Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sand Soil Earth... and Earthworms

It was a Greenpeace call for entries for a photo exhibition that prompted me to write this post. It was an unusual call for photos - the organisation wanted photographs on Soils and Survival, which is indeed by any parametre not a run of the mill idea/theme for a photo-exhibition.

Before this I had come across, and participated in, photo-competitions of all kinds, almost everything under the sun, - Humanizing Development, the Millennium Development Goals, woman/women, Delhi, nature and wildlife, weddings and marriages, flowers, portraits, street photography, and so many more that I cannot recall. Not many of such competitions forced me to think - I either had photos or I did not have. In profounder words - I was either interested or I was not in some of these themes and calls for participation.

So, participating in this Greenpeace exhibition on 'soil' set me scratching my head, though it still did not make me grip my equipment and shoot soil, sand, earth, ground, land, rocks, stones, hills, vegetation, grass, fields, crops, farmers, earthworms, cows, goats or cowdung... I just scratched my head and thought off all those photo-shoots that I had either participated in or, sometimes, had led in Delhi.

Scratching the head helped. I recollected and recalled that I had unknowingly, maybe unwittingly clicked earth so many times during such shoots. And then I began to scrutinise the deep forgotten recesses of my hard drives to successfully unearth dozens of photos on soil and related subjects.

My joy was unbound.

The variety was, as the English would say, not bad at all. I had anthills (fantastic work of architecture using local construction materials), insects (one flouroscent beetle trying out climbing on a sapling), butterflies holding a long lunch-hour meeting (much like NGOs), tiny islands of earth in Delhi's green spaces (in the middle of smelly sewage water from plush Delhi residences), ancient rocks from Rajasthan, fallen flowers, dried leaves, rotting stems and much more (all the right ingredients for a healthy soil), though I found no earthworms.

My job was done. A few of those entries passed the Greenpeace muster, were blown up and dutifully highlighted at the exhibition.

But I was amazed to notice how an abstract competition trigger a chain or thought or light up creativity. The soil of our country, it seems, is unwell these days. Fed with an overdose of chemicals - fertilisers as well as pesticides - it is on the sick bed. The microbes in the soil have died and the earthworms are disappearing. The chemicals have killed them all.


The farmers, despite their traditional knowledge and farming systems, have dumped the age-old farming practices of soil and nature friendly farming in favour of government subsidies that promote chemical fertilisers; corporate marketing gimmicks that spread out the chemicals to the remotest of farms and crops that bring in the moolah. But all this has happened at the cost of soil health and declining productivity - inspite of additional doses of fertilisers.

Funny isn't it how, in the rat race to push growth rates, we close our eyes to extraction machines in forests, chemicals in soil, sewage in rivers and pollution in air?

On that note, I wonder what is happening to our food? What are we eating these days? Genes of coachroaches, bugs, reptiles, insects... ?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Last of the Season

Once again there has been a long gap. The longest till now - more than two months. Longer than  the one I had in the middle of last year. The irony is that I have been writing consistently but have not been updating my blog. And it has been more than two months of not a single write-up - not even random thoughts, no lament either about the level of corruption, the Japanese tsunami and the nuclear catastrophe, the murder of environment, the skewed-up development processes...

So, I have finally decided to update. Not with a write-up but with photos - seems photography is becoming an activity, which I have been consistent thinking about and  practicing. So, here come some flower shots taken today in the diminishing romance of spring. Now being steadily replaced by the domineering heat of  the summer, which even though in its infancy has made its impact felt. I wonder if we will get baked in a matter of a couple of months.

The  flowers have been withering away, but  I managed to catch a few of the healthier variety despite their withering motions. It was not even planned - just that I happened to find myself in a small passionately-managed garden and I had my camera alongside me. I also had my new lens which I put to good use in the garden. Enjoy the flowers from the lawns of the Constitution Club, the heart of Delhi, on a day when a perfectly-timed, heat seeking Wikileaks cable hit the Indian Parliament with the intensity of an American nuke.

The timing of the Wikileaks story could not have been more apt. For India, it came at a time when corruption has now become a regular beat for reporters just as agriculture or defence are. There is so much happening on this beat that now the media should seriously think of assigning a full time reporter to cover corruption.

In the global context, it came exactly at the time when Japan is facing a nuclear holocaust which is a runaway reminder of not only history's, and indeed Japan's, first nuclear bombing but also of the Chernobyl disaster.

For India, the Japanese nuclear meltdown and the helplessness of the mighty Japanese despite their nuclear prowess gives added teeth to the protestors of the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Plant about which the Indian Government is so stubbornly hopeful of erecting. On the other hand, it also reminds us of the Boxing Day Tsunami which hit the South East and South Asian nations in 2005 and  whose waves almost touched the feet of our own nuclear power plant on the south Indian coastline.

Oh oh oh, seems my thoughts have led me astray from my original topic(s) - not writing, not updating, flowers, photography and the receeding spring. So, coming back to flowers... time to enjoy them before they beat a hasty retreat to the scorching sun.