This week, amongst so many wonderful souls, I met my friend Freeman, on a banana plantation, in Southern India. He has set up a kind of school there, a residential study programme, for those wanting to learn coding. He has built a structure from palette racks (you know, the kind of things you find in Ikea or B&Q) and that is where study sessions take place.
People also sleep there at night, and I feel so blessed to have spent a night there, sitting out under the stars at first, and then retreating to a small corner underneath a mosquito net, the wind blowing gently, and the insects croaking.
In the morning we woke by the sunrise. At 7am we all climbed a small nearby hill and together did meditation, followed by yoga. At 8, we swam in a very small ‘tarauw’ or ‘lake’, if you were to speak of it in grand terms. It was magic.
The school ‘Jaaga Study‘ is completely different to any study programme I’ve seen before. The students are from all over India and abroad too, from places I’ve never even heard of, and it’s wonderful to meet each of them, hear about their stories, their reasons to leave formal education, a formal job, a regular life, to come to a random palette rack on a random farm in a random village, somewhere near Bangalore.
They all take part in a number of online courses, many of which are delivered by the most reputable institutions in the world. Of course, they could do that from anywhere, but why do they come here? Because it’s well documented that a huge percentage of students who take online courses do not complete the course. We can create almost everything in the virtual world, but in the end, we are human, and we all crave human connection. The residential and collegiate aspect of the study programme is highly emphasised, with a reminder that the relationships the students form here may well stay with them for the rest of their lives. This is as much as part of the learning as the academic and practical coding skills.
The students are taught by Freeman and mentored and coached by a handful of other experts. Mongo, Django, Ajax, php… each student is learning something different and all of these things sound entirely alien to me. But through this they are able to cross-pollinate their knowledge, and their personal interests, which they can convert into small practical team projects. The programme is loosely structured into morning: online courses, and afternoon: group projects, where teams apply their learning and build something real that might form an idea for a business at some stage. The students also learn how to make money online through freelancing projects, and for some of them, this means they can cover their living costs in their spare time, from the cosy confines of the palette rack.
So there I was, wondering about the slow life and the new world.
And… I guess here it is. Five 4G connections meaning superfast broadband 24 hours a day, each resident with at least 2 if not 3 devices. Working with some of the latest technology and development platforms around. Surrounded by… banana plants. Farmers. Fields. Being woken up by the sunshine. Eating basic home-cooked food. Swimming in a small pool. Doing yoga to welcome in the day.
The new world, and the slow life.
I sit on the rooftop at night and contemplate the creation of a life like this; it feels a world away from my job and my home and my life in the UK.
It was so incredible to visit that place, to sit in silence, appreciating the world, and the stars, and the chance to be free. The whole thing intrigued and delighted me, even though I was there less than 24 hours. Being beholden to no-one, and nothing, except for the beauty of this world and this life, whilst at the same time creating something interesting and useful and important.