Oct Dec 2011

Oct Dec 2011
Community and Commons


This issue marks the completion of two years of our journey with Eternal Bhoomi – and this has coincided with the historic civil society movement in India led by Team Anna. Over the two weeks of high drama and sheer grit, the movement saw several small communities spontaneously forming across the country and stoking the fires of revolt against corruption; there was anger converted to determination and the people of India felt that they had discovered their voice.

Only two human-made structures on Earth are large enough to be seen from outer space: the Great Wall of China and the Fresh Kills landfill in USA. Startling, and not a very pleasant fact to know!

The yogi T. Krishnamacharya had said that it is not bodily contortions or exceptional breath control that determines progress on the path of Yoga. He said that the key indicator of progress on this path is the quality of the relationships the person engages in. Of the eight different aspects that make up the totality of yoga practice, the first that is listed in the Yoga Sutra is yama - right relationships. Right relationship with not just other people, but right relationship with people and things external to the person.


I’ve had a relationship with islands since I was a young man. My attraction has not been to the clichéd tropical fantasy of palm trees and white sand: it is something deeper - island as metaphor for our existence on Earth, representing independence and interdependence, natural limits and boundless space. Island as paradox.

This is a story of how an elderly lady in the village of Andhra Pradesh had tears in her eyes when after 20 years of globalisation, I gave her seeds of an indegenous millet variety. For the happy old lady, the seeds brought back smells and tastes of her childhood and a hope that all is not lost. For me, her tears signified a triumph in converting a barren piece of land that had no water, into a space that conserves rare, threatened and medicinal indigenous plants.

I pulled my hat down, making sure the neck-cover exposed nothing of my skin. I tightened the mosquito net around my body and camera, and then swore!! It was 47 degrees of baking heat and not a leaf moved for want of breeze. I wondered what madness it was to be wrapped from head to toe like this when the temperature was making water evaporate like gasoline. Sweat bees were buzzing all around me and I knew that if they found even a miniscule opening they would be crawling all over me.

(Translated From the book ‘Aaj bhi khare ha italaab’)

Patience pays. This Flameback decided to pose for me at sunset when I was all set to leave my perch. Shot in Gudalur, in a coffee estate.


The first lady of Hesaraghattalake. She doesn’t pose for photographers. She organizes a press conference, where 7 to 10 photographers stand around her and click away; not a feather ruffled!

As yet another example of the desperate ‘science’ of Monsanto, it is now being argued that genetically engineered Bt cotton – introduced in India in 1997 – has liberated Indian women. In a paper authored by Arjunan Subramanian, Kerry Kirwan, David Pink and MatinQaim, the argument is that the crop produces massive gains for women’s employment in India.


But this argument is false on many grounds.

As 74 year-old Anna Hazare broke his fast in Delhi’s historic Ram-Lila Maidan after 13 days, one message was impossible to miss: cynicism can’t. Not in a country with an overwhelmingly young population.

Over the past fortnight, as tens of thousands of people from all walks of life spilt onto the streets, many questions were raised: about the direction taken by this mass agitation against corruption, the ethics of team Anna’s  methods, the mertis and demerits of various Lokpal proposals.