Signs Of The Times


By Humra Quraishi
Doesn’t the government of the day remind you of those shrewd sellers who hike the price of their wares and after much bargaining lessen by a rupee or two ? Scenes rampant at the traditional mandis and at the typical kirana stores. And going further ahead, along the strain – doesn’t the government remind you of what Americans do: first bomb and bombard and then send rescue teams to go about dropping food and medicines on the bombarded lot !

Writing this in the backdrop of the latest news on the petrol hike – that is, the government deciding to relent somewhat, by two rupees or so. Maybe, after much bargaining it will let go of another rupee. But the damage has been done. The jolt has hit. As this latest hike has shattered the very surviving format for the average, heralding a doom of sorts.

And as you look around several other grave issues also stand out. In fact, I’m just back after attending a discussion on this book – Uprooted for Whose Benefit ? Development Induced Displacement in Assam 1947 – 2000 by Walter Fernandes and Gita Bharali ( Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre,2011 ) and as the very title of this volume relays it focuses on the havoc displacement does to hundreds and thousands who are forced to move from their lands because of upcoming dams and reservoirs and much more being constructed in the name of development. And, perhaps, the biggest tragedy is that the displaced men and women are either poorly compensated or just about driven about like cattle, from their ancestral lands to a nowhere of sorts

And the more we get ‘developed’, the worse gets this trend. Thousands sitting displaced. Desperately running, from there to here. Finding their way towards these urban concrete jungles, only to get ruined by what big cities have to offer in terms of the basic survival tactics.


What a mess lies spread around. Even the basics lie messed around with : those garbage heaps, stray dogs on the prowl, and a completely callous municipality. Yet, its the same lot who will arrange for those environment day celebrations! Celebrating what ! I fail to understand what we go celebrating …

The tragedy is that today only a handful amongst us can talk of the decaying environment. And talk in that direct, no fuss way. Last year whilst listening to well known academician and professor of Environmental Sciences, Mahesh Rangarajan, I wondered why don’t we have more of these uncomplicated and informal talks on nature, environment and the idea of the much connected human- being.

After all, it is simple aspects which do matter, those basic factors which are vital to us and the planet we inhabit. In fact, Mahesh Rangarajan is one of those environmental experts who analyse present-day conservation conflicts and find their roots in India’s colonial past and in the very governance cum administrative system that was adopted by us. As he’d stressed, “Awareness of history is definitely important, for it helps to bridge, and to solve issues…after all, environmental issues are basic to lives and lifestyles and we have to connect at the individual level and then take it further, to the societal levels.”

Rangarajan is presently director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, also a member of the executive board of the Association of South Asian Environmental Historians, and he has authored several volumes on Environmental History and has also undertaken extensive field work, coming forth with some far reaching research findings. In fact, in 2010 he had headed the Elephant Task Force. And with that, he had come up with some of those crucial basics, “Laws alone cannot protect elephants from humans. What’s required is a working relationship between the two species. We need a working relationship with elephants as a species as they are close to human beings in terms of emotional intelligence and social life. For this, what is crucial is the way in which science, culture and citizens come together to minimize conflict and keep viable habitats intact.”

What can be termed realistic about Rangarajan’s writings and works and talks is this factor – he does not view environment as some isolated sphere but connects it with the human being. After all, the human being lives in it, around it, surrounded by it…

Also, he relays an abundance of knowledge of our environmental history and the connected current offshoots. And relays it in an informal way…talking of those bygones, laced with anecdotes and rational and simple solutions.


Don’t know whether these symbolic day long fasts undertaken by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev would leave some sort of a dent on the government. These fasts have got not just routine but because of the political slants and vested interests lost out. They fail to have that desired impact.

As of now, the rather apparent gain for this duo seems to be coming in the form and shape of two recently released books on Hazare,and those long winding interviews where Ramdev. speaks on, almost non – stop …


And as this latest research finding comes : a woman’s walk / gait can reveal her sex life, you will have many more of those ogling at female forms …as it is there’s little dearth of such men but now they’d multiply. After all, curiosity will kill them if they don’t sit and watch and try matching your gait with what those findings hold out.

Considering we Indians are good at pretences, at that hypocrisy, at those layers heaped on us, so there’s every chance of those walks/gaits misleading …getting you all mixed up and confused in your bird watching efforts, in your matching ventures !


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