Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Garden of Eden

Today I went off the beaten and macadamised track and took a dirt road while coming back from the Man valley. I crossed over the Man dam into a hilly forested area that had always been isolated and had now become more so due to being cut off by the dam on the Man river. The only way the people of this area can connect with the rest of the world now is by crossing over the Man dam at Zirabad or a bridge built higher up where the Man river narrows down and the reservoir becomes a water fillet. Its a wild area with simple people living in it. These people after having lost their land in the reservoir have climbed up and made their homes along the hill slopes. Since the old road along the river has been submerged a new road has been hewed out by the people themselves and since they lack the resources this road is nothing more than a deathtrap of gravel for the unsuspecting motorcyclist. It was not long before I took a tumble on one of the steep climbs and bruised my elbow. I got up wiped the blood off and then uprighting my motor cycle carried on with my wild trip exhilarated at being able to go through these hills.
There were fields of indigenous sorghum, sesame, black gram and groundnut sown on low quality soil on the hill slopes. The traditional dry land agriculture of the adivasis was still extant in these remote hills while it has vanished in the more accessible areas where there is also irrigation. In this sense this whole area is like a
Garden of Eden. There are no buses or tractors plying here and my motorcycle was the first one probably in weeks to sully the air with its exhaust fumes. Only after crossing the bridge upstream did I come across another motorcycle rider. There was a man walking with a bundle of ground nut on his head for selling in the weekly market in Dhar town. I gave him a lift as a pillion rider to learn more about the lives of the people of the area.
He said that they had been cut off alright but had also benefited from the dam. They now lifted water from the dam with electric pumps and pipelines to irrigate their fields and grow wheat. So they were not dependent any more solely on their dryland crops. A simple man eking out a living on a small plot of land. He listened enthusiastically to all I had to say about watershed development and soil and water conservation. No one had ever told them about this and neither had any plans been made to implement such a programme. A man left practically untouched by the decades of modern development that had taken place all around him he walked away nonchalantly when I dropped him off at Dhar and went on my way to Indore.
The Nobel Peace Prize this year going to climate change prevention activists notwithstanding the environmental disaster looming ahead will not be averted unless we become like that simple adivasi man and immerse ourselves in the simplicity of nature again.


bhupinder said...

ah! I got a title for your next book now. It will be titled 'The Motorcycle Diaries'


Rahul Banerjee said...

I travel only within the region on my motorcycle. Recently a friend of mine who had spent some time with us in Alirajpur in the early nineties dropped by. He was travelling all the way from Ladakh where he had been teaching mathematics in a Buddhist residential school to his home in Bangalore on a Royal Enfield motorcycle and visiting all the environmental niches on the way. His trip upto my house had already covered seven thousand kilometers and he expected to cross ten thousand by the time he reached home. Now he could really write a motorcycle diary whereas i will remain content with my blogging!