Decentralisation and Food Democracy

Parindey: Caxton Christdhas

Alivelihood: Natural Farming

Region: S. Thatanapalli Village, Krishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu

The process is more important than the person doing it. I didn’t grow up in a farming community doing physical work. Being on a farm means being in the present. I don’t have a solid plan in mind, but I strongly believe there will be a time when I will understand the soil, the flow of wind and water, and what the plants need. I feel my life is more relevant right now and happier than ever. This satisfaction is more important than anything else. Whether I achieve something or make nothing is up to Nature.” – Caxton Christdhas

The religious routine of planting hope (Photo: Anil Uppalapati)

Early life

Caxton Christdhas grew up in a middle-class family in Azhagappapuram village near Kanyakumari. Like most kids of his age, he thought the village was backward and longed to move to a city to experience urban life. He moved to Chennai in search of urban life and college education. He pursued Electronics and Communication engineering as he was curious about how the internet communicates with planes and rockets and wanted to work in that domain. During this time, he discovered that college was more like a school running in a monotonous fashion. Since there were limited possibilities for practical learning, engineering seemed difficult for him. Despite having attended college for four years, he eventually decided not to pursue a degree and instead began working. He began his career in a BPO, then got into training and later moved to a photography company.

The Beginning

After working in the corporate sector for a decade, a variety of questions related to centralised systems of finance, governance, politics, and food kept daunting him. He held a senior managerial position and received a huge salary which he believed he did not merit. He tried to get better wages for grassroots workers as he felt they truly deserved it for their contributions, but he failed. He became certain that he did not belong to the corporate world and found nothing rational in his way of living. He quit the job in 2015 in search of a new direction. To understand his purpose and execute it in a practical sense, he travelled across Tamil Nadu to meet interesting people around him who were doing things differently. In this process, he got associated with a group of youngsters who were working to address civic issues around them, such as restoring water bodies, running signature campaigns for public sanitary infrastructure, planting native trees, conducting children’s camps, workshops, farmer’s markets, book readings, etc.

Later some of them also created a space in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, to host activities such as storytelling, puppet shows, and workshops exclusively for children. During this time, he also collaborated with his friend Perumal to launch "Patham" in 2017 in Tambaram. Patham was probably the first of its kind, a store that sold sweets made only of karupatti (palm jaggery). They attended a number of events attempting to raise awareness about food and its association with water and electricity. Patham now has a store in Madurai and continues selling healthy sweets and snacks made from native millets and palm jaggery.

Even though he was indulging in more meaningful endeavours, he was still looking out for things that would make him happy. He felt compelled to do something in tune with the rest of nature. Through his experience with diverse groups and spaces, he eventually realised that humanity’s current existence is not a harmonious one. He felt that we are collectively travelling towards a more complicated and difficult lifestyle. He realised that there are, undoubtedly, easier ways to live than the way humans are living today. This prompted him to envisage a conscious space where people on their exploratory journeys could come together to perceive things from a different perspective.