This Indian couple left their city life in Delhi to start an organic farm

Megha Mahindru

A few weeks ago, after an early morning yoga class, I rolled up my mat and headed straight to the farmers market. An hour later, groceries in tow, I was sinking my hands in mud with 35 other aspirational city farmers, earnestly working on a patch of microgreens.

Like me, if you are in your thirties, you probably know or are one of thoseresidents of Hipsturbia, who swear by eating organic, and whose achievements on Instagram often include nurturing a seedling by their kitchen windowsill. Eternally hopeful agrarians, these city-breds fill up their weekends learning farming skills, all in preparation of their big switch one day from their caffeinated urban lives to a lush green organic farm.

Juli and Vivek Cariappa were one such couple. But the year was 1986, and their decision to move from Delhi to Heggadadevana Kote, a remote area in the middle of a forest, located 60 kilometres from Mysore, wasnt cheered on by enthusiastic friends. At that time it was a huge move. The kind of things that our friends and family said to stop us from doing this was crazy, recalls Vivek.

Mysore-born Juli left India for Rome at age seven, when her father was transferred for a job at the United Nations. At 17, I decided to come back, she says. From 15, I knew I wanted to be a farmer of some sort, but my father wanted me to study, so I returned to India to study sociology, she adds. Vivek was studying economics at SRCC and preparing for an MBA at XLRI, when they met in Delhi University.

The couple had a few things in commonthey were both restless in the city, enjoyed listening to Frank Zappa, JJ Cale and Hariprasad Chaurasia, and were looking for alternatives to the nine-to-five routine. Post-college, they took the leap, relocating from Delhi to an eight-acre land on the edge of a national park and on the bank of a river. There was no railway line, no industry, no housing and no urbanisation. We looked for a place where, at least in our lifetime, development wouldnt happen, adds Vivek.

Today, the Cariappas inhabit a bounteous paradise, spread across 40 acres, with their two home-schooled sons, Kabir, 27, and Azad, 22 (their daughter Sukanya is studying psychology in Bengaluru). During the day, they have eight farm hands and three dogs, two cats, 10 sheep, five cows, over 200 chickens and a zilllion peacocks for company. Kabir recently married Anjali, who also loves farming, Vivek adds. Each has his or her own responsibility, and together their life is a conscientious pursuit of all things green, organic, sustainable and ethically made.