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.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Bagheli Poet and his Juicy Wheat

Traditionally Madhya Pradesh used to be the best producer of wheat both in quality and quantity in the country. These were the tall dryland varieties which were sown with organic fertilisers and without irrigation. Then the Green Revolution was introduced with the hybrid dwarf varieties and higher productivity due to irrigation and chemical fertilisers and the traditional varieties were ignored. However, a few farmers still continued to grow these varieties because of their better taste and nutritional qualities. Then as the productivity of the green revolution wheat began to decline and its cost of production began to increase due to the reduction in subsidies for fertilisers and irrigation, farmers began to switch back to the traditonal varieties. While most of these traditional varieties were durum wheat which is good for making pasta or sewaian, a kind of indian noodles, there were some aestevium varieties also which are good for making chapaties or hand made bread. One such variety is locally called Sharbati or juicy and was selected and developed all of fifty years ago as the c 306 variety. It is this veteran variety that is the most cultivated and commands the highest price among wheat varieties today.
Subhadra decided to sow this wheat on our farm and so began our search for this variety. A little research, however, revealed that, as usually happens, its popularity and the high price that it commands had led to many spurious varieties were being passed off as Sharbati. Most common among these was Sujatha which too is a variant of Sharbati but not of the same quality as the c 306. So this led us into a search for the true Sharbati variety. As a result we found not only the c 306 but also an extraordinary personality.

We met up with Babulal Dahiya, a farmer in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh. Babulalji is a retired postal official but right from his young age he began helping his father with farming even while studying. He also liked poetry in his native Bagheli dialect and became a well known poet in this dialect reciting his own poetry and the old Bagheli folklore. In the folklore he found mention of various varieties of rice which were not easily available. This intrigued him and he began to search for these varieties and then after getting them he began growing them on 2 acres of his farm. In this way over the years he has collected and conserved more than a hundred traditional varieties of cereals, pulses and vegetables. He has now inspired many farmers around his native village of Pithaurabad to grow these varieties and has single handedly started a mass movement for the conservation of indigenous varieties. Thus whether it is the conservation and promotion of Bagheli folklore or of indigenous seeds, Babulalji has become a crusader par excellence.
He had conserved the c 306 variety also and so I went and met him and procured the seeds from him to sow on our farm. When we began our experiment with sustainable agriculture by starting farming we had never imagined that it would lead to such a rich experience not only in terms of farming but also in meeting such extraordinary personalities.

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