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.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Fruit of the Forest

Our farm in Pandutalav is on the edge of a forest. It reminds Subhadra of her childhood in her village where her parents' farm too was on the edge of the forest. So the first thing she did after we got the farm was to make a trip to Chhattisgarh and get the many fruit creepers that grow in the forest there to plant on the edges of our farm. These creepers have now begun to come to fruition and Subhadra is in seventh heaven. We are all now enjoying these fruits. One tuber that is particularly tasty and nutritious is what is known in Chhattisgarh as Dang Kanda and which is available in western Madhya Pradesh also being called Wori Kanda by the Bhils of Alirajpur. The picture below shows a basket full of these tubers on our farm.

Not only is this tuber very tasty to eat either plain boiled or as part of a vegetable dish it is also very nutritious. Dioscorea bulbifera as it is called in botany is constituted by 2.1 per cent protein and 79 per cent carbohydrate while the rest is fibre and lipids. It has 317 ppm iron and 305 kcal/gram of energy. Apart from this it has medicinal properties in curing swellings, boils, ulcers, dysentry and piles. It is also used as a tonic for cardiac and nervous illnesses. 
While researching the botanical and medicinal properties of this tuber I found that there are hundreds of such fruits of the forest which are beneficial in many ways. Traditionally the Adivasis used to rely on these to boost their nutrition and cure themselves of disease. However, now not only are these plants fast disappearing due to deforestation but there is also a much greater danger.
This is the change in mindset. Modern civilisation calls the Adivasis junglees precisely because they rely on these fruits of the forest. Therefore, the Adivasis these days shun these traditional foods and instead try to eat the food of the urban people. Since they do not have the financial wherewithal to adopt urban food habits they end up being malnourished.
When Subhadra cooked the Dang Kanda and offered it to our neighbours on the farm they refused to eat it saying it was junglee!! Subhadra of course would have none of that and scolded them roundly and forced them to eat the kandas. But it is unlikely that they will plant these creepers on the edges of their farms and eat the fruit regularly. 
The other day an academic anthropologist said that I was being romantic in finding value in the traditional practices of the Adivasis because in reality those practices and the traditional lifestyle they constituted were deficient if evaluated in modern terms. This is the kind of modern hubris that has destroyed not only the Adivasis but is also slowly but surely destroying the whole of humanity. Anthropologists these days come and do field work in Adivasi areas for their doctoral degrees and then rarely ever come back again once they have become tenured academics and prefer to look down on the traditional Adivasi lifestyle as being pre-modern and deficient and labelling those few of us still left revering their indigenous knowledge as romantic!!  

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