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Natural Calamities and Our Invited Woes

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Apne Khaitoun Se Bichadne Ki Saza Paata Houn

By: Mushtaq Hurrah

The whole world is battling a terrible pandemic. And most of the countries including India have enforced lockdowns to stop the spread of this dreaded virus which seems to be the only way out.  Amid all this chaos and confusion, new challenges are emerging very rapidly. Global economies are crumbling and laymen are facing the brunt of this tragedy. Amid the lockdown, starvation like scenario has almost emerged. And situation even our villages are no different.

Interestingly, our villages used to be affluent in terms of indigenously produced rice, maize, poultry products, milk, vegetables etc… No doubt, our villages are progressing by leaps and bounds, we have huge amount of money and wealth in our lockers, pockets and bank accounts, we have concrete houses to live in but we need flour to prepare a roti, we need rice to prepare a meal, we need chicken or mutton to prepare a cup of soup. Now, haves and have-nots are in the same queue because we have become dependent on others for our different daily needs. Mutton, chicken, eggs, rice, spices and other edibles are brought from our neighboring states. No doubt, our villages still produce sufficient cereals, pulses to meet the local demands to a great extent but we have lost many legacies which would help us to cater to our domestic needs to the so-called modernization and globalization.

Some two or three decades ago; our villages were self affluent. Goods and edibles of daily consumption were produced by local artisans and common villagers. Abundant rice production,  indigenous poultry products, sufficient white produce etc… would ensure the affluence of our villages. A granary, a coup or two, a cowshed, a stable, a sheepcote or a sheepfold, a pestle and a mortar, a hand-mill etc… were considered essential in our homes. Villagers were hardly dependent on markets except for a few things. In difficult and calamitous times, villagers would extend helping hand to others. We all remember vividly that how our villagets helped our urban brethren during the prolonged bandhs of 2010 and 2016.

The indigenous chicken, ducks and swans used to be a common sight in every household of our villages. A coop was attached to every house.  Polychromatic chicken and other poultry birds were not only a source of food Viz eggs and meat but were a source of income for poor households. The chicken reared here were pure as no steroids were used to expedite their growth. Even, many city dwellers would buy indigenous chicken and eggs at very higher rates for their purity and taste. Our ancestors would give their daughters a hen or a rooster as a token of love when they would leave for their in-laws’ homes. This is not all about it. In times of catastrophes and disasters, villagers had had everything available in their homes. They were not forced to venture out to buy the necessary goods for daily consumption. From a handloom to a hand-mill, everything was available in the homes of our villagers. This was the beauty of our villages.

Now, villages have changed a lot. We are not against the prosperity and development of villages but it should not have been at the cost of our existence. Today, the whole world is going through very difficult times. People are advised to stay indoors. But, the shortage of necessary items in our homes force us to open our gates, hence, we invite trouble for our near and dear ones. Where are those indigenous chicken, ducks and swans which would have been greatly beneficial for us during these tough times. From simple snacks to spices, we are dependent on our markets. Some years ago, we have had our own spices, and our women folk would grind them in big mortars with those long wooden pestles. Thus, there were least chances of adulteration. Edible oil was pure and natural. Oxen-driven indigenous oil mills were seen almost in every village. Mustard seeds, kernel of walnuts, linseed etc… were crushed in these oil mills. The by-product of this process Viz oilcake was used as a fodder for our cattle which was rich in essential nutrients. Thus, it would increase our milk production.

Sheep, goat, cattle and poultry birds are  raised in developed countries as well. It will surprise many readers that the number of sheep in New Zealand and Australia is almost nine times greater than their human population. And unfortunately, our villagers have forgotten it. We, probably feel a sense of humiliation to raise chicken or ducks in our homes. We have attributed our social stature and dignity to our empty homes. This hollow esteem has brought us to destruction and death.

Today, we are combating a crisis of the highest magnitude. No doubt, many people have money to buy the necessary edibles but how? Shops and markets are locked down. Had we not abandoned this legacy, the hardships would have been quite meager and negligible.  But, no, we chose modernization. Believe me, my better-half is craving for a cup of mutton or chicken soup for last couple of days as she is unwell, but how can I buy it, where can I get it, besides having my wallet full of currency notes, I am hapless to fulfill her ordinary wish. Had I not discouraged my grandmother and mother, to abandon this old legacy, my better-half could have had the delicious chicken soup very easily. We all are facing such difficulties and unfortunately, such hardships will increase with every passing day.

Our ancestors had never been to colleges and universities, had no degrees and certificates to their credit but were comparatively more sagacious and visionary than us. They would never visit a butcher or a milkman in case they had a guest at their homes. Even, the mutton and beef for occasions like marriages was not bought rather produced from their own homes.

We haven’t stopped here. Rice production has drastically decreased in our state. We have either erected buildings on our paddy land or converted it to horticultural land i.e planted different kinds of fruit trees in it. Some years earlier, only our urbanites were seen flocking round the rice stores, but now, most of the villagers attend these stores with their begging bowls. It reminds me of a couplet of a famous Urdu poet:

Apne Khaitoun Se Bichadne Ki Saza Paata Houn,

Ab Tou Ration Ki Qaraeoun Main Nazar Aata Houn.

(I am paying the price of distancing from and ignoring my agricultural fields: Therefore am seen standing in queues outside Ration Stores)

Time has come when we should give a serious thought to it. Let us be modern and new but not at the cost of our living.

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