The Good Old Days


It is often misleading to compare life in two different eras, but that is exactly what I’m attempting to do in this post.

Recently I have been reading some classic Malayalam novels like Sundarikalum Sundaranmarum by Uroob, Oru Deshathinte Kadha by S.K.Pottekkatt and Unnikkuttante Lokam by Nandanar. All these books beautifully describe the life in Northern Kerala some 90 to 50 years ago. One thing struck me after reading these books, more than anything else- that how sterile the environment in which I grew up- and my childhood- were.

I’m not grumbling or being ungrateful. I like to think that I am fully aware of how lucky I am to have been able to grow up in comfort, with liberty and into a life full of possibilities. But something is missing- big time. I really don’t know how to pinpoint what exactly is missing.

Perhaps it’s the lack of contact and communion with nature, having been brought up entirely in a town. Perhaps it’s the effect of today’s schools(which are more like factories). Perhaps it’s because of the demise of the joint families where cousins got together in their ancestral homes at least during vacations (my elder cousins had this fortune. By the time I was growing up it was too late…).

Perhaps it’s because of the marginalization of society. Especially in towns, people generally interact only with people from similar economic/social backgrounds. This is very evident if you look at the backgrounds of your classmates, whether in school or at college. Perhaps it’s because so much time is now spent watching/listening to various virtual media so that actual time spent “living” is less. Time spent observing and interacting with the real world. So that we have withdrawn deeper and deeper into our shells of comfort and become less and less bothered about what’s going on outside it.

It must be a combination of all these things and more, which I do not have the words to explain- basically a lack of diversity and colourfulness to stimulate the senses and the intellect, compared to the “good old days”. Of course, these are my personal views. I can’t generalize them, but from my understanding of my peers I could confidently say that these conditions apply to many if not most of them too, differing only marginally from person to person.

I simply cannot accept this as the “price of progress”, just like I cannot accept environmental degradation and our alienation from nature as the price of progress and civilization. I sometimes wish I was born at least some 20 years earlier! But coming back to reality, I really do want to explore alternative ways to see if I can rediscover some of that colourfulness…


The Scourge of the “Green Revolution”


Came across this shocking article (which appeared in the Illustrated Weekly of India in 1986) today.

Many people realize today that the so called “Green Revolution” was a short sighted strategy(though perhaps deemed necessary at that time) as three decades later, it has left our soils depleted, yields decreasing and our farmers ever more dependent on fertilizers and pesticides. This recently formed dependence on high-input agriculture is one of the main reasons behind the mass farmer suicides today. Perhaps it helped overcome some misery back then, but it’s only helped to set us up for a much bigger disaster.

But what is shocking about the article is the little known(at least among the people of my generation) scandals over the varieties of rice, how our incredible wealth of diversity in rice was depleted and robbed by vested political and commercial interests from abroad and within. How M.S.Swaminathan, whom we revere as the Father of Green Revolution, actually might be just another of those “scientists” who overlook and bend facts in return for the promise of money. How there was one scientist Dr.Richcharia (former director of Central Rice Research Institute), whom very few of us would have even heard of, who sacrificed a lot to fight this robbery and preserve our indigenous varieties of rice.

In hindsight, this article doesn’t really shock me that much. It’s just so identical in pattern to the innumerable scandals which have orchestrated by the developed world, in the name of globalization and progress.

Disclaimer: I know this is just one article by just one person, with some allegations against something which has been widely accepted by our society as a boon. As my friends warned me when I showed them the article, you should never form an opinion based on just one side of the argument. But for me, this single article is enough, of course assuming that the facts it mentions are true- not least because the author is a person with reasonable credentials- but mainly because the “other side of the argument” is something (which usually consist of loose ends tied together, hardly more credible, even less) which I’m seeing and hearing all the time through the mainstream media, and such counterpoints usually cut through a lot of crap and make perfect sense.(eg: Stiglitz on Globalization)

P.S. This post was written in a flurry of emotion after reading the article. M.S. Swaminathan may or may not be a great scientist. I was just overcome by a feeling of anger and injustice that M.S.Swaminathan has become a household name as a saviour, while Richharia, who fought for our indigenous varieties of rice at such personal cost, has almost been forgotten forever. Regarding our situation today, we need to move beyond the mindless petroleum-driven farming of the past few decades if we are to have a future.