Life is larger than all Arts, Sciences, Religions, Philosophies, trade, techs, States... through times and places.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Gandhism (गांधीवाद): Marathi Poem


Gandhiji wore loincloth of Khadi
We patronise marketed Khadi
That’s our limit of Gandhism –
Don’t shed crocodile’s tears.

(Translated from the original by the author)



गांधीजी पंचा नेसत होते.
आम्ही बाजारू खादी नेसतो.
ही आमची गांधीवादाची मर्यादा --
नक्राश्रू ढाळू नकोस.

© Remigius de Souza. all rights reserved.

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Monday, 15 September 2008

Senses and SenseAbility – 7: Seeing

Senses and SenseAbility – 7: Seeing

SENSE OF SEEING is the function of eye. Seeing, when one is looking, witnessing, going beyond a cursory glance, reveals many facets of an event. Perhaps one may discover roots of some great event in an ordinary one. Fr example, Galileo watching a chandelier swing back and forth at the Cathedral of Pisa or Newton looking at the falling apple, or Dronacharya (of Epic Mahabharata) demands a thumb from Ekalavya as his fees [a dakshina or deed of gratitude] for being an absentee guru.

The descendants of Ekalavya, the Bhil tribe do not use their thumb even to this day. This is his living memorial that signifies Aryan atrocities on the aborigine communities. The aborigine, then, though assimilated in the Aryan society, its purpose was to add a service class, which was identified as Shudra caste. Even in the free democratic India the discrimination continues. In the era of Industrialization in India the peasants are now facing the onslaught of elimination. In the last decade, between 1997 and 2005 about 150,000 farmers have committed suicides (Ishwari Prasad, “Significance of Farmers’ Suicide”, Janata, Vol. 69, No. 32, August 31, 2008, p. 3-8, Mumbai), one of the reasons is farming is no more sustainable.

Such a seeing or watching or witnessing also combines other senses. The whole body becomes an eye, as in archery, which has iconic dimensions in eastern cultures. Or for example, a cricketer who throws or hits a ball: be alert or miss the target.

Observing (without malice, likes-dislikes, taboos or judgments) during even the ordinary routines such as, seating, reading, eating-drinking, walking, traveling etc. or watching the people watching TV, the ordinary activity of seeing becomes an action, which could be a creative action.

Such an action, which involves self and the outside, has values of entertainment (leisure) and education both. No investment. No time schedule. No rules and regulations. No legal curbs (in case you don’t intrude in other’s privacy). No losses in time-money-health… on the contrary, by being alert the senses become sharp.


Scientists say all animals received vision some 540 million years before now (identified as Cambrian Explosion); they were in the sea then. It is said the vision brought great change in their lives also: the conflict between the pray and the predator accelerated (see: Andrew Parker, ‘In the Blink of an Eye’). “Pikaia”, our remote ancestor, survived: thus we are.

In modern times the sense – vision – has overtaken even other senses. ET-IT has taken this change to great heights. We live more and more in virtual reality than ever before through canned visuals, canned music, canned games, canned wars, canned education… on cell phones, computers, TV screens… The worst victims are the youngest, younger and young generations in the increasing proportions. The poor little ones, who have not yet seen even a smallest fraction of real world, are trapped by the game called virtual reality. It is happening before our eyes but we don’t see or notice it.
A few decades ago the children were provided with toy-guns and toy-cars. Now as they grow a little they are with violent games in the Vice City or Road Rash or Sports of cricket or football etc. on the TV mast, and quietly Porn enters…

Neither parents (citizens) nor educationists nor the planners, and never the governments of any brand, dogma, right or left or fundamentalist ever think of play grounds for the children of different ages within their neighborhoods. And they boast of holding Asian Games and Olympics: indeed the height of hypocrisy.

A true story of an extreme case of a computer-nerd

“Y”, a young man, is, or now was, a student of engineering in second year. His father – a professional engineer, mother – a high school teacher, sister – a medical student. Y spends hours on computer, almost an addict, many a times late at night, while other family members are fast sleep. (I don’t know what he was looking at, and don’t want to know). His eye sight was very low from childhood. On one fateful day, or perhaps night, Y’s both the eyes started bleeding profusely, it was a hemorrhage. The veins busted. There is no remedy. Y is permanently blind. I don’t give the names for obvious reason. Hid kin should have informed all their contacts and the public about the gory incidence as a warning and caution. Precisely because the cause is absolutely foolish, though unfortunate and sad it may be. The educated could be ignorant in many, many ways.


Vision – inner vision, light, an eye, eyesight etc. – has been a subject of visionaries and scientists, of metaphysics and scientific discoveries… There are a great number of volumes on vision written by scientists and pundits; great schools of theories have been founded; great monuments have been erected.

Yet vision is still elusive, still a mystery, and the mystery deepens with every invention… Reading about them my eyes have gone foggy, but in vain. No salvation. What am I to do? In my ordinary life I must find my own answers. When I took and followed an advice and took a curative measure I saw the ‘Rainbows’.



© Remigius de Souza. all rights reserved.

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Monday, 25 August 2008

Tata's Nano car (Modern Haiku)

Tata's Nano car (Modern Haiku)

Behind your car
I am dragged –
fallen leaves.

(For a farmer even fallen leaves are precious. They burn them to keep warm. It is used as (compost) manure. But in modern India (call her Bharat or Hindustan) modern maharajas – the corporate – like Tatas – have emerged. What value do they have for - whether farmers or fallen leaves? Read more) (Translation by the author)

पाचोळा ( आधुनिक हायकू)

तुझ्या मोटारीच्या मागे मागे
येई मी फ़रफ़टत ....

(शेताकरयाला पाचोळा फार मोलाचा असतो। त्याची शेकोटी होते। त्याचे शेतासाठी (कम्पोस्ट) खत होते। पण आधुनिक इन्डियात [वाटल्यास भारत म्हणा किंवा हिन्दुस्तान म्हणा] टाटा सारखे आधुनिक राजे महाराजे तयार झाले आहेत। शेतकरी की पाचोळा, त्यांची त्याना काय किंमत ? पुढे वाचा )
© Remigius de Souza. all rights reserved.

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Thursday, 21 August 2008

Senses and SenseAbility – 6: Smell

Senses and SenseAbility – 6: Smell

Smell goes with breathing, a vital function. Indic people believe that our life span is measured (or decided) by how we breathe – or the number of inhales and exhales, and not by days or calendar years.

It is a common experience that taste, smell and seeing also goes together when food is seen. Smell of food prompts appetite – attraction, or repulsion, in certain environment, for example when we are hungry. Infant wrapped in mother’s sari, as many people do in India, recognizes her smell, not only when she is physically close by.

How does our sense of smell get diluted when in familiar environment, or after we get familiar? For example, pollution of land and water and air – the three vital links to life – and in urban habitat, is unmistakable to nose, though not for our egocentric or helpless mind – whatever we are in social – political – economic hierarchy.

Plants have aromas, and their company on daily basis can rejuvenate our living. But we go on hacking them to make concrete jungles, to build industrial empires etc. for monetary gains. We don’t spare even the forests to make hill stations for our sensual pleasures.

Isn’t it absurd to destroy trees in the urban neighbourhoods, and travel miles away to enjoy nature, or build holiday houses there? Can’t we (or the experts) plan corridors of woodlands for the neighbourhoods in the new town or existing cities that are under revision every twenty years? Such green corridors would give safe passage to wild life (not necessarily tigers) and neighbourhood people would have company of plants and wild life at a walking distance. Instead we put them both in the compartments of reservations. Indeed we are becoming intolerant to other forms of living beings, consequently other humans, which may belong to other caste, class, religion, language, province or nationality.

The thoughtful technology (science, research, industry and trade hand in hand) is ready with remedies – deodorants, cosmetics, drugs… And when we fall to live a life of vegetable, it offers healthcare. We go on pumping deadly toxins in the soil and waters and air in the name of progress and development and economic gains: We neither think of posterity nor improve living of all the citizens on equitable basis.

Plants are helpless because they can’t move. However nature helps them to move far and wide and to propagate by various means, one of them is other living beings (other than man), whom also we eliminate along with plants.

Our love of plants ends with our love for visual aesthetics and imported exotic species, which at times overpower and destroy indigenous species, just like the firangis who came to India to buy spices. Under the influence of our past colonial masters, anything desi – local or indigenous – is detested, though it is Nature-given. I deliberately don’t use the term God-given. How God has messed up our lives, or to put it other way, how we have messed up our lives in the name of God?

Fragrance of Soil rises from the Earth with first shower/s of monsoon, which I relished for decades. But in this concrete jungle of Mumbai it is rare; I feel homesick when monsoon comes. In one of his stories G. N. Dandekar mentions an ascetic presents a small bottle of the perfume containing fragrance of soil to a passionate collector (“Kuna Ekaachi Bhraman Gatha” (Marathi).

Fragrance of Mahuva flowers have left with me their sweet memories forever, which I enjoyed many times during the Holi festivals among the Bhil tribes. Summer is the bloom time for Mahuva trees; the fields, forests, villages, wherever the trees are, are filled with sweet fragrance. So also the fragrance of its precious liquor, which is used on special occasions such their religious rite. The Mahuva flowers are the part of the Bhil’s staple food: vegetables, rotis and biscuits of maize flour… Indeed palm and Mahuva are inseparable part of tribal people.

Collectors of Fragrance: Like honeybees that collect honey, the orchid bees are ardent collectors of fragrance, various fragrances, all types of fragrances; from flowers to woods, decayed woods, even shit, perhaps to impress the females with their collection.

Humans may boast their superiority over the animal world, but they can’t beat orchid bees. Bijal Trivedi informs, ‘talk to any performer and you will discover that brewing a top-selling fragrance is mostly art and very little science. These olfactory connoisseurs travel the world roaming markets, gardens, jungles and rivers to sniff out exotic new scents – their brains trained to tease apart complex odours and describe them in words” (‘Smells rank’, New Scientist, 17 Nov. 2007, p.48-51). And the urbanites that choose to live in urban jungles must surely envy the tribal folks!

It’s plent! It’s all free!! For decades I enjoyed aroma of paddy farms. When you enter Konkan region you can’t miss it if you are travelling by automobile or by railway. During summer, the aromas of cashew and mango in blossom are distinct. Like Mahuva liquor, aroma of feni – cashew liquor – also spreads in the atmosphere.

The rich biodiversity of Indic region provides pleasant fragrances in the environment through all seasons for us to enjoy. And it comes free for all; you need not bottle it like kings and emperors. We have six seasons; the Chinese have twelve seasons: how keen interest the Chinese people must have in the environment. No, we are not talking about the Chinese government; the governments come and go; the civilisations come and go; the people prevail.

Modern city is a parasite, alienated from the nature. Not only does it devour the nature (in land, waters and living beings), but also denies the citizens their kinship with the nature. It becomes increasingly destructive with its growing size; its reach extends beyond and across the continents and the oceans. The modern city is a by-product of Industrial Revolution and handiwork of the centralised powers.

Remigius de Souza
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Monday, 11 August 2008

Sense and SenseAbility – 5: Taste

Sense and SenseAbility – 5: Taste

Illustration: Aesthetic Taste
Taj Mahal, India: precious/semiprecious stone studded fantasy mausoleum (in feudal era).
Bra: diamond studded fantasy (in democratic era).
Beijing Olympic Stadium and Inauguration: Technology gimmicks studded fantasy leisure (in autocratic state).
Qualitatively their taste ethics and aesthetics don’t differ much from one another.

We are thinking, here, of taste, a physical sense, the phenomenon that goes long way from mouth to the entire gamut of environment-ecology-energy of Terra Incognita Indica, for that matter, of entire globe. Taste, here, is a business of mouth: To eat, drink and chew – primarily to satisfy the Basic Need, besides to speak, and to sing, and perhaps abuse...
We are not talking about that taste in the abstract realm of fashions and styles, arts and artefacts; they are but transient in time-space and places.

A new born baby sucks nipples of mother’s breasts (or teat of feeding bottle). Thankfully, s/he is not to be or cannot be taught by any high culture / low culture, or by any civilisation, or by any power savvy authority that would at once jump at the first opportunity.

Oh, that cones in other areas
. The onslaught on their taste starts from the day one. The new born are generally on the supplementary feeds – drugs, vitamins, vaccines etc. For various reasons prescribed by the specialists (of course, to those who can afford; 90 percent Indians can’t). So, their taste buds now start getting tuned to the modern social and economic development, in other words, they are baptised in the Dharma of Industrialisation.

The onslaught
also comes from the omnipresent Market, the manufacturers, the show-biz – the pop stars farting on the TV screens every 10-15 minutes intervals, and so on. It comes with ready to serve canned and packed conveniences in attractive wrappings: That includes processed foods and drink – sweet – sour – pungent – salty (bitter and astringent excluded). The shelves are always full at the glitzy mall.

It could be so
, because the mothers or parents or families are under constant pressure of time-crunch, that’s for one. Hence, the market is ready to serve. And other is knowledge-crunch. Because in the nuclear family raj, there probably is no grandma’s legacy left. They have spent their formative years (till 20 to 25) learning specialised courses – arts, sciences, commerce, ET-IT, engineering, business management etc at mass schooling. Their data bank is empty in this vital field of health about “when-where-why-who(m)-how” of right food to keep healthy. Well, some information filters through the print media, like guide books of their school days. But what is its reach?

In the cities
, however, till now, the grocery shops and (vegetable) markets have number of varieties of great variety of grains, condiments, spices, dry and fresh fruits, tubers, rhizomes, leaves and roots in vegetables: I don’t know even the name of many. I wonder perhaps the medicos may know.

In the villages
generally there should belocally grown grains, fruits and vegetables, and supplements from forests, woodlands and wetlands, if any still survive, and if accessible through the clutches of various departmental authorities. However, sooner or later the Market would take over to supply.... But why is there such a great exodus from the village to urban areas?

In Indic region
there has been great natural biodiversity. In the Indic region there has been a great natural biodiversity. It has influenced all the aspects of culture, not only food and clothing, in short, the four aspects of our daily living: Work, Leisure, Education and Health.

Biodiversity in India has resulted in rich medical systems – Ayurveda, Siddhayoga etc. It is there in the occult cults – Tantra, Mantra, magic practices. However much of the knowledge is with the ethnic and tribal communities that remain incognito (perhaps under a cloud of modern day superstitions or prejudices), besides in the treatises. What’s the point in giving official recognition to the systems, but not its bearers, the people, who are treated as second class citizens?

Shamefully, the visible reality down to earth
is the country’s most of the green cover, woodlands, forests and wetlands are either get pollute or are disappearing, consequently the loss of wild life, diminishing surface and subsoil water, and comes expanding desert. Another consequence is people’s knowledge and skills, preserved through generations. are vanishing. In the place of biodiversity there comes monoculture of plants and monoculture of mass society is being groomed through mass schooling. All this is for the delight of bureaucrats and the ruling powers for the easy control, and modern development of economic by regimentation.

© Remigius de Souza. all rights reserved.

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Friday, 1 August 2008

Cow dung and paddy: a critique of Amartya Sen

Cow dung and paddy: a critique of Amartya Sen
Challenges of 21st Century

by Remigius de Souza

“Everything, in this world, exists in order to culminate in a book.” —Mallarmé (1842 – 1898)
“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding”
– Albert Camus
(Key words: Land (with waters) is the source of Life and the sustenance to all living beings, and culture to humans. Peasants – the landless and the landholder alike, the artisans known as twelve ‘Balutadars’, and the forest dwellers or the tribal, which amount to 900 millions including those languish in the city-slums. Development is an ongoing process and not an abstract economic theory. When means and goals are same then there is possibility of development: here land is the means and goals, so also the peasants. Environmental-Ecological-Energy Cost (E-E-E Cost): It is not enough to count cost-price-profit (loss) in currency any more; it is already an outdated mode the economists have been following.)

I AM BROWSING Amartya Sen’s book, ‘Resources, Values and Development’ (1984), a selection of his essays from 1961 to 1984, republished in paperback in 1999 (OUP), after about fifteen years. Perhaps the author and the publisher did not see any need to include subsequent essays, if any, a sequel to the theme of this book, perhaps due to the restraints of economy.

At the start of the introduction, Professor Sen declares, ‘Much of economics is neat and elegant; but some of it is not. The essays included in this volume belong to the later category (p.1).’ It is because, I think, they are holistic. They relate mainly to development economics that take into account many aspects. I, of course, skip theories, equations, diagrams, tables etc., as I am not equipped to comprehend; I look for fiction. I, however, find something amiss, something desirable to the heart of a peasant. Hence, without defining or theorising I straight go to an example:

In the Chapter 13: Rights and Capabilities, Section 3: Capabilities, I notice:
‘Consider a good, e.g. rice. The utilitarian will be concerned with the fact that the good in question creates utility through its consumption. … But that is not the only thing it does (p.315).’ he further writes, ‘Four different notions need in this context. There is a notion of a good (in this case, rice); that of a characteristic of a good (e.g. giving calories and nutrition); that of functioning of a person (in this case, living without calorie deficiency); that of a utility (in this case, pleasure or desire fulfilment from the functioning in question, or for some other functioning related to the characteristic of ice) (p. 316).’

AS I READ THIS PART, I wander away from the book into the realms of my perceptions, experience, information and impressions that I gathered during my journey through places, events and time. It is also keeping in with an idiom in my native tongue, Konkani, “you need not check every grain of ‘rice’ in pot if cooked.”

Sometime around 6500 – 5800 BC, the archaeologists say, people in the Fertile Crescent in South-east Asia domesticated rice. That included a part that we now call India, Bharat, or Hindustan as per our convenience. However, even to this day the tribal, in the backyard of Mumbai, cultivate wild Jowar – millet – and use it for various purposes: grains for food, its stocks that grow 7-8 feet for fodder and in housing.

I TAKE THE EXAMPLE of Konkan, a rice-producing region on the western coast, where I was born, and grew up on paddy farms during my formative years. For a peasant, her homestead is the yard around her adobe abode with plants, fields, groves, grassland, hills, and of course, the community well, a stream, water reservoir if any; and a cow, goat, chickens, cat, dog or bullocks join her kinship.

During all the dry days, besides other chores, she collects cow dung, brushwood, dry leaves, which go for fuel and/or manure in a compost pit. She collects even the ashes from ‘Chulha’ – cooking hearth, and ashes from the burnt leaves and spread in the farms. For the peasants this is ‘conventional’ agriculture, which continues in many places. The western and the westernised call it ‘non-conventional’ or ‘organic’ agriculture.

In between, there are four months of monsoon that witness hectic activity at home and the fields – transport, process, sowing and caring paddy, other grains and vegetables.

The harvest brings the work that involves transport, process and storage. For example, there is a process for parboiled rice. Until few decades ago, they used the wooden grinding wheels (Ghirat) at home to remove husk, similar to stone-mill (Jaate) for flour. Now they take paddy to rice mills. They take home even the husk of the ground paddy. They feed the finer husk after boiling to the chicken / cattle. They mix the course husk in cow dung to make ‘govari’ – a flat cow dung disk – for fuel. Paddy straw is stacked in a mound (Koodi) around a wooden bully 10 – 15 feet high. It is stored for cattle feed during dry days, as green fodder is available during monsoon.

The seeds, paddy, parboiled rice and rice are stored according to the quantity in a bamboo mat silos, or in paddy straw bundles (Moodi). Silos are covered from outside with cow dung wash. The bundles look like huge pumpkins of about three feet in diameter. The paddy straw cover is about three inches thick when compacted. They use a hand-made paddy-straw rope to tie around the bundle, compacted by using a wooden batten. The vertically tied rope looks like altitudes on a map of the globe. Indeed, it was a beauty, a work of art (or craft!) now perhaps lost forever. Paddy straw is also used for roofing in some cases, as may be seen near saltpans to cover and protect the un-disposed stock of salt in the open, during monsoon.

(Fig. 5: Cow dung cakes, 100 % labour intensive)

In between, there are four months of monsoon that witness hectic activity at home and the fields – transport, process, sowing and caring paddy, other grains and vegetables.

The harvest brings the work that involves transport, process and storage. For example, there is a process for parboiled rice. Until few decades ago, they used the wooden grinding wheels (Ghirat) at home to remove husk, similar to stone-mill (Jaate) for flour. Now they take paddy to rice mills. They take home even the husk of the ground paddy. They feed the finer husk after boiling to the chicken / cattle. They mix the course husk in cow dung to make ‘govari’ – a flat cow dung disk – for fuel. Paddy straw is stacked in a mound (Koodi) around a wooden bully 10 – 15 feet high. It is stored for cattle feed during dry days, as green fodder is available during monsoon.

The seeds, paddy, parboiled rice and rice are stored according to the quantity in a bamboo mat silos, or in paddy straw bundles (Moodi). Silos are covered from outside with cow dung wash. The bundles look like huge pumpkins of about three feet in diameter. The paddy straw cover is about three inches thick when compacted. They use a hand-made paddy-straw rope to tie around the bundle, compacted by using a wooden batten. The vertically tied rope looks like altitudes on a map of the globe. Indeed, it was a beauty, a work of art (or craft!) now perhaps lost forever. Paddy straw is also used for roofing in some cases, as may be seen near saltpans to cover and protect the un-disposed stock of salt in the open, during monsoon.

This is a very brief description of few details of peasants’ actions related to rice in the example above. Simple and ordinary as they may seem, there is a complex interrelationship between resources, values and development, which modern economics may not have fully explored. There is much more: besides skills, tools, processes and products related to rice, so also number of other “utilities”, not only for livelihood, but also culture/s of peasants. This has been going on for generations, for ages.

“Consider a good, e.g. rice”, again. A few hundred miles north of my birthplace is Riagad District. Here, for example, in the coastal plains, the peasants don’t plough the paddy farm, but directly broadcast the seeds. They also use water-flooded paddy terraces to farm favourite local specie of fish, ‘Jitada’, by digging pits that retain water for few months after monsoon. People have used diversity and adversity both to their advantage discovered by ‘collective creativity’ and not by theories. In the land of great diversity that is India, what variety and wealth of knowledge, skills and practices must there be.

However there is no time or will among the ruling minority, which is obsessed with western-style ‘development’ of capitalism with a benevolent name ‘duel economy’, hence, no records of “Intellectual Property Rights”, which may come up or be ignored in future; every time there may not be cases like Basmati rice, Neem and turmeric. The theft and smuggling of plants and herbs out of the country that is taking place is apart! While the elite enjoy a status of neo-Brahmanism, the 900 million peasants are like Shudras, or second-class citizens, or an underclass; that’s ‘duel economy’! Without right empowerment how would the peasants care for the vanishing precious biodiversity?

With industrialisation, and without appropriate rehabilitation, it is not only the loss of the people’s knowledge, tools, and skills and the indigenous seeds, but also the loss of environment of the natural habitat. The ground water is going lower or is getting poisoned. We do not hear the chorus of frogs during monsoon nights any more. We were shocked to hear a hundred peasants died at a stroke in Karnataka by consuming crabs that had concentrated pesticides in their bodies. What will be the fate of the land, waters and the people when the SEZs (Special Economic Zones devised recently to take over agricultural farms in India) will become operative in near future?

The governments, at the centre or states, have shown total apathy for the past six decades to organise and implement rehabilitation of the peasants, while bringing in and supporting industrialisation with their ad-hoc policies, projects and the laws. Why is this apathy? It is only because the peasants and the farming communities in six lakh villages is not an organised sector like commerce, trade and industry, which can twist government’s arm at a single call. Are the peasants on their way out to annihilation? It is as mute a question as the peasants.

Perhaps the plain reason for this failure of the government is that the British Raj did not leave any formula as their legacy while parting; or it failed to invent any on its own; or it failed to imitate others. It failed because it failed to do necessary fieldwork. It is easier to produce nuclear weapons or space ships, at any cost. How could anyone invent a theory or an equation or a formula for application for such a great diversity and the great disparity?

Certainly, Sen must be aware of many examples as one cited above, and the anomaly thereby, as may be guessed from his writing. However, what will happen to economics, if it has to take into account the above example? It will have to count also the “Environment–Ecology–Energy Cost” (EEE Cost) of the conventional agriculture of the peasants, here and now, at least in the Twenty First Century, and revise all its equations and formulae, hypotheses and rationale. It will have to re-write the equations after assessing the “EEE Cost” of all the industrial products.

The example cited above clearly shows the practice is labour intensive, uses local resources, and conserves the soil regularly by its rehabilitation, and so far it is a model of sustainability. The capitalist society and its culture of production and consumerism beyond needs, and the waste thereby, do not envisage this aspect. Even by conventional system the peasants do not get a fair deal, even by the governments. The experts, even those rebellious against the system, are recognised by awards not by action. But who could guarantee the theories work? As Paul Valéry says, ‘there is no theory that is not a fragment.’

See, for example, the Census Survey of India 1991 (Census 2001 is not yet printed). It defines, “persons engaged in household duties, students, dependants, retired persons, rentiers, beggars are some of the categories grouped as non-workers” (Section 10, part 10.2). This seems to be applied to both urban and rural populations. How crude? Among peasants, the women share major responsibility at farms as well as home; the help comes from the aged and the children – students, dropouts, or those never enrolled. The peasants, even if aged, never retire unless invalid. The village data, if checked, will show substantial number of non-workers. See also the number of inhabited villages in the Census data. How do the people survive? Where do people go?

How reliable are such data that may be extensively used by economists, other experts and planners to shape the fate of the people, but never reach the peasants? The amazing fact is the government may approve to send a man on the moon, but never sends complimentary copies of the Census Survey to the Gram Panchayats so they can scrutinise its work: only the peasants are qualified to do it, but they are languishing in illiteracy – innumeracy.

The peasants are not aware of their status recorded by the government every ten years. And now Census 2001 is available only in electronic form. What would be the response of the peasants, particularly women, who feed not only their families but also the nation, to their status of ‘non- workers’ along the beggars, in the country that is so rich in resources? Whosoever may be responsible, the hypocrisy is unprecedented, it has no match anywhere.

Having, of course, a will, in the modern times, and by hard work, the government can open many new avenues and areas to the peasants to elevate their skills, knowledge, livelihood, sustenance and self-reliance.

Taking the example of rice, we name a few options as a reminder:

Rice husk: cement; Paddy straw: cattle feed Paper; Rice bran: bran oil; Defatted bran: Agricultural farm;
Animal waste and farm residue: methane gas, manure; Waste water: filtration plant --- algae pond (nitrogen-rich manure) / fish pond; Recycled water: farm/ kitchen garden;

Plantation: fruits / fibres / spices and condiments / medicinal plants / aromatic plants / colours and dyes / gums and resins /paper / timber / and conservation of vanishing species; and now bio diesel (e.g. Jatropha);

Land: conservation, restoration, use of soil testing kit, and as the subcontinent now is known to be earthquake prone, to be prepared for self-help;

Waters: conservation, recycling, aquaculture, health, recreation, use of water testing kit, and water management in the times of floods and draughts by self-help, having known that the government help does not reach in time to save life and property.

Market: (1) arithmetic to derive the price-cost-value-benefit of their actions and input into their work, sustenance and the way of living; (2) idea of modern ‘economic developments that are conducive to a proliferation of middle-men, where commodities take over things, even humans, and prices from values; (3) work to master the market, neither to serve it or patronise it.
These options should be the focus of education and main part of the curriculum for 900 millions peasants and 600,000 villages in the country, and not the British-made schooling, which is still being followed by the authorities and the departments.


Having a will and courage, the government, as it has vast infrastructure, it turn every village into a Special Agro-tech Parks (SAPs) across the country. Taking a clue, if need be, from the West that sent the youth to the armed forces, or China’s example of ‘Cultural Revolution’, India too can develop on an indigenous tool, which is partially in operation.

Introduce a compulsory ‘internship’ of six months for all the candidates who go for Diplomas, Degrees, Masters and Doctorates from every discipline of higher education, without reservations. They must go to the villages and work with peasants and SAP, without any stipend. They should support themselves by using, and also testing, their learning of 15 / 17 / 20 years of formal education. (The likely fallout that there may be a countrywide wave of ‘bribery and corruption’ to escape the internship, or otherwise we trust the Response-Ability of the younger generation, irrespective of all the prevailing waves in the country!)

Deliver the “Pro-poor” products, not the promises.
Give them the ‘fishing-hook’, not the fish.
Be the facilitator, being democratic government, not a ruler.
Return the land to the peasants, by their ancestral right, don’t sale to the corporate.
Start six lakhs SAPs for six lakhs Villages of India on war footing.

* * * *
Remigius de Souza, 69–243, S. B. Marg Mumbai 400028 India (7/12/2006)
© Remigius de Souza. all rights reserved.

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Thursday, 31 July 2008

Sense and SenseAbility – 4: Hearing

Sense and SenseAbility – 4: Hearing
-- Remigius de Souza

Hearing: It is a second sense, though some musicians may claim it’s a first sense. Never mind. Now modern science says listening to music while in the womb improves the child’s mathematical power.

We have heard stories from Itihasa – Epics and Puranas. Abhimanyu, while in the womb, learnt about how to enter the Chakravyuha – a strategic circular maze formation of army in war – while his father Arjuna was telling his mother. He, however, did not hear about how to come out. During the great civil war of epic Mahabharata took place, Young Abhimanyu was defeated and killed. Perhaps he did not use his senses…

Another story is of sage Ashtavakra (bent in eight places in body). His father while reciting Vedas made some errors. Ashtavakra, from his mother’s womb, pointed out the errors. The father was offended and cursed that he will be deformed in eight places in his body, and thus he was born with eight deformations. Later in his youth he preached a king on spirituality, which is known as “Ashtavakra Gita” or “Ashtavakra Samhita”.

We may have heard these stories several times. What we understand and how we interpret them is another matter. Sri Krishna and many saints have preached “Sahaja Dharma” – natural dharma or inherent nature. Accordingly one may deduce there could be seven billions of dharma – religions.

What do the foetuses in modern urban environment hear? Isn’t it ring tones on cell phones, 24x7 noises on TV sets, household electronic gadgets including their electromagnetic radiation, noises in the city…? No wonder some children are born with deformation. Viva!

Hearing with attention (not concentration, said J. Krishnamurti) becomes listening. So also, seeing with attention becomes noticing. Listening and noticing reveals many facets of an event, even an ordinary one.

Silence, it is said, is the heart of music. Listening to silence is supreme. The silent spaces in between words and sentences, and the silence before the storm…

Woefully we are so much used to the noise (and hurry) that silence unnerves us; we are irritated by silence, particularly in urban environment. We want 24x7 excitements.

Our governments, too, have lost the capacity to listen notice the reality. Unless people take to the streets, burn the public and private properties, a few people are dead by police-and-or-public violence, they can’t take notice of the malady. Of course, of course, we all know the government is a faceless entity.

Hence, hearing loss is a common phenomenon. Loud noise with impact, for example, a gunshot close by, could cause deafness. However, on such an event, if we observe, mouth opens instantly to counter the impact on the eardrum from inside. We call it reflex action; perhaps that’s homeostasis.

An extreme example of hearing loss

I know at least one person who became permanently deaf because of noisy work environment in an industry. Mr. Lobo was working at one of the oldest cement plant at Savalia in Gujarat State. That was a few decades ago. I don’t know how many were affected like him?

© Remigius de Souza. all rights reserved.

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Friday, 18 July 2008

धरतरी (The Earth)


धरतरी झाली माझे माता पिता गुरू.
-- रेमी
गुरुपौर्णिमा १८.७.२००८

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Thursday, 26 June 2008

Sense and senseAbility - 3.2: Touch

Sense and senseAbility - 3.2 Touch
-- Remigius de Souza

Sense of Touch is attributed to the skin.

Senses and SenseAbility are important for our personal and social health, in fact, all the four aspects – Work, Leisure, Education and Health – for our survival (survival means, said J Krishnamurthy, living sanely).

In the blind the other senses are highly active and enhanced. Their sense of touch works in the feet even while wearing shoes, not only hands, and cane.

In the growth of babies, emphasised Margaret Mead, anthropologist, in her famous book, ‘Coming of Age in Samoa’, it is important to hold them close. Among the young from their infancy, their senses are alert and highly active. In the course of time, their senses and creative ability are stunted by the contemporary education here in India. Even the educated parents are hardly aware of what is happening.

As we know the skin is the organ largest in area. It is also the youngest as the body continues to shed the skin until last. When one gets a fever – say, malaria fever or love-fever – the skin is an indicator.

It is not only the nose, the skin also breaths, and protects us. (Buchanan mentions there are millions of microbes on our skin as well as in the gut.) Hence we call the clothes, a second skin, and house is the third skin of man – both are expected to breath (particularly in the tropical climate0 and protect. Well, whatever may be the result of synthetic fibres and, and the houses with sick building syndrome!

The touch is the first sense that we experience in our mother’s womb that is oceanic. There is tradition among Indic people. They wrap newly born baby in soft cotton linen, which is mother’s recycled sari. The mother and the infant/s stay in confinement room that is dark. Modern gynaecologists may differ, though!

Touch obviously reminds us of the Untouchables in India (see: A tale of a scavenger in India). It continues in spite of efforts by the most revered saints of India across the country for centuries and in modern times by several social reformers: they could not eradicate this obnoxious distinction.

In very recent times, the young Indian elite had been holding agitations and campaigning against the reservation for the untouchables (official term is Scheduled Castes) in educational institutions and jobs in the name of equality. Perhaps they did not check the worth of this British-made education? The atrocities on the untouchables in various forms sometimes result in killings, house burning, rape, and physical assaults.

Another class of untouchables is the women when in menstrual cycle. Though it is less due to contact with the urbanised, the women do not enter the places of worship and the temples. Traditionally they suppose to ‘sit out’ i.e. do not cook, not even enter the kitchen, and touch to any person, and actually sit in out side veranda. The orthodox families and those who perform religious rites and rituals and magic – Mantra-Tantra, and those who practice traditional medicines strictly observe this custom. Perhaps it may continue for unknown time.

I would not judge, like or dislike, or accept or reject any of these issues, but prefer to examine in historical, social and scientific context, keeping aside what the western societies believe or approve of.

Until now what I understand that both the classes of untouchables originally were service classes in the civilised Indic societies. In the course of time, as population increased, the high castes and men, to keep their power, attached the stigma upon them as untouchable. Perhaps the original context of the rites and rituals and customs were lost and got distorted in the course of time.

We, however, can’t ignore a fact that society, which refuses to evolve, which remains stagnant like water in a pond, stinks. Do such things happen in the Industrial Society, which would lead it to decadence? Or has the decay already begun?

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Sense and Sense-Ability -3.1: Homeostasis

Homeostasis: The Wisdom of the Body
(Continued from the previous Part 2)

Body houses our senses, perceptions, memory, mind, intellect, intelligence… and soul.

Unfortunately in the modern times, “body” is yet another four-letter word like Self, Soul, Love, Life, Work etc. that are much abused in our fast pace of hedonic lifestyle.

We take our body too much for granted: Mind has become the colonial master that colonises the body like a bonded labour and exploits it without restraint, until it is exhausted, in part or full. Just check our work pattern/s. certainly we decorate it, beautify it; it is rather to satisfy demands of our egoistic mind than to elevate.

We take even our senses for granted. While eating/ drinking, for example, most of the time, we rarely pay attention to the action of eating. We simultaneously are involved with something else: daily news, TV shows, talk over the matters of business or gossip, think over the “urgent” matters on mind, or flatter our taste buds forgetting the need of the body: We at times call it a passion.

It is almost the same situation, more or less according to our passions, with other senses (except perhaps sex impulses: We shall come to that later).

Quite often we ignore or forget, if we know, that body too has intelligence just as we have. At least, we as Indic people have recognised the body-mind connection for a considerable time.

Body, however, continues to work, whether we are awake or asleep, till the end like a “Nishkam” – without desire for fruit – Karma Yogi. And whenever necessary, when something goes wrong with the system, sends us the signal – hunger or starvation for example. But we are too busy with our mental flights, passions or addictions: We tend to ignore it.

A Case of My Ailment of Heart

My own experiences are not very different from what I just mentioned above. However I have also been aware of the “Presence of Body” on several occasions. One of them was my ailment of heart, some fifteen years ago.

I started getting palpitations. In the beginning it remained for a second of two and recurred at interval of a couple of weeks. There was no apparent cause: fear, or worry of any kind. It would appear any time. Later it was for 2-3 minutes at a few days’ interval. I had started taking medicines, including exercises in self-hypnosis under a guidance of psycho-therapy specialist. I stopped the medicines and exercises.
One day the palpitations remained from noon to midnight. That was an opportunity for check up while it was on. With a note from family doctor I met a heart specialist at a neighbourhood hospital.

After the necessary check-up he diagnosed and told me in simple words, that my heart is sound, that it is a case of “electrical short circuit” in the heart, and the present rate of palpitation is at 250 per minute. He added, if the rate increases to 400-450 per minute it would be fatal – an instant death. That was music to my ears.

For me the diagnosis was enough. The specialist, however, did not tell me why it happens. He advised me to get admitted there and then in the ICU for observation and prescribed some medicines. Of course I flatly refused both. He was furious. I returned home, remained on fruit diet, gave rest to my mind and body.

After two days, I left for Delhi to attend a workshop on “People, Law and Environment” organised by Centre for Science and Environment. It was very romantic episode though I report it in brief.

I, then started dialogues with my body, and observations – or call it meditations as I am inside my body – without judging, my likes-dislikes, prejudices etc. leaving the information baggage.

I am aware of the “Presence of Body”, and this awareness is constant like breathing, even during my pet indulgences and petty vices. There has been no palpitation for last fifteen years.

A decade or so after this episode, while reading “The Ages of Gaia” by James Lovelock, I came across the word “Homeostasis”, which now has a meaning.

Links to MINI-TEXT :1. Solemn Celebration and 2. Body Dharma

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Context, Process and Content (Story)

Comment on a Comment by Harini on “Illiterate farmer women of Andhra”.

Any project has three elements: Context, Process and Content.
We, in Terra Incognita Indica, are right now critically concerned about Context and Content, which are elements of any project than its Process.

Our “NEEDS” are more important at this critical time in history than the “WANTS” of the few who constantly continue to upgrade process – technology – that has no effect on context to living sanely and livelihood of the billions.

Dheboo Ghosh, during one of his workshops on ESP held in Mumbai, told us a story:

Once upon a time there were two cities on the two banks of a river. Both city governments decided they should build a bridge for the convenience of the citizens.

They built the bridge. Everyone involved – cooperators, engineers, bureaucrats, contractors and the citizens – were happy. They had received their rewards.

But in a course of time the bridge developed serious defects. They tried to repair it, but no use. Hence they decided there was something wrong with the process – technology, and therefore proposed to build a new bridge. What could be the fate of the new bridge? They were checking the process instead of the context and the content.

Everyone of the participants understood the moral of the story.
If it is still not clear: Consider what was the context and content of the invasion on Iraq by the Us and its buddies?

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Saturday, 14 June 2008


Self-portrait by Remigius de Souza, Mumbai, India (1972)
Colour on handmade paper 9"x 12"
© Remigius de Souza

You may read or interpret iTECHNOMAN” in various ways that you may prefer.

Remi (Remigius de Souza) is marginally literate, not only in computers, but also in any of the Arts and Literary disciplines.
He began to learn writing Letters and Numbers of his vernacular language MARATHI on a slate, at his native village in Konkan.Simultaneously he also took lessons in his basic needs, which are farming in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture; mud house building and its maintenance; and spinning and handloom weaving of cotton fabric: FOOD, SHELTER and CLOTHING.
Industrial society has failed after centuries to reach this ability or level, which is mentioned above, to impart education to any citizen anywhere in the world, certainly not in India.
Decades later he learnt computer programming in an antique language “1401” in an intensive course of one month, which was given by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS): that was the only formal training he received in computers.

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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Monday, 9 June 2008

Sense and sense-ability-2

Sense and sense-ability-2

OUIR FIVE SENSES are attributed to five body organs: touch to skin, hearing to ears, smell to nose, taste to mouth and vision to eyes; it’s a common knowledge. Where does ‘perception’ reside? Obviously it is in the brain, where thoughts occur and flow continuously, sometimes connected, sometimes disconnected or random. There also occur emotions, dreams, daydreams, ideas and concepts (creative and/or destructive)… If observed, there is, as if, infinite space without boundaries, identical to space outside.

The senses and organs do not work in compartments or in departments like manmade occupations and organisations for example, governments, corporations, institutions etc. they work in association or in coordination with other senses and body parts. Just mention a word “tamarind” while talking in a group and someone’s mouth starts watering. Even a memory of an event may raise hair in the skin, or give a vomiting sensation in the breath, or even miss a breath.

The whole body, not only the brain, is a most complex and intricate system; it is right with us to watch. It works smoothly except for our indulgencies (egocentric that we are) by committing various sins or crimes against its functioning. By our indulgencies, by going beyond moderation, we, perhaps, may boast that we patronise many manmade systems and organisations in the name of research and development and progress etc. which give job opportunity to many, including ourselves, and the state, whether monarch, democracy, totalitarian or fundamentalist.

The body, however, is far more superior and sacred than any manmade institution, or machinery – from kitchen gadget to a spaceship. Despite all great inventions and the great leaps in various branches of sciences, thereby technologies, in the context human body (and mind), they are still groping to understand it. The mystery deepens. To compare brain to a computer (artificial intelligence) is preposterous and arrogant.

Some time ago I read an article on senses, “Doors of Perceptions” by Bruce Durie (New scientist, 29 January 2005, p. 34-36), which give a table of several senses. It reports, the scientists have names and added five more senses in addition to the five known to us, which are called “conventional” senses. It may not be out of place to mention them here: Pain, Mechanoreception (balance), Temperature and Interoceptiors (blood pressure). All 10 are further divided into 21 “accepted” (by the scientists) senses, and they are further divided into 33 sub-sub-divisions called “radical”. The article is informative, and does not necessarily advocate them. Thankfully, he adds, ‘they are flawed… the table is incomplete… though in the end, it may not matter at all’.

It was amusing. It reminded me of Indian caste system: four ‘varna’s that that have turned into few hundred castes, sub-castes and sub-sub castes over centuries. And see what kind of mess we have been in!

In modern societies there are classes, occupations, specializations, careers and classes… In sciences alone the specialisations break into several divisions. Of course the division of labour is a basic characteristic of any civilised society (We don’t include any tribal – adivasi – aborigine communities, which still survive, though few, among them).

Hence my perception tells me, more advance a civilised society more the divisions of labour (you may call them varnas, castes, classes or occupations…) more divided (read fragmented / decadent) the society. Though the western society, which thinks itself superior to all societies on the globe, is not an exception; perhaps it’s the worst example (count the wars in the past two centuries; assess the plight of the underclass, which is rarely reported, and the racial and gender atrocities).

A body – human, animal or plant – would not function, not even survive, even to a span of breath, if it has to follow such a prototype of advance civilised society. May God help the clones, morons, zombies to die soon, if any amongst us!

Characteristically the western society (and the westernised) still continues to think in a linear and deductive ways, thus go haywire, as is evident from the “Doors of Perception”. I wonder would they ever complete a cycle – circle? Anyway, till then let them enjoy their adventures and enjoy spending dollars, a plenty that they have earned at the cost of the Earth’s resources as if they alone own her, for the survival of their institutions…

At one place Bruce Durie says, ‘When we talk of senses, what we really mean are feelings or perceptions. Otherwise we would be operating not much above the level of an amoeba or a plant’. This is indeed very sad.

First, our remote ancestor was bacteria from whom the plant and animal world was evolved, even before “pikaia” that swam in the seas long before hominid was born, which scientists agree.
If I have to believe, ‘bacteria live like a superorganism and collectively decide their actions by communication… [A]s with human language, bacteria possess a lexicon, or vocabulary…’ as says another author (Buchnan, Mark. “A billion brains are better than one: a single microbe won’t have much to say for itself. But put a lot of them together and it’s a different story.” New Scientist, Nov 20, 2004: p 34-38) then the statement by Bruce is either wrong or incomplete. Perhaps he operates in different division, which is hardly holistic.

Even before our desi scientist J C Bose (November 30, 1858 – November 23, 1937) discovered in his laboratory, what the Indian peasants have believed, that plants have feelings. Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose claims that plants can “feel pain, understand affection etc.," from the analysis of the nature of variation of the cell membrane potential of plants, under different circumstances. According to him a plant treated with care and affection gives out a different vibration compared to a plant subjected to torture. Perhaps Bruce did not pay attention to this past research and people’s belief.

But science, which exists from the time hominid existed, need not be condemned because no scientist can conclusively proclaim “truth”, and agree with others, and they may not, because they too are human. The entire human race is a miniscule part in the whole schema of Nature.
We shall dig more in the senses in the following posts.

P.S. I am not a scientist. My education in science is up to matriculation that was few decades ago. I am just an ordinary citizen and don’t claim any authority in any subject.

(Link to previous post: Sense and Sense-ability )
Remigius de Souza
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Sunday, 1 June 2008

Illiteterate Farmer women of Andhra (Comment)

IN THE FIRST PLACE, They should show these movies to the ruling minority in India – politicians, bureaucrats, experts, specialists, planners, the educationists and the self-proclaimed leaders, and the urban elite – before showing them to the world.

This “Soil Unrecognised Indian” is now being seen…

Link to the Image above (Hindustan Times)

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Saturday, 24 May 2008

Sense and sense-ability

Sense and sense-ability

WE GENERALLY recognize five senses: touch, hearing, smell and vision. Intuition is considered the Sixth Sense. There may be more than Five Senses. The five senses help us to perceive the world, and learn. Intuition is developed through perception. Dr. Deepak Chopra said, intuition is heightened perception, which I had heard in is recorded lecture.

Indeed, our perceptions need to be heightened, widened, deepened – developed – constantly, thereby our intuition; it’s a lifelong process which is important for survival. It also helps our creative ability in whatever we take up – occupation, profession or vocation.

In the process of developing our perceptions there is no age bar, no gender bar, no caste bar, no class bar, no race bar or no place bar; there is no need of officially recognized qualifications. It is possible for anyone, inside or outside the portals of academia – varsities, libraries, Internet… or any school of thought or dogma, or a workplace. It is beyond and above all of them on the necked ground of reality – down to earth. It is possible wherever we are, here and now. Such a perception is a many-faceted gem – holistic.

Otherwise a perception based on impressions remains shallow at a cursory level, and invariably produces knee jerk actions (as sometimes by the governments), or impulsive reactions (as in the riots and murders), which may be most hazardous in extreme cases.

The present pace of fast life in urban areas is also spreading / affecting rural regions around. Hence the development of perception through the critical use of all the senses becomes our critical need, just as food, shelter and clothing are.

There are many issues that crop up in urban and rural areas, now and then, that involve and affect us, directly or indirectly, by design and default, in our individual and collective living, where we have no say , or we don’t exercise our right to say. Aren’t we sufficiently informed in this age of Information and Communication Technology?

Yet, we naively or faithfully or in blind belief look up to governments, experts, specialists, planners, god persons… who work in their respective compartments with their departmental/ ideological/ dogmatic blinkers on. What could they offer us, with their poor perceptions of the ground reality – your reality and my reality and our collective reality? Their solutions are just knee jerk actions, which create more problems to create further solutions to create further problems to create…

Take any issue that are dear to our individual and collective living (I avoid to use the word – ‘life’ – that is much abused.) broadly: Work, Leisure, learning and Health, or in particular: children, gender, the aged, the displaced, hunger and sickness, terrorist acts and riots, inflation and safety to life, rampant corruption and extortion… There is a long, long list.

I, in my various avatars, as a politician, bureaucrat, law-maker, law-keeper, industrialist, industrialist, specialists in various fields, or a part of the rioting mob, may forget, while in the chair, that I am also a citizen of the civil society. Occasionally though I may shout popular slogans: ‘Bharat Mataki Jai’ – ‘ Hail Mother India’, ‘Hindustanki Kassam’ – ‘In the Name of Hindustan’ etc. Patriotic, that I may be, as if politics and profit and power matter not the people and the posterity.

Invariably though I, as a citizen, may push the issues aside, to enjoy this ‘one life’, by getting intoxicated in an IPL frenzy, canned music, or in weekend partying in food and booze, or in how to make (loose) money on the stock exchanges, or how to make a small car for my poor developing country, or get intoxicated in our glorious past, or in the speculation of a rosy future… hapless, helpless or apathetic.

Don’t we all belong to the same stock?

‘What are the different tastes?’ I ask my students (when teaching architecture, the discipline that mainly, and scandalously, concerns visual aesthetics, which has its roots in the feudal past).
‘Namkeen – Teekha – Khatta – Meetha (Salty – Pungent – Sour – Sweet)’ Prompt come the answers.
‘How do you judge my talks?’
‘Bitter.’ They add one more taste.
‘Do you know or remember the taste of Amala?’
‘Ah, yes. Yes. It’s astringent that you talk, not relay bitter. Sorry Sir.’
Remigius de Souza
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Monday, 21 April 2008



by Remigius de Souza

THE HABITAT OF MAN has taken several forms through time and places. Villages, towns, cities, squatters, slums, suburban colonies, tribal settlements, metropolis, shelters in cold mountain regions, oasis, igloos shelters in boats at lakeside, riverside, seaside, shelter under bridges, squatters on river banks which get washed off again and again...

Natural habitat is not house alone to live – work –grow – learn... but it also includes its neighbourhood, land and water, landscape and air, the other inhabitants of its surroundings – insects – birds – animals – plants, the day and the night, changing seasons, and the five Elements – Earth, Water, Light (and Heat), Air and Space that we are composed of – praised by Vedas.

With all advances of science at hand, natural habitat instead of harnessing its qualities and life has come under several assaults. At the turn of the last century with scientific inventions, man believed that he obtained the key to the Mystery of Nature. Scientific inventions were employed for mass production and industrialization. Industrialization was not limited to textiles alone; it moved in every possible direction - weapons of warfare, education, agriculture and food, medicine and pesticides, insecticides, water management, housing, communications, transport, entertainment etc. It employed every possible raw material: air, land, stone, water, hill, trees, minerals, animals, industrial waste and industrial by-products. Yet every new scientific invention proved previous invention inadequate. The Mystery of Nature continued to deepen.

The present (20th) century has shown that industrialization has assaulted not only nature and natural resources but also human resources preserved through centuries by tribal and other societies throughout the world without exception – without restraint – the process, which started in the earlier century or two. The last such assault was on Tibetan society. This had preserved through centuries a unique form of living in harmony with nature on a religious (Dharma) base. The natural conditions too are unique here. The assault on Tibetan society was a result of industrialization as much as Marxism; Existentialism etc. were by-products of industrialization. Assault on natural resources was as much a result of industrialization as metropolitan cities are its by-products.

On the one side, industry supported by science goes on degenerating the life of man, animal and plants – all living beings – by polluting economy, ecology, environment, regional and social balance, and exploiting natural resources. And on the other side it goes on developing new medicines, pesticides, insecticides, water supply systems etc to save and serve life, developing so-called lifesaving drugs and machinery to save life which has made not only natural living impossible but even natural dying impossible, the sole purpose of which is profit-making – business. The sole purpose of industry is profit-making out of everything under the sun possible for a person, or a group of persons called a company or a corporation or even a state, tentacles of which reach far beyond social, regional, religious, national frontiers – even beyond global frontiers.

The resources of the globe are being employed – capitalized – for preservation of industry to produce and multiply – for which new disciplines are being invented such as management, specializations etc. to “reduce time, increase speed and more work (output)” to “produce more”. This required streamlined operations – division of labour – standardization – automation – specialization – regimentation – centralization.

Amongst human settlements, city form in the shape of metropolis in the present time is an assault on natural habitat, which could be compared with the effect of nuclear explosion but without Bang. The effect is not instantaneous. In spite of all the advances at hand in technology, communications, transport and sciences, the city – the symbol of feudal power –
has continued to grow. The city in the form of metropolis is not only an assault on nature but also an assault on man himself, and is the enemy of democracy. City form is no more valid except as a means to serve the vested interest of a person or a group of persons in power – enormous centralization of power – whether the city is in the West or the East. The larger the city, the larger are its evils, hazards, crimes, wastes, chaos; the larger are its capacity to exploit; the larger its capacity to pollute and to destroy nature through its tentacles. There is no better comment on this phenomenon than the movie "Modern Times", made by Charlie Chaplin decades ago.

In India we still crave for such a "progress" which is misplaced, outdated, obsolete and at times criminal. The Indian village was unmindful of its exploitation for a century and half or two, and still retains some of its qualities. The progress and development that caused the exploitation was not its own choice. In commercial terms, the Indian village is called the "untapped rural market" of India. The rural population is migrating at a massive rate at the very step – at the feet of the "market seeker" – not just to the city of Bombay but to every town and city in the country. The villager who was a farmer with dignity is now being reduced to a market commodity. His settlement in the city is identified by the term "slum", meaning that it is illegal, unauthorized, and if the town is small, the slum is not identified in the Census Survey of India.

There are several offshoots of "development" which influence /affect villages. Some of them are the education system, government organisations (GOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs). The numbers of non-government organizations have increased over the last two or three decades. Earlier there were missionaries who came to India. All these have noble intentions for the welfare of the village and to pamper their own sense of superiority. Their orientations are urban (or western / westernized). Their roots are urban. All these (perhaps with some exceptions) fail to see and learn from Indian village; instead they try to inject urban concepts imported from the West. Some exhibited occasionally (like Jawaharlal Nehru) by wearing the turban or traditional shawl and dance with the villagers to camouflage the real difference. In reality GOs and NGOs survive at the cost of the village. India still has the opportunity with 5.6 lakhs villages to save natural habitat and reverse the process of its destructions.

(This paper was presented at the "Conference on Natural Living" hosted by Prakrati – an NGO – at Bordi in Maharashtra, and published by the "FOURTH WORLD REVIEW", Number Forty Nine in 1992.)
PS: After about two decades I feel this note, unfortunately, is still valid, by worsening the environmental conditions on the Earth and its Sphere.

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Slums and the Web of Development - 2

Slums, cities and the web of development - 2

by Remigius de Souza

Draconian law: Land Acquisition Act (1894)

Under this draconian law – the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 – made by the British several million people have been displaced and marginalised. After Independence this act has been revised or modified less number of time than the Constitution of India: What makes it so powerful? Is it because of JUSTICE or is it a weapon for the present rulers or the ruling minority?

Double standards by the Rulers

Under certain town planning acts the land holdings are reconstituted within city limits, for example by declaring town-planning schemes. Twenty-five years ago Vadodara City took care of all, particularly the small landholders that they do not loose their land while acquiring land for public and social services for paltry sum of compensation. However this facility of reconstitution of land at regional level is not applied while acquiring land for various private or public projects. The rulers – legislators, administration, policymakers, and planners obviously follow double standards while dealing with the land in urban areas and the land in rural areas.

Why then it should not be possible to reconstitute the land holdings at the regional level while acquiring land for the development projects from where the people are displaced, or where the land is acquired by paying cash compensations, and perhaps a promise of jobs in future, while creating the “ghettos of development” in the rural areas? What is the value of cash compensation in the spiralling inflation and falling rupee value? Instead the local people affected by the development projects are treated as second-class citizens. Is the administrative machinery ready and prepared to work hard for this job?

What is the basis of cash compensation for the acquired land? Is it the current land price in the locality? Is it based on the comparison with land value in the cities and metropolitan cities? The cities depend on the resources of the regions – at times from remote and distant areas for their sustenance. Is the compensation based on the future inflated land value when the project becomes operative? Is it based on the disparity of living standards of the urban elite and rural poor?

Disparity of living standards and consumption

Perhaps the disparity is the criteria in the literacy level and consumption level of both — those who acquire the land with the help of instrument of law and those from whom the land is taken — is a measure of cash compensation?

Or is it based on the justice that the people that depended on the very land for five thousand, or more, years, generation after generation, and will be deprived of the very resource – the land – for the posterity?

Until now they had depended on the soil for their sustenance while feudal lords, kings and rulers – Ashoka or Aurangzeb – came and vanished. In what way the life of the people around the “Ghettos of Development” in the name of common good, has improved in the areas of education and schooling, job and vocations, economic conditions, and services – post, transport, water supply, health…?

Is it possible to remove slums from the cities and towns in India, to some extent? Yes, if the people are given a fair deal in the development projects, out side of urban area, in the cases of public and private sector projects, including the areas brought under urbanization such as New Bombay built by CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Corporation) in Maharashtra State.

Take one of many aspects – the compensation for acquired land particularly in the rural area. It is not only the owners of the land acquired but also entire affected population of village/s or region must be entitled to receive compensation.

Land Acquisition, Compensation and Rehabilitation

Customarily the compensation and rehabilitation is decided on the basis of degree of consumption and access and power to devour the resources in comparison with urban elite and not on the basis of sustenance. The direct benefit due to the acquisition for development must reach to the people on equitable basis. As is it is questionable whether the benefits of direct taxes reach them.

The nature and value of compensation and rehabilitation should be worked on the basis of and in the proportion of the total cost of the project, whether the land is acquired for a public or private project. The total cost should include:

1. The cost of planning, administration, acquisition and arbitration processes from inception to completion stage: e.g. salaries, stationary, establishment, transport, consultancy, services such as legal, technical, management, planning etc.

2. The investment incurred in the development, construction and establishment of infrastructure:

A. civil works, road, rail, buildings, machinery etc, and

B. Services.

3. Annual compensation in the proportion of annual expenditure, but not of profit (loss) irrespective of subsidies and tax concessions, during the years of operations / life of a project.

The basis for rehabilitation should be to provide land for farming, housing, local institutions such as schools, colleges, training institutions for agro-industries, banking, public transport, and health care faculties. Jus as minimum shelter of 21 sq. m. is recommended / given to a slum dweller in cities. In the same manner a landless labourer in rural areas should be rehabilitated with one acre/hectare of land. All the land should be taken from reconstitution of the entire land holding of the region.

This formula demands corrective measures in the existing structure of laws and applications. But it also demands courage, integrity and transparency on the part of the society.

If such an application is brought into force, with effect from, say, 26-1-1952, Republic Day of India, there shall be massive exodus from the cities to rural areas. PEOPLE shall return to their homesteads that are rotting in the slums, if such an action takes place.

The culture and tradition of the country is essentially agrarian. The resources required for industrialization shall not last forever; neither the borrowed know-how nor imported clever ideas of development may work forever.

Do sciences and/ or applied sciences, have answers to these problems? Partially, perhaps! When a science looses its dimension of ‘people’ it becomes a ‘ghetto of information’ and eventually gets buried. Technology does not build the pyramids any more; its form has changed but the context continues. When centralised power inflates and looses its vision of eternity, it disintegrates.

The Buddha, Jesus, Sena Nhavi, Ravidas, Kabir, Chokhamela, Sri Basaveshwara, Akka Mahadevi and many others born in different times, speak the language of people rather than the monopolised language of the elite, such as Sanskrit, Hebrew, now English. Their words are not drowned in the river of time even in the absence of media agencies and institutional or state support.

To look for the answers to the contemporary problems the real place is the people and not the polytechnics or parliaments or planning agencies or theories. Perhaps it is now time for billion incarnations. The first task is to restore human dignity: Dignity to all living beings: Dignity to Life.

[This is revised and edited version and Second and last part of the article published in the Journal of Indian Institute of Architects, Dec.1996, p23-25]

NOTE: The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 is presently under revision in the Parliament of India. The Parliament had invited suggestion from the citizens by its advertisement sometime ago. After reading the text of the Bill I realised that the Government of India did not take the notice of this article published in 1996 in a journal of the professional body.

I shall post my comments on the Bill in near future.
Remigius de Souza

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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