Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Anna Hazare's - the anti-graft activist and the Gandhi of our time, recently led a countrywide movement against corruption. The 74-year old man went on a hunger strike on Aug 16 and broke his fast after 13 days, only when the Govt of India agreed to bring a strong law against corruption.During these 13 days I went from hope to hopelessness to anger before breaking into joy. Compiled below are my posts on Facebook that reflect these emotions:
Aug 16 – Day 1 of Anna’s Fast
Anna Hazare taken into custody before he could begin fast. I condemn! Only an utterly coward, utterly spineless govt would behave like this.
Monday, August 29, 2011
That it pours cats and dogs in India’s Goa, is a known fact. What you may not know is that for Goans, the best way to beat the monsoon blues is a secret in a bottle: Feni. Yes, a bottle of the locally brewed liquor, coupled a plate of spicy fish curry and rice is what keeps Goans going even when it pours on.
Yet Feni isn’t just a monsoon drink. It is the drink of all seasons, the spark of every fiesta, celebration and family gathering in Goa. Also, it is the only Indian alcoholic beverage so far, to receive a Geographical Indicator’ (GI) status.
Sadly, of late, all is not well with Feni.
Goa, a coastal state, is also a large producer of cashew- one of the main ingredients of Feni (palm and coconut being the other two). Now, it is said that every self respecting cashew planter in Goa has his own distillery and brews his own Feni. The making of Feni takes 3-4 days. Once the cashew fruit harvested, it’s juiced and buried in the earth and allowed to ferment into alcohol. This heady juice is later heated into vapour over a furnace fuelled by wood from the cashew trees themselves. The rising vapors are collected and cooled in a container. Essentially, this is the local variety of the Feni - home grown and earthy.
However, for Goans, there is more to Feni than that heady feeling. A hydroxide, the Feni is believed to be an excellent cure for stomach cramps and is also widely seen as an aphrodisiac.
It started as a day of mediocrity when everything happens in a routine, without even a ripple created anywhere to make you feel there's anything special about life. But suddenly, just like that, I looked into (and I have no clue why) my google documents. There, stashed in a pile of files, I found this few verses that I wrote a few months ago, probably in a trip to Gujarat. I don't know if its a poetry - I don't even know what a poetry is anyway - but in a very inexplicable way, these lost forgotten lines made me feel as though the evening had been there especially for em and that ahead of me lay a night of possibility.
I see the sun going down
behind the dome of
Gol Gambuj. Rows of trucks
stand parked against the naked walls
of an unknown structure from a bygone
The sun’s coppery ray
fall on the ‘charpoy’,
where sits the old lady
splitting pea pods. Next to her
Stands Kaali, her buffalo,
Her black body
Looking like a magical shed
Behind me, in a a house I hear
the sound of radio
‘Welcome to akashvani’ it sings.
early evening air. A group of parrots
sit on the cable wire,
Now peeping, now pecking.
A few leaves of neem
falls on the courtyard – yellow, spent of life.
Yes, the set is ready for a drama
It had been a long day
Things happened like
they are wanted: Fast, and frenzied
and got written
about, talked, clicked . Smitten
lover abducting girl
hurting, raping. Toddler
playing with red ball, run over
by a red van. Man arrested,
Shah Rukh mobbed
at film release, Fiza sobbed
recalling her Chand.
Yes, the day brought in a lot
making itself quite happening and hot
enough to keep people talking
till they go to bed….
Yet now, its just another sunset
in this city.
And here I am,
sitting alone, drained
of words, thoughts and sights
Darkness descends, from the great heights
of the sky, spreading
Inside my heart
nothing but nothingness.
Yes, absurd it is, but true
I’m so numb, because I miss you
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
That monsoon is really difficult time in Goa, is a warning I got since the day I landed here. But then it was the height of winter. So, it was almost impossible to accept the warning wholeheartedly as I couldn’t imagine a Goa that without its usual sunny days, the quiet, blue sea and the lazy beaches.
The first shock, however came when the fishing ban came in force in mid-June. The ban makes it mandatory for all fishing boats and trawlers to stop their activities until the end of July, to ensure a smooth and undisturbed breeding period. With shock came worries – what would I eat when there were no sea food?
By June end my worries had been multiplied. For 10 days, it had been raining non stop, The sea roared dangerously. Stretches of fields on both sides of the road looked like a massive water body. The tiny vegetable kiosks by the roadside had closed down because of the strong wind. The supermarkets in the town that usually kept a small stock of vegetables, now displayed empty racks as the supply trucks had not come for days.
After two weeks, finally, there was a little sun and I decided to go to Mapusa – the next town, in search of fresh fish and no vegetables. I entered without much expectation and was immediately hit by the surprising sight: The market was full of vendors – mostly women – selling things I had never imagined before.
To begin with, there were green leafy vegetables of different kind. The women were selling them in tiny piles, making it obvious that these were straight out of their own farm. The freshness and aroma hinted of their organic nature. There were wild mushrooms, sold in bunches, collected from the hills and locally grown corns. And then there were edible ferns – a vegetable I had earlier eaten only in North-East, looking fresh and tempting.
Encouraged by this sight, I was curious to know if there was something new and local in the fish market too. I wasn’t disappointed. Selling in bunches were fresh water crabs and shrimps, beside a few regular varieties.
“Goa always has a back up food system for monsoon”, says Sameer Malik, a resident of Bicholim in north Goa, with a smile. “ Come monsoon and villagers will be on their way to the forest and stream to search for crabs and mushrooms” he adds.
According to Sameer the crabs, the mushrooms or the ferns are all collected only during monsoon. This means they are not over hunted and so Goans do have something special to eat even when the weather is very rough.
Rosario Fernandes, another local based in Calangute, tells me a different story. The boom of tourism has affected agriculture in Goa severely in recent years. People are no longer interested in toiling in the fields. Instead they just build a makeshift restaurant and prefer to earn some easy money. And to suit the palate of the tourists, restaurant owners buy vegetables like capsicum, broccoli, button mushroom or carrots. ‘Most of the year, we get vegetables that are not grown here. It’s only during monsoon when there are no tourists that there is a demand for local vegetable and this is when we finally get to eat these saag (leafy vegetables) and akoor (fern)”, Rosario informs
While both Sameer and Rosario present interesting perspectives, there is something else that I learn on my own: Thanks to the local produce, the ban on fishing stays respected and total. But for this, there would have been violation, I am sure, interfering with the conservation effort. So it’s protecting nature, with the help of one of nature’s own bounties!