, with no external help. Today, the family earns Rs. 14,000 a month.
Working with this family taught Kalyan that abundance is indeed possible, and he wanted to now build an abundant community. But he also learned that the villagers don’t like preachers. They respect people who demonstrate. He purchased 12.5 acres of land in that panchayat itself “to setup a demonstrative rural community that is ecologically sustainable, socially cohesive and economically viable… to be built by the villagers, for the villagers.” His wife sold her business and arranged the funds for the same, and a few friends contributed to the initial corpus.
Fast forward to 2016 and the village is energy self-reliant, WiFi enabled, and has a consistent source of water. Members of ProtoVillage grow their own food as much as possible. The residents built an eco-friendly visitors’ centre, in which they currently reside. They will soon start building their respective homes. Energy generation happens with the help of a solar plant and a wind turbine at the moment. Soon, a biogas plant will be added to the system. Kalyan identifies experts who are willing to share their knowledge with the villagers. For example, one of his friends helped them set up the wind turbine. He spent a lot of time training villagers and now a few can install the systems themselves. The whole project is crowd funded. Kalyan’s friends, who come to visit, find a project that they want to work upon – like tree plantation, solar water pump, etc. They take it up, fund it, and run it to conclusion.
Kalyan, who has been living without a job since 2008, has simplified his life so much that he doesn’t need much in terms of finances he says. Now, that called a living!!
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