The Other Indian...2

This time I shall harp on another aspect of the other Indian that has fascinated me since my childhood. Not about my estranged friend that I told you earlier about. But a feature of the santhal community on the whole.

The sight of a hunted swine hung upside down on a bamboo stick stretching on the shoulders of two dark men has always grabbed my attention. The mark of the pierced arrow still there on the body of the animal. At times, the arrow too keeps slinging from its original place, where the beast was hit by these primitive hunters.

The spectacle carries me straight to the hills, into the hunting expedition of my fellow friends. I too begin to imagine myself as one of the hunters bravely chasing the animals, bow and arrow in hand. My hunting dogs backing me up to find the animals.

These are the real hunters I feel, unlike the nawabs or Bollywood actors who often get penalized for their love for the game. Hunting, unlike these natives is not their need. It is only for amusement that they hunt. Safely mounted on their jeep and armed with guns.

There are however only few such spectacles now. Most of the natives have given up the sport. They work as labourers now and get Rs 60 or 70 for a day’s work. Owing to large scale unscrupulous felling the region once known for its thick and extensive forests is now bereft of much of its jungle wealth. The number of boars in the depreciated jungle has also come down considerably.

India's Garbage Guru

Waste segregation at Eco Wise Pix: Babu

Did it hurt you when someone called your country the dirtiest in the world? Did you ever react on seeing an empty packet lying on the streets? Or on the stinking garbage dump of your colony?

Well! This man did. And in a big way. Manik Thapar had decided “to clean up his country” quite early enough when he was doing his MBA in Michigan in the USA.

It was with this motive that he set up the Eco Wise Waste Management Pvt. Ltd., a waste management company in Noida two years ago. He was just 23 years of age then.

Two years on, the company collects garbage from six sectors of Noida on the outskirts of India’s capital, New Delhi. The recycle firm caters to 25,000 households and many big commercial and industrial establishments like the Haldirams and GE. This might well be a step to solve the garbage problem of Indian cities.

Environmental pollution
In India, Delhi alone generates nearly 7,000 tons of garbage per day, states Vatavaran, a Delhi based NGO involved in waste management. Most of this waste is dumped untreated in the landfills which are mostly open dumps.

“There is no scientific landfill site in all of India”, asserts Manik. There are various health problems directly associated with it.

Such landfills not only contaminate the ground water but also emanate dangerous gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Treating them in plants like the Eco Wise recycles most of the junk, so that only around 25 percent of the waste goes to the landfill site.

Treatment of waste
Ecowise collects garbage from households and also from some big commercial and industrial clients like the Haldirams and GE. “The waste is segregated and divided into bio-degradable and non biodegradable waste. The biodegradable waste is further converted into compost” explains Manik in his friendly tone.

Wet waste which consists mostly of kitchen waste is converted into organic and vermiculture compost. Cow dung and worms are used for this. The organic manure is sold at Re 1 per kg while the compost is sold at Rs 40 per kg.

So! Along with the cleaning campaign, the CEO is also making a lot of money. And it is not only him who benefits from it. “My venture saves the Noida Authority Rs 9 lakh a day”, asserts the young entrepreneurial.

I cannot but admire this bold initiative of the mature youngster. After all "Who wants to invest in garbage?"

The other Indian?

My college closed up for the summer and I get to my ancestral home. Borio is a small village in the Sahibganj district (earlier in Santhal Pargana district) of Jharkhand.

I stand at the door and watch the buffaloes being taken for grazing in the fields. When I was small I ran and tried climbing on one of them. Unsuccessful almost each time, I often fell on the ground and hurt myself. The country animal was too huge for my small size.

Now, I am confident I can climb it and would not fall. But I cannot try the sport. What will people think? The herd comes to an end with the grazier sitting comfortably on the last black beast and playing on his flute. I envied him as a child.

Does he represent “the other India” that the media far away in the capital often complacently refers to? Or that Rahul Gandhi is trying to discover in his travels to the villages - the India that is dispossessed and forgotten? The question perturbs me. And I resolve to find an answer.

I follow this cattle-grazer. I know he speaks a different language (Santhali) and is a “Santhal” – a tribe that the villagers still look down upon. But also one which had played an active role in India’s freedom struggle. He is little aware of his clan’s achievements and has now yielded to the criticism of his “dikku” adversary. (“Dikku” is the Santhali term for the non-Santhals)

The buffaloes graze in the open fields. Some descend into the dirty swamp of rainwater and lie there, motionless. Their black body dyed into a brown complexion. As the sun ascends the sky, the grazier keeps playing his flute as if entertaining his herd of animals.

Its noon. My newfound companion sits under a banyan tree to have his lunch. Rice and onion. That’s the menu on his leaf plate. It raises my appetite too. I return to my house and find my grandmother waiting for me on the dining table.

The menu here is a more extensive one. Rice, dal(pulses), brinjal bhaja, salad and my favourite variety of fish, katla.

As I take my lunch, I cannot but give a thought to my estranged friend.

Archer and Indian story-tellers

Jeffrey Archer’s 12-day visit to India may have been a treat for his readers. The media also gave him hospitable treatment and his new book lavish coverage. The English daily The Hindu in its Sunday Magazine carried an elaborate conversation with the writer.

With all the assertions on story-telling being his intrinsic worth, Jeffrey also makes a moot point. The author asks the reporter (Ziya Us Salam) for one “Indian guy” that he should read. Sarcastically though. “It is a little remark on the paucity of story-tellers from India”, pronounces the reporter in the following lines.
That the author of the bestseller Kane & Abel towers above most of his contenders in the story-telling business is a proven fact. But, to say that India does not have one readable story-teller will be a point bereft of logic.

Premchand’s classic stories are a creative interplay of tradition and modernity. So are the works of the distinguished story-teller R.K Narayan. Amitav Ghosh who recently released his much-awaited novel Sea of Poppies does not need much introduction when we talk of contemporary writers. It has been hailed as “the most eagerly awaited fiction title of the year”. The celebrated Vikram Seth is one of the most respected literary figures of present times. And that is not without his story-telling skills.

This is not to undervalue the various regional language writers of our country who get little publicity and attention from the media. The English daily did not publish my response to the article and Jeffrey’s comment.

My blog thankfully does not rest on their sanction.

Reconstruction is the new TV format

The battle for catching eyeballs and viewership had long caused the Indian news channels to shift their focus from sensitisation to sensationalism. Off late, the shift is towards dramatisation. The latest was the Noida double murder case – the killing of a thirteen year girl allegedly by her own father who had “illicit” relationship with his colleague. The minor knew about her father’s extra-marital affair and so did the servant. Both discussed the issue and had presumably developed a relationship. The father did not like it and in a state of fit killed both his daughter and servant.
The case had enough in it to grab media attention. This time “reconstruction” was the word. A channel showed how the father might have entered his daughter’s room where she was sitting with the servant of the house. Another put it in the words of the “spirit” of the poor girl.
“Mai Arushi! Kuch din pehle main bhi......Mere apne papa ne mujhe mar diya (My own father killed me). As if Aarushi herself was speaking from Heaven or had confided in the news channel to tell them how she was feeling after being killed by her own father. And all these before it had been proved that it was really her father who killed her.
News channels are fast taking up the role of their Bollywood counterpart. The difference being that while the directors take two or three years to reproduce the events, news channels are doing it at “breaking” speed.