Orange-wet fingers and palms were licked one by one as I burped on the last of the mango seeds whose fruit tissues I had ripped off. I was pampered and I could have more but did not want to as I was unable to feel the sweetness any longer. I liked my mangoes sweet. The dryness that I felt at the end of my lips made me feel satisfied and lethargic. I would have been more than happy if somebody else would dispose the plate-full of mango seeds for me in the ever-flowing waterway by the railway station, allowing me to lie on my stomach for eternity. My self-proclaimed eternity lasted till the evening and eventually I had to get up.
On one of such lazy summer afternoons, as I lay on my stomach facing one of the windows of the house, I noticed an earthen pot on the window sill. It had always been there, abandoned, perhaps because of its cracked exterior. I pushed myself up and with the plate of mango seeds reached the abandoned pot. I had found a way to address the mango crisis of the house i.e. lack of surplus mangoes when needed. I wondered as to why nobody else at home had thought about it. I dug in the soil and sowed one of the fastidiously selected seeds in the pot. I placed the pot in the veranda so that sunshine and rain could also fall on it apart from the water I would pour in the pot daily. I kept at the then thinkable duties towards it: watering it daily; and moving it in the veranda with the sun’s movements. I did not ever see a green shoot thrusting upwards in any of the mornings when I rushed to it hoping one would. 😦
I do not know when I lost interest in the activity but I did. I had started to feel satiated with no surplus perhaps. After some days when the pot’s abandonment became apparent to me again, I concluded that it was the train engines’ roaring at the nearby railway station that had kept the green shoot from coming upwards. I used to cower too when a few of them roared together. That was the first evidence of the phrase for me “As you sow, so shall you not reap”. My conclusion being shallow still corroborated the theory that I formed afterwards: that there are things out of our control and because of them we may not reap as we sow.
As I did not indulge in planting anything else after my first trial and lived an isolated-from-world-realities-and-so-called-developed-and-progressive life, I could never really grasp the scale on which the phrase is prevalent for real in the agricultural world. Yes I did read and hear about it, everywhere, but how could it matter to me if my subsistence depended on professions which were not as risk-prone as agriculture. I would read, hear but then forget as this reality was not around me. It was as if I believed that vegetables and fruits were sown and grown in the round and wooden mandi-baskets by the vendors.
In the past nine months, though, in the field area that I work in, I have come to know of many a risk associated with the agriculture the local people carry out. They grow potatoes, cabbages, wheat, rice, all kinds of fruits and native crops for mostly market and some consumption purposes. Potatoes and cabbages are considered cash crops and grown whenever possible as these get them fair enough prices in the market. Fruits are their main crops though. All interventions related to yield of crop are carried out here: pesticides are used, manure is used, high-yield seeds are sown, and high-yield fruit plants are used. My organization’s mother NGO Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (CHIRAG) is actively engaged in some of these activities. One of the other activities that CHIRAG constantly pursues is afforestation in the area as the native people and settled people are using up the forest wood quite quickly leading to degradation of the forests.
Apart from nonseasonal rains and snowfall, much to the cheer of the visiting tourist population and the native people now dependent on tourism but to the dismay of the farmers, forests’ beasts also contribute to the risks associated with agriculture in the area: wild boars attack the sowed crops in broad night-light (stars shine too brightly here in the clear air) and sometimes in day-light; our ape-ancestors, langurs and monkeys, jump from tree to tree to eat all the fruit flowers, fruits before and during the fruit season, move about on the ground to eat up the cash crops, and seeds of the native Oak tree in private grounds. Only some farmers are very lucky to not have any attack on their crops. But most of the farmers have to keep at preventing the wild boars from destroying their crops and shoo away our ape-ancestors from the fruit trees and farms, constantly. An electric-charged barricading is done at some farms to kill the wild boars that attack, as it is not easy to chase them away, but I am not sure to what extent it is prevalent. Our ancestors are relatively easy but still tiring and time-consuming to chase away. It takes a toll on the farmers and the crops certainly, every time there is an attack.
The degradation of the forest has accounted for nonseasonal rains also I guess and led the beasts to seek easier food outside the forest, and the people residing here themselves are the ones responsible for the degradation. It is sort of a full circle. More hurtful actually are the nonseasonal rains, as is happening in a lot of places in India at the moment, which could be not because of their own actions as there is still relatively a good forest cover in the area but because of global warming. Let us say, carbon emissions in some other part of the world might have contributed, obviously indirectly, to the nonseasonal rains in my field area. How much dis-empowered that might make a person feel, that the entire status-quo is probably not because of their own actions?
Probably I felt dis-empowered too and let things be as they happened when I believed the roaring engine was the reason behind no green shoot thrusting upwards. It is so demotivating to realize that one shall not reap even as one sows. I should have got rid of the roaring engine somehow. Shouldn’t we, of ours?