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'India is blazing down a tunnel'

By Archana Masih
November 07, 2017 09:38 IST
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'Anything that is anti-growth is demonised because growth is the biggest religion.'
'Growth has become synonymous with progress, well being, comfort.'
'Actually, it is the opposite. Growth is what has caused environmental damage, depleted ground water.'
'Exponential growth is cancer.'

Mansoor Khan at his Farmstay

IMAGE: Mansoor Khan at his farm stay in Coonoor. He left the success of Bollywood behind for a quieter life. Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/

Mansoor Khan made two of Hindi cinema's most adorable films -- Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, made a couple of other films, then turned his back on Bollywood.

He abandoned showbusiness and the city to begin life on a farm in Coonoor 15 years ago.

He has nurtured the farm in the hills into a green paradise. An assortment of trees, plants, birds thrive and flourish.

Elephants, porcupines, the barking deer come by to visit.


Khan and his wife Tina also have 12 cows that graze freely and provide milk for their small cheese business. The couple runs a home stay and gives lessons in cheese-making.

Khan is a persuasive evangelist for saving the planet and brings out the horrors of civilisation's excess evocatively. "I'm sorry I'm hijacking your interview with my views, but this is me," he says.

"People tell me just because you say it people are not going to change. I say to hell with it, just because people don't want to hear it, doesn't mean I won't say it."

"Just because I can't remove the iceberg doesn't mean it is not coming!"

Mansoor Khan discussed his passion for Planet Earth with's Archana Masih and made sure she listened.

In the place that you have here and have built, what are some of the things you are proud of?

I am against the word 'proud'. Like when they say you should be proud of your child, proud of your country. Nationalism is a very powerful drug.

Pride is not a good thing. I am compassionate about my country and love my country.

I am not proud, but happy and content that I was able to do some small things -- not using pesticides, removing mono crops, trying to grow multiple kind of trees, rain water harvesting, solar water heating, making our own bricks, a gobar gas plant.

India is one of the leading countries in gobar gas technology, but since it is considered low tech it does not get much publicity.

Our government is doing a lot of good things at a lower level like giving incentives for gobar gas.

WATCH: Mansoor Khan explains why our understanding of the world is inverted.

You dropped out of some of the best colleges in India and America. What is wrong with our education?

Our schools are instructional places for industrial manufacture. They have nothing to do with enlightenment or sensitivity or holistic thought.

Our education system consciously trains people not to connect dots. Connecting dots makes you a holistic thinker, which is anti-religious to industrial thinking.

Sustainable growth is an oxymoron. We have dumbed down generations through our industrial education system.

Anything that is anti-growth is demonised because growth is a religion. It is the biggest religion. The primary reason you vote for somebody is if he brings growth.

Growth has become synonymous with progress, well being, comfort. Actually it is the opposite.

Growth is what has caused environmental damage, has depleted ground water.

Exponential growth is cancer. And you have embedded that in your financial thinking.

People don't understand the correlation between growth and energy.

Energy is the key resource. Energy is shakti.

Energy makes the earth spin, the grassland to grow.

Energy defines what is possible.

How do you apply your beliefs to everyday life?

In my own way, the most honest and useful thing I can do is to share this perspective.

I am not trying to change the world. This 'change the world' is a bit arrogant.

People say just because you say it, people are not going to change. I say to hell with it, just because people don't want to hear it, doesn't mean I won't say it.

Just because I can't remove the iceberg doesn't mean it is not coming!

Civilisation is an amazingly stupid culture. Amazingly dumb.

One of the cottages of Acres Wild

IMAGE: Cows graze on Mansoor Khan's farm stay. There are 12 cows. The milk is used to make cheese.

Your thoughts about the depletion of earth's resources -- is that what your book The Third Curve is about?

A sliver of it. We are the viruses on the planet. We think we are the most 'evolved' culture on the planet; (that) we are at the pinnacle of evolution, but life is not a pyramid.

The model of a pyramid is hierarchical. We have a hierarchical, linear, symbolic view of everything.

My book is about money, energy and economics.

What is your grassroot belief in modern economics, tell me.

Progress. Money. Growth?

Yes, growth.

We need a completely new understanding that perpetual growth is impossible.

Growth happens because of cheap energy and without energy there is no growth.

The idea of perpetual growth is embedded in modern economics. Can anything grow forever?


Then why do we believe in it?

Money is a token of exchange. What actually runs the world is energy.

Economics is a bogus field. Energy is the real field.

Everything runs on energy principles, and you cannot fudge them because they are embedded in the laws of thermodynamics.

The arrogance of human intellect makes you believe that we can solve any problem. But this is not a problem. It is a predicament.

The laws of geology are a predicament. The laws of thermodynamics are a predicament. You can't circumvent it.

It sounds very alarming...

We are living on stored energy. On fossil fuels.

Pre 1750, the world used to run on sunlight.

The sunlight collected for 500 million years became two trillion barrels of oil -- and we have burnt half of that in 250 years.

The corporates are facing the pain today. Layoffs are happening, banks and countries are going bust.

India has non performing assets of Rs 8 lakh crores! Actually it will be much more.

We are living in a floating world. And that is why the next crash is eminent.

A culture that understands reality through symbols is going to have a shallow view.

It has allowed us to bulldoze all of reality. To cut whole mountains, dam rivers and remove communities for it.

Cheese made by Tina Khan at Acres Wild

IMAGE: Cheese is kept on wooden shelves. Different kinds of cheese are made at the small unit.

And got our planet into a crisis?

All of earth behaves in a bell curve. We have reached the peak.

We are facing the geological limits of the planet. This is fundamental and we don't accept it.

We are infinity lovers and mind worshippers.

That's how America was taken over. The 400-year White Man's history peaks with the landing on the moon, but no one gives any credit to those Native Americans who preserved that continent for thousands of years.

Is it true you put all your savings into starting this farm stay?

We put in a fair amount of money, not all, thankfully. This just about pays back for its running.

We will probably never recover the capital cost, the way we run it.

Also, we wanted to make this place more accessible to more people. We didn't want it only for the elite, but for an average family.

We serve home style food, don't change the bed sheets every day, no clockwork room service.

Once in a while, we have had guests who automatically expected a change of sheets every day, we do that for them, but I find that a bit odd.

What were the challenges?

The challenges were not that of building this up. The real challenge is that the Tamil Nadu government gives no incentive to a home stay, which Kerala does. So our electricity is commercial, we have to obtain 12 licenses every year.

We have five rooms for which we need 12 licenses!

Apart from this hassle, we get joy from the fact that people genuinely like the place, we get a chance to interact with interesting people.

Tina has taught over 200 people how to make cheese. We have been featured on our own strength in flight magazines, National Geographic, travel magazines. We have not pushed for it. This is what I believe is advertisement at a genuine level.

We don't advertise. I believe people should discover my place.

Mansoor Khan's Acres Wild Homestay

IMAGE: A panaromic view of the farm stay. The 22 acres are covered with trees and plants.

2017 marks 70 years of India's freedom, how far do you think we have come?

We are going down a tunnel and we don't know where the end is.

We are going to hit our head against that wall called 'limits'. Western countries have already faced this mess.

India is blazing down this tunnel. Every given moment the intrinsic traditional understanding of its people is being erased.

The poor average villager's traditional knowledge has been ignored. He was told he needed pesticides, fertilisers.

It made his soil harder and he needed a bulldozer each time to till it. It's a downward spiral.

Masanobu Fukuoka's One Straw Revolution is a wonderful book on modern agriculture versus natural agriculture.

He says modern agriculture is an outward spiral, where from nothing you need a lot. While in natural farming it is the opposite. It is a brilliant, beautiful, book.

Who are the people you admire?

I admire him (Masanobu Fokuoka). Medha Patkar. I don't believe in idol worship or celebrityship. I admire them, but I won't worship them.

There are many thinkers in small pockets that you need to go out and discover.

You won't find them in environmental magazines, definitely not in the mainstream media.

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