Saturday, May 21, 2011

Of Vegetables and Drive

A little walk on the Yamuna bed, yes you can walk on a river that has everything in the world except water, had me clicking vegetables, marigold plantations, a forest and migrant workers. The wicked summer season, with all its inherent problems - power cuts, sandstorms, sweat, and of course the bright blinding sunlight - also brings plenty of vegetables.

Though no big fan of most veggies, I know well that most of the summer vegetables help the body stave off the soaring temperatures. Don't ask me how, but these vegetables keep a person cool. Even as I spoke to the farmers and their families on Delhi's river bed, I realised that I had encountered a similar scene barely a month back in another city, Bhopal, where again I had photographed a family plucking ladyfinger.

From the outside it was a similar scene - two different families in two different cities picking and plucking vegetables from farmland. But coming to think of it, when I sat down to write this blog post, I realised that despite the very same visual scenery, the behind-the-story was completely different. While the farmers' family at Bhopal tilled its own land and was secure, the one in Delhi had migrated here from Uttar Pradesh and was tilling the land for a Delhi-based farmer.

The irony is that the Delhi farmer too does not own the land. He has sublet the river's, rather the government's land, to a migrant family. And this land can be taken up for 'development' or 'beautification' anytime by the government or by a construction company through the benign intervention of the government. Land around the river has been ocassionally taken away by the government for construction purposes, more so during the last decade of 'growth and development'.

When I pointed this out to the farmer, he was concerned. His wife was even more concerned. It was just a couple of years back that they had seen a large portion of the land on the river bed being taken away for the  building of the Commonwealth Games Village. When asked if that land too was under cultivation, the farmer nodded his head. That plot of land too was under cultivation till it sprouted the massive games village.

So what happened to the family that was working there?

The woman replied. She was garrulous of the two: "What could the family do? Once the land was taken, the family went back to their village."

And what is the uprooted family doing now?

"How do we know?" said the woman. But I was persistent and wanted to know more, so I asked: "What will you do if the government wants to construct something else here?" " 

Now the man joined the conversation in the right earnest. Lines of worry immediately creased his face and even his children stood still. He responded: "Do you think this land too will be taken away for construction?"

I told him that I am not aware of the government's plans, but I want to know from him if he has any plans for his family and future. This fellow has four children and his eldest, the son, has dropped out from school. This made it amply clear that the boy will not do anything but follow in his parents footsteps - work on someone else's fields or join a construction site if the fields are taken away.

It was obvious that the farmer had not even thought about such a happening or his future. But he did reply: "If the land is indeed taken away, we will have no option but to go back to our village."

And what will he and his family do there?

His staid answer: "That we will see when we go back to our ancestral village. We will do something, afterall one has to feed onself."

Right. One has to feed oneself and this drive works for most of India. For the rest, just about a minority really, it is greed that works. :-)

No comments: