It’s a bit of a mixed bag here to be honest. There are some great aspects to wwoofing here at New Vrindaban, such as the fantastic Indian food, the diverse wildlife and the fact that Alfie has learned to milk a cow, which he is absolutely thrilled about! Rob is enjoying some basic tree work and we are meeting some lovely interesting people from diverse walks of life. It’s great to be around livestock again and the cows here are lovely gentle creatures.
But then there are less good aspects. Namely the lack of welcome for the children. Some people here are delighted to have children around but others are not. I am a fairly heavy critic of my own children, and I’ll admit that their behaviour since we left home has been pretty darn challenging, probably due to feeling a bit displaced. But since we arrived at New Vrindaban they’ve settled right down and actually been really good kids; polite, calm, quiet and generally well behaved. I’ve felt really proud of them and am really enjoying spending so much intense time with them – it fills me with optimism for the rest of the journey.
But it seems it’s not enough for some of the people here who don’t like any noise at all, not even happy, helpful noise. Yesterday morning I managed to conduct a wwoof task with the children as instructed by the gentleman guiding us and I thought we did a great job watering the plants, we didn’t make any mess or damage any pots or plants, the kids worked co-operatively and got on with the task until it was finished. I was really pleased… others were not. It seems we made too much noise (really? You thought that was loud?) and went just inside an area where children are not allowed (as instructed to in order to fill the watering cans). When I was quietly informed of this at lunch time I felt a mixture of embarrassment for being “told off” and disappointment as I thought we had done a great job. But mainly I felt a sadness for this community.
There is a serious lack of children here and it is stark. Children are vital for a community (and a religion) to thrive and continue… what is the point of this place unless young blood comes through to continue it – it’s not an old peoples home, it’s a religious community. And it hasn’t always been this way. We’ve met people our age who grew up here and have continued to live near by with their own children. The school at one time had 200 pupils… it now has 5. Alfie went along today for the day but Patrick was sadly deemed too young. Until school this morning we hadn’t met any of the 5 other children who live here yet… we never see them despite communal meals. Alfie loved school today but a school classroom is very different to having time to just play with other children.
I expressed these concerns over lunch, after the “telling off” with some older ladies I am comfortable with and have had children of their own. One of them, who has lived in the community for many years, admitted being nervous of bringing her young grandaughter to visit in case of complaint from others. With worries like that about children visiting for the day it’s unlikely anyone with children would live here for long. Without children how long can any community (or religion) survive?
So what for us? Well we’ve been keeping the children impressively quiet for days now and keep discussing whether or not we should head on. On the one hand it would be easy enough to pack up and press on, but on the other hand we are comfortable, well fed and enjoying aspects of the work and community. We will be sticking it out as the experience we are gaining is greater than the frustrating bits. The nice and interesting people we are meeting make up for the moaners and honestly the food is great!
*ps. One other aspect I am struggling with is that the wifi in the communal area is turned off at 7pm which means I am limited to brief moments of internet on my phone around mealtimes whilst trying to keep the kids quiet in the communal areas. It allows for quickly posting pre-written posts but I’m sorry if I haven’t replied to comments or on Facebook. It’s also making researching and planning our next leg a little tricky!