It is not too often that one comes in contact with a person who was only born to give. Whether it is through his healing or organic farming, Ravi Mantha is a man always has something to give to the world.
It was sheer curiosity that made me walk into Sage Farm Café, to understand why a close friend was singing praises about him. Little did I know that I’d end up meeting a real life ‘magician’ as I like to call him. Meet the multifaceted man, of many talents, a healer, angel investor, farmer, author, public speaker, and political advisor.
Text: Anahita Ahuja
You’re a man of many facets and I don’t know how you do it. Let’s start with the one that is most noble and fascinating – your love for healthy living.
I have an organic farm in Hyderabad and a farm to table cafe. I’m also on the board of a company that recycles paper and leaf plates called Bollant. I happened to find a young man passionate about manufacturing and I thought it was a good idea to focus on green and sustainable. We’re doing it with zero emissions; we recapture the waste heat, the ash, the effluent. The idea is to take garbage in and send products out. In another six months, we’re going to have 1 megawatt in solar energy from panels on the roof. This will completely cover the power needs of the factory. 50% of our employees are also differently abled- the CEO is blind. We say the tagline of our business is that we also hire able-bodied people.
How are you getting people, especially millennials, to care about where their food comes from?
If you look at Hyderabad, many of the mandi vegetables are grown in the east of the city, where the Musi river flows past Nagole. The river is highly contaminated, not just with sewage but industrial effluents and heavy metals like lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic. These metals are absorbed by vegetables and enter the human food chain. Unfortunately these are causing huge increase in cancer and other illnesses. Also, there is heavy use of pesticides in commercial farming which is totally unregulated, and pesticide residues also cause a lot of health problems. Once we point out these facts, it gets people to start thinking about where they are getting their food. We also invite people to visit our farm and see how we grow food using organic permaculture.
“Someone coming to me with chronic pain, and leaving pain-free with a smile on their face, this is the most satisfying feeling as a healer.”
Naturally, food is a part of the bigger picture – the body. At what point and how did you come to be the magician healer that you’re known to be?
I wrote my first book “All About Bacteria” in 2011 to dispel many of the myths surrounding bacteria, which make up the vast majority of the cells that live in and on your body. After that, I got into nutrition, exercise science, neurophysiology, emotional therapy, and pretty much every layer of human health. When you understand the human body and disease from a holistic perspective, and try to find the root cause of the problem rather than just treat symptoms, often people describe their experience being my patients as magical. But really what I do is more of a diagnostic science.
Are you able to tackle mental health too?
Yes, I do. Mental health can be related to hormonal imbalance, trauma from childhood or even what patients perceive as past lives, or it can be linked to stress, poor nutrition and sleep patterns. Again, the trick is to find the root cause of it. Having said that, I always work in conjunction with physicians when dealing with mental health patients.
Do you find that patients that come to you for some type of healing go back with a deeper understanding of pain, the body, and the food they eat?
Absolutely. Holistic health and wellbeing is about understanding the right balance of nutrition, sleep, avoiding poisons and toxins in the home and in food, and building better relationships with people in our lives. I always make sure that I inculcate positive habits in my patients.
Clean, green, and sustainable seem like the core of everything that you do. What are some everyday things we can do on our part to curb damage to the environment?
We can start by minimising plastic from our lives. Other than that, we need to be more activist about clean energy, planting trees, doing rainwater harvesting in our homes and apartment buildings, segregating our trash from food waste and composting the food waste, and switch to eating locally grown organic food.
What are some initiatives that our readers can get involved in or contribute to?
Please come and visit us at Sage Farm Café in Jubilee Hills. We do eco-friendly ganeshas for Vinayaka chavithi, natural colours for Holi, and we have excellent products in the organic space, as well as fresh vegetables and a great café where you can taste what real organic food is like.
I heard something about the tree rescue initiative…
We recently launched an initiative to rescue fully grown trees from construction and road widening sites and transplant them to our farms. It is an expensive initiative, since hiring a crane and transplanting big trees costs a lot, but we are doing what we can. We hope this becomes a habit for people building homes or farms to do.
How did Sage Farm come into being?
When my wife and I came to India in 2014, we were clear that our kids should only eat healthy vegetables that we knew their origin and source. What started with that has grown, because we realized that the food my kids are eating is exactly what other parents want for their children too!
What does the future of Sage seem like?
We are expanding into a new building in December, and are going to grow the café as well as our vegetable and grocery offering. We will stay local, and stay as a niche player. We don’t think every business should scale up. Sage is a lifestyle that my family is living, and we are happy to share that lifestyle with our ecosystem in Hyderabad. We hope to inspire an ecosystem in the organic space and help other entrepreneurs flourish too.
“I always work in conjunction with physicians when dealing with mental health patients.”
Let’s now talk about Ravi, the author. How did writing happen?
In 2012, I saw that there was a gap in the medical world and the public understands of bacteria in our body. Until then, bacteria were treated as an enemy to fight, instead of an integral part of our body to cherish. I researched and wrote my first book then, which completed my personal transformation into a wellness coach.
On what basis do you pick your topics?
I write primarily on health. The exception happened in 2014 when I did a poetry translation project for the then Gujarat CM, now our PM where I translated his Gujarati poetry into English with his official permission. That was a one-off project, but my writing is now very focussed on health and wellness.
On a personal note – how do you take out time for the family?
I travel half the time, so it always feels like I am not spending enough time with them. But we also travel around the world together every year. My boys have already lived in Boston, London, Singapore and Hyderabad, even though they are quite young.
Some things that people don’t know about you…
I am a keen amateur cricketer, playing for the same club in London for twenty years. I go each summer to England to play for them. I studied liberal arts in college, then had an 18 year career in finance as a mutual fund manager before switching into wellness and health. I have spent 28 years overseas, but I was born and raised in Hyderabad and studied at HPS Ramanthapur till 12th.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
I am more of a renaissance man, dabbling in many fields, and am a global connector. I love connecting people with each other.
Out of the many roles you play, which one role of yours do you most enjoy?
I most enjoy healing people. Someone coming to me with chronic pain, and leaving pain-free with a smile on their face, this is the most satisfying feeling as a healer.
This world needs more people like you. How does one make that happen?
It’s all about providing opportunities for youngsters across the social and economic spectrum, from not just our cities but from villages, to succeed. Educational opportunities to study abroad, encouraging entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and celebrating unconventional thinking is what we need to do more of.