Settled agriculture was one of the first marks of civilizations. Humans understood the rejuvenating powers of Earth and started worshipping her as mother.
In our sub-continent, seasons and harvests are celebrated in various ways: Makar Sankranti and Lohri in Panjab and Karnataka, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bhogali Bihu in Assam, later Basant Panchmi in north India, Ugadi in Karnataka and Vishu in Kerala, Baisakhi, Onam, and many others.
These festivals are markers of direct human engagement with our planet. They are hundreds, even thousands of years old.
Yet, notice the difference in how these festivals are celebrated in villages and in towns and cities; how they are celebrated where the bounties of the land are ours to pick and how they are celebrated when we need to buy the materials from shops – rangoli powder, wood, gachaks and rewaris, jaggery or belle.
Yet, since we all left agriculture behind a generation or two ago, moved to towns and cities, we have lost touch with our lands. Of course, we follow the age-old rituals with diligence, but sometimes, Google comes to our aid, sometimes we mourn over how we have forgotten how these festivals used to be conducted when we were kids. Or when our parents were kids.
If the new Farm Laws, passed by the Indian Parliament last year, are implemented, be sure that these festivals too will lose further relevance because corporate farming will be for the corporate master, not the farmer. The lands that used to produce the bounties we celebrated as festivals will no longer be directly ours.
The bounties too won’t be ours, like they aren’t mostly in towns and cities. We will be further removed from our festivals not only in terms of land and materials but also living conditions.
The cold in the village is not the cold in the city. What then is the value of winter solstice? The harvest in the village is seasonal but in the city, all food items are available all the time in supermarkets as they are preserved. What then is the value of a harvest festival?
Of course, the festivals will still be celebrated. The celebrations will be through Clearance Sales in Mega Shopping Malls or 50 per cent discount on hugely inflated prices of all farm produce that is tied up in polythene.
Even if you keep a tomato or brinjal on the table for four weeks, it stays fresh. GMO seeds! Imagine how hard it is for the stomach to digest such produces. Or there will be these small ‘organic/natural’ Farmer Marts twice a week like in European cities – placards announcing which festival it is on a particular day.
The State has used its Courts to discredit the ongoing farmers’ protest in Delhi and other places. The Courts have formed biased committees to ratify the laws. Rogue leaders have othered the protesters as Khalistanis and terrorists, and even warned of violent action.
Now if you wish to preserve your rangoli and camp fires, your belle and reori, come out, stand with the protesters. Lest, when history is written, you might end up being rostered as callous urbans who lost touch with the rural, the agrarian – the root of civilisation.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
Featured image: Lohri celebrations in Punjab, India. | Wikimedia Commons