It’s Thursday evening, almost 7 p.m. You can only hear a few whispers and muted talking in TON1. A few moments ago, nearly 90 guests were engaged in lively conversations, filling the Atelier Gardens campus with an excited buzz in anticipation of the evening’s event. But now, as the last coconut water & rosemary mocktails have been long emptied, the room’s attention turns to an older man in a kurta entering the stage.

The topic of this evening’s talk – the first one in the “Talks at Atelier Gardens” series that will take place on campus over the next few months – is “Soil, Soul and Society.” Satish Kumar, the 86-year-old activist assuming his seat on stage, prepares to share his ideas on the topic at hand. “To effect true change, we must live in harmony with the earth, ourselves and others,” explains Kumar. He dreams of a world where nature is our sole nationality, where diversity does not lead to division, and where “I” is replaced with “we.”

A Life of Spirituality

Kumar’s life is symbolic of his vision. As a teenager, he became a Jain monk and, in his words, “renounced the world.” But when he turned 18, he realized that isolation was a very dissociated version of spirituality. He decided to leave the monastery and join an ashram where everything was done in community with the purpose of helping others instead of merely oneself.

At age 26, Kumar found out about Bertrand Russell’s arrest: the 90-year-old philosopher and mathematician was detained during a protest against nuclear weapons. “I was talking to a friend and asked him: What are we doing here, two young men, while a 90-year-old is actively demonstrating?” says Kumar. And so the two of them decided to travel on foot to the four main nuclear capitals: Moscow, Paris, London and Washington. Solely equipped with their feet and stamina, without money or a specific plan because “peace begins with trust.”

Activism as Solution

To this day, Kumar remains a committed activist. “I can’t control where my actions lead, but I can control my actions,” he says. “One has to accept that results come as a gift from the universe, even if that thought can be frustrating. The power of responsibility lies with each and every one of us. Even if you place a plant on your window sill, you perform an action toward the improvement of this world by making your city just a little bit greener.”

Words that resonate at Atelier Gardens. Here everything revolves around soil, soul, and society. There’s substance behind Atelier Gardens campus’ motto “Celebrating Soil, Soul and Society.” Benjamin Rodrigues Kafka, our vision & community director who moderated the Atelier Gardens Talk with Satish Kumar, shared how the 7 trees that existed on site in 2016 have now become 120. For this and other efforts in the regeneration process of the campus, Atelier Gardens received the 2023 MIPIM Award for Best Urban Renewal Project. Read more about it here.

Listen to the full Talk here:

"I can't control where my actions lead, but I can control my actions"

Satish Kumar, life long activist

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