Craft week

January 17, 2020


We took three boys from our village and our daughter to the Crafts’ Week at Marudam Farm School, Tiruvannamalai. For a person like me who is really bad at using my hands to create anything useful, a week of watching artisans at work, fleetingly trying my hands at different crafts and reconfirming my inadequacy is an ego-grounding exercise. We, self-professed intellectuals, presume that mastering a craft is something we can do in a jiffy, whenever we choose to do it. It’s a nice theory as long as we don’t attempt to validate it.

We don’t have to romanticize craft as art. Craft by itself is valuable. The intrinsic value and expertise of a good craftsman is as much as that of a manager or a doctor. The market does not value their contribution but current market value is not everything. We have to move increasingly towards local production and consumption, if we are serious about carbon footprints, climate emergency, etc. Artisans will have a huge role to play in such an economy. They are keeping alive a possibility essential for our existence.

Theft of my phone and more

January 17, 2020

(From my Facebook – 2-Jan-2020)

My phone was stolen (yet again) 2 weeks ago. But this time, the sting was milder because much more is being stolen from under our feet. We are quickly losing what we grew up thinking of as our nation.

The good thief, probably a young boy who had to drop out of school due to public exam pressure, did me a favour. I have been, by and large, forced away from the social media during this time, insulated from all the depressing news. I am on my old no-internet Nokia, wondering if I should continue with this blissful existence in a remote village. But wouldn’t it be selfish not to share the anguish of my fellow people?

I come back this week to realise that the prime minister has shared and endorsed the arguments of a quackish guru in favour of CAA. Yes, a man who has built a vastly expanding tourist empire in our own Coimbatore, allegedly flouting all laws, should indeed be a constitutional expert and the fount of compassion.

P.S. 1: The tourist operator seems to be gunning to take over the Vellingiri hills in entirety, moving up from its encroached foothills and has launched a new product line, a 42 day sadhana to climb the hills. I have fond memories of trekking up the seven hills on a full moon night during my childhood days and taking a bath in a cold stream on the sixth hill, without the help of any charlatan. So have many of my family members who cherish the spiritual experience, and the people of Coimbatore who have always flocked to the hills in April-May. Hope our children don’t lose that joy.

P.S. 2: I wouldn’t have cared much for him but for the ads on this Vellingiri scam that are taking over my timeline. After much struggle I had muted his other channels. Now this! How can I permanently avoid seeing this man and the grotesque statue he built? I am not saying his name or his titles anywhere on my post, only because I do not want Mark to mistakenly take it as an excuse to flood my timeline with more of his ads.

P.S. 3: அறத்தாறு இதுவென வேண்டா….Don’t tell me, my phone got stolen because I deserve it for writing such posts.

Our learning centre

November 20, 2018

(Posted in Facebook on 9th September)

We have found a new place for our learning centre, thanks to the wonderful couple (currently working in Japan), Krishna Kumar and Gayathri Krishnakumar, who have offered us their house and rooms on their farm, closer to the village than our own farm. So far, we were functioning under a pipal tree, which housed a temple for Vinayaka. It had its own charm but there were caste issues, rain and other challenges.

Now the new place offers the children scope to do much more. Other friends have helped in other ways. And there are new challenges, which I hope we’ll overcome (more on them, later). But we are most excited that we are not in it alone, anymore.


November 20, 2018

(Posted in Facebook on 8th September)

The owners of the farm, where we have rented a house, had 3 cows. One of them, Madhura, gave birth to a male calf last week. Madhura was the only native cow there. But the calf happened to be Jersey cross breed. Today, cows are, by and large, inseminated artificially. While the owners specifically asked for semen of a native cow, somehow, the cross breed semen had been injected. They had no way of knowing it till the calf was born. There were complications during the birth, which happened in the middle of the night. The uterus had fallen out. No doctor picked up their phone at that time. The locals have also, more or less, lost the knowledge of handling complications. They found somebody in the next village, who came and pushed the uterus in. The doctor came the next day and gave injections. We were at Coimbatore then, and arrived the next night. Madhura was lying down when we came. There were traces of blood but she seemed to be ok. When we were hearing the story of the difficult calf-birth, Nedya came running telling us Madhura was shouting strangely and seemed to be in trouble. I was touching and patting Madhura, when I felt a jerk, and then she was still. I had felt her life slip past my fingers.

The old couple were in tears. The loss of a cow means much more than a monetary loss. But we were exposed to some of the real issues in villages and cattle breeding today.

The loss of a native cow is huge. They say its value is well over Rs.50000. I think it could be more. Had the calf been of a native breed, they would have kept it, or even if it was sold, it would have been at a much higher price, to somebody who would definitely keep it alive. Also, for the first time, they had taken an insurance for their cows very recently. But in all the late night anxiety, they completely forgot about the insurance. Friends and relatives had gathered. A JCB was summoned. Six of us tied the legs of the cow to a bamboo pole and carried it out of the shed. The pole broke and was replaced with a pipe. The JCB carried the cow a hundred feet away and dug up a 6-foot pit. The cow was given a burial. All this was done without remembering the necessary paperwork and formalities needed for insurance. Their relative who sold them the insurance came to know about the death a day later, and chided them for losing upto Rs.30000, which could have been claimed.

The Jersey cows are the dominant cows in our part of the country today, primarily because of the high volume of milk they produce. Their dung and urine is considered by organic farmers to be inferior, and they rely on native cows for dung. For the other farmers, their dependence on dung as the primary fertiliser has anyway reduced and they don’t mind using the Jersey dung. But nobody ever keeps a Jersey for the sake of dung and urine. Maintaining a Jersey is considered to be more expensive; they cannot be used for ploughing or pulling a cart; with artificial insemination becoming the norm, the cows are not needed at the farm for mating. So the economics of maintaining a Jersey cow that doesn’t yield milk or even good quantity of milk doesn’t work out. Hence, usually, the bull calfs are sold away after a while. They typically say, “We can’t afford it to keep it and feed it. Somebody will take care of it.” The farmers do not like to speak about what happens after the sale. But I’m sure, all of us know.

The same is the case now.

The young calf had to be fed through a bottle.
“Appa, suggest a name for him,” Mahirl said. We explained to her, the calf will be with us only for a while, and what might happen after the sale. It was a tough conversation but she has to become aware of these realities.
“Let it be. Even if he is there for only a few days, we should still give him a name,” she insisted.
We named him Rasu. Mahirl and Nedya have trained him to drink milk from a bottle and have been feeding him this week, along with the folks there.

Now we have come to Coimbatore. When we return tomorrow, Rasu may not be there. Very often, economics trumps emotions, and religion. In the altered cow’s economy, a Jersey bull can find no place on the farm. The lynchers should first learn this.

P.S. Cows are a significant part of life for such mid-sized farmers. But they can absorb the hit. I shudder to think, what would be the case, if this happens to other landless people, whose only source of income is through their cattle. Everytime their cow falls sick, they get as agitated as when a family member falls sick. I have seen hens getting wiped out due to disease; or, goats getting wiped out. The cost of risk is never factored in.