the season is changing….

After four months a continuous rains, the season is changing into a blistering hot October. I hope it remains like that, because we don’t want anymore rains. During the big deluge in August some of our Rice & Millet’s did get swept away. But what has remained shown real tenacity and it seems that (i dare say) we will get a decent crop.

We lost about 40 birds to various infections, since we don’t want to use any antibiotics etc. But the rest of the 160 grew beautifully and they are all sold out & some of the very best hens we have kept to use as layers. Another new lot of hundred was introduced last week.

Meanwhile the countryside is looking doomed with the lack of interest to develop agriculture.  One only have to see what is the budget allocation this year for agriculture, then one can see growing food is the least of priority for the fascists. There is also a move to introduce GM crops  big time. Some of the so called stalwarts are also supporting this move. No big surprise. You can read about this disaster over here.

The valley has become so green and beautiful….

scenes from the back rows

One can just about see our farm & also the native Kurhasini aka Karle field above our house.

More coming up soon, until then;

Peace & Love !!

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has the luck changed ?

In my last entry which was way back in March things were looking really bleak. I had stopped writing, which meant i stopped thinking. Whatever thoughts which were coming were only negative, basically there was nothing one could do, so one left it to the universe to turn things around & till then hold things together. From mid April our water table also started to go down rapidly & by end of May it was down to a couple of feet. In the last many years, the month of May used to be hot, however it wasn’t unbearable heat. Mornings & evenings used to be pleasant, but May 2019 wasn’t like that. The heat was unbearable, add to it the drought like condition without water, add to it the scarcity of fodder for our Buffaloes & cows & more critically i wasn’t able to grow anything. The only plants which withstood all this & gave us a sense of sustenance was Galangal & Bamboo.

If anyone had asked me to say which year has been the most toughest or the most difficult or the most challenging in my 36 years of adulthood, the answer is right in front of me : “July 2018 to July 2019” & if one adds to it the chest thumping march of the fascists in our country where all lies have become the truth, i have never endured something like this before.

So, why am i believing that my luck has the luck changed ? Wouldn’t the same things repeat itself again next year ? To the answer the latter question first : We have plans to reinforce our fencing to prevent the wild boars coming in & as far as the water table is concerned we have no alternative, but to make a small check dam on the river by end of end of  October. Whether we do a temporary one, which needs to re-made every year or a permanent one; we will figure that out by October. So coming back to my first question Why do i believe that my luck has changed for the better ? Its just a gut feeling, or may be its more than that. When the rains came & when the river started to flow again, i stood watching for a long, long time & then the “dam in me breached”. For the first time i had tears running down & i cried. Ha ha ha, yes this mountain of a man did weep. It has never happened to me before & i don’t even remember when was the last time i had wept like this. It was relief, it was hope, it was happiness.  Riverside was looking like a riverside again !!

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Last year we couldn’t get people to help us with the rice transplantation, there were no Bulls to plough, things had gone really slow & in the end there was nothing much to show in terms of output. So again why do i believe the luck has changed: because this year people came to help us with the transplantation. It is the most challenging work in our farm, may be the the most important task too & definitely, the most labour intensive work of the year. One of my trusted co-workers has not been keeping good health since January, she had issues with her Heart, after a few months she started to have non stop bleeding & had to be operated upon. Her recovery has been slow & wasn’t really doing any farm work all these months. It was really a pleasantly moving sight to see her fully immersed in slush in the paddy fields & doing the transplantation. And yes, we have finished everything at the right time. And from now on it is almost impossible to find anyone to help, because people will be busy on their own fields. Hence the relief & the gut level feeling which says : Yeah you ba@#$rd, looks like your fu@#$ng luck has changed….

for the better !!

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Until next time … Peace, love & Khudā Hāfez

difficult times….

It has been very, very difficult since September 2018. Wild boars have been coming in big packs & destroying a lot of stuff.

They do pull down even big banana plants, they scythe through the stems & eat the tender stems. Sweet potatoes… they left nothing . Rice, millets… all our hard labour has been destroyed. Their night raids started since September 2018 & it is still continuing. For the first time we decided not to grow any winter crops.

Barking deer’s, Porcupines, normal Deer’s, even Leopard’s do also come, specifically for us it is only Langur’s & Wild Boar’s who have created maximum havoc. Langur’s when they run on the roof, the roof comes down, when Wild Boars come in the night, they leave behind a path of destruction.

I have not been growing anything much in the last few months, the mood has been really down since September 2018.

Really, i don’t know what to do & how to handle the situation.

Just waiting for this difficult phase to pass…..

peace & love

 

a set back & other stories…

rice saplings

Usually our rice gets transplanted before everyone else in the village. The bulls come from Prakash’s house in the village to help us with the final preparations for rice transplantation. We had started removing the saplings two days before the bulls were to come. Then the news came that one Bull has suddenly died, then after a few hours its pair also died, then the next day a milk yielding cow died. Rice transplanting is a critical work (the most critical work) & none of us have any Tillers/ Tractors, we are completely dependent on the animals to help us with the work. The mood had become quite sombre.

Sometimes the Bulls come from Prakash’s cousin’s house also, then on the third day the news came that one of their bulls also died suddenly.

A few days delay became a week’s delay, it was all pale & gloom, especially when one loses animals during this season. I saw that people were sad & quite upset, they look after their animals really well. However they hadn’t given up hope. The only hope now was to wait till everyone in the village finish with their transplanting….then hopefully we could borrow a pair a Bulls.

This work is usually done & dusted in our farm  by July 15th every year, however this year it got over only by the last week of July. By then the saplings had really grown tall & whether the saplings will recover quickly enough from the “shock” of transplantation & start blooming again…. one has to wait & see.

One day it was raining quite heavily I had gone to see if everything was ok on the rice field. That’s when i spotted this beauty at work. Sitting atop a wire & diving into the rice field to catch small treats like small fish & insects, it was such a joy to watch this flash of colours during the rains. And when we got in front of the bird, it has a completely different set of colours & looks like a completely different bird…….. the original King of good times, the “White Throated Kingfisher” !!

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Now that everyone has finished with their ploughing work, there seems to be a calm, even the river which one has to cross to enter our farm looks so beautiful.

Welcome to Pishvi !!

Untill next time … Peace, love & Khudā Hāfez

the year gone by….

I can’t believe that almost a year has gone by. Maybe the last 11 months has been a blur, maybe i was less focused on the farm, maybe i enjoyed staying on the farm so much that there was no time to sit down and get hold of my  thoughts, maybe the dogs were taking a lot of time out of me, maybe the kitchen that we run has become my focus of attention, maybe i was plain lazy to write, maybe there was nothing to write, maybe a combination of all the above weighed me down & if there was any free time, i would just collapse, curl up into sleep.

Now that the rains have started to batter us down & i have some time at hand. When i go to the farm, i actually wonder if i will be able to even reach the farm. Low visibility, at least at two places a landslide is waiting to happen. Finally, once i reach the farm, the place just envelopes me & it is very, very difficult to let go.

So many new plants, some planted by us, many planted by nature & one wants to see everything, touch everything, feel everything. The Bamboo saplings which we have been planting every pre-monsoon has really come up and the barren hilly areas in our land are really getting covered in its beautiful foliage.

And of course there are stunning, imposing or arresting views which one soaks in every minute.

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& some curious sights also, like this Wild Banana flower !

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During this season getting people to help us with work is difficult. Everyone has work in their own fields, but we manage somehow. People do come, people do bring their bullocks to help us with the ploughing. Over the years one has been able to ring in a good “work culture” without having to say anything much !!

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This year on the “sloped” parts of our land we have lots of millets & one major addition has been Til (Sesame). I can’t wait till it flowers in late September to see the invasion of different butterflies in our fields !

Untill then….Peace, love & Khudā Hāfez

 

the story about us…

Writing or speaking never comes naturally to me. Earlier i used to write, because i was eager to share about everything which is happening in our farm. A lot of years have passed by. Now 99% of the activity in the farm has become monotonous, tedious, boring, uninteresting, tiresome, wearisome, dreary, routine, mechanical & sometimes even soul-destroying & mind numbing. Nothing new in that, it’s the story of all farmer’s in this country. I am always thinking & sometimes even pre-occupied in my own thoughts while working, cooking, walking, driving & sometimes even in my sleep. Also given the dark ages we live in these days i am very wary of sharing anything.

Whatever one has stood for & believed in is not even going to be history, history is also been rewritten these days. The only good thing which is coming out of this dark period & the impending gloom is the creative & collective expressions of pain & anguish. Even common people in and around the villages where our farm is located are all aware of how our country is been ripped apart by religious fanatics & bigots. Most people seems to be aware of the fact that the edifice is crumbling & there are bulldozers everywhere in wait like battle tanks to crush us economically, politically, culturally & in every way possible way so that the agenda of the killers of a certain M.K. Gandhi can be taken to its logical conclusion. That agenda is much more dangerous than having a madman like Trump in the helm in the U.S.A

My last post was in mid-April & we managed to survive the searing heat & welcomed the rains with open arms. Its been planting, planting & more planting for my wonderful group of co-workers. It hasn’t ceased to amaze me how they go through this 3 months of constant rain, wetness, strong winds & yet keep a bright smile on their face. If anyone has lifted a full cooking gas cylinder or the equivalent of that weight, will surely know what i am talking about. Most of us can lift it, however if one had to walk, carrying it on our head, for 2kms on slippery ground, with rain & strong wind lashing over… its near impossible. I really feel blessed to have this group of co-worker’s who are going about their jobs without any fuss. Since we cannot store Chicken feed, because dampness would lead to fungal growth i have to carry 50kg -100kg bags every week, then they have to bring the cleaned chickens to the car, sometimes carry cooking gas cylinders, it’s a bloody thank less job.

carrying things

It’s always nice to sit down with them and enjoy a meal together, listening to some dark humor & other harsh realities of life in a village & to keep up their inquiring & analytical minds ticking by posing questions & answering questions by throwing back more questions, In these situations we all become “one”, even if it is only for a few hours.

lunch time

meal time

With all the turmoil which has been greeting us in the last few years,  I have learned to appreciate the beauty of nature more & more. I can spend hours just watching our rice fields swaying from side to side with the wind & the dragon flies going about their jobs.

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One moment one feels the sunlight, the very next moment one is standing on clouds.

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Sometimes one feels as if somebody is calling you over to the next valley…..

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Some serious work has gone into the farm in the last 3 months, even though sometimes it is soul-destroying or mind numbing, however our story will go on.

Peace, love & Khudā Hāfez

More useless bits of information

It’s been a while since one got any time to sit down & reflect on all what’s been happening on the farm & about life in general. On one hand there should be no excuse for not updating the blog, on the other hand after 7 years I feel it is natural that one takes a break. Since most of the things which is happening on the farm is repetitive, one doesn’t feel like writing more & more about the same things all the time. Many things has also changed in me in the last couple of years which has led to lack of time, to just sit down quietly, gather one’s thoughts, visualize a post, to write, to edit, to post etc. Since the last 7 months one has been on the farm every week for a few days & during weekends I have been busy with our “Underground Kitchen”. Sometimes when I have taken a break from the weekend cooking for Underground Kitchen one has stayed on 10-12 days on the farm. In many ways I have started to enjoy the quietness & tranquility much more than before. I have really started to look forward to the most bliss full & wonderful sleep one can get while on the farm. Now due to rapid ageing both body & mind seems to ask for this more & more from me. Our farm may be one of the best in Pune district in terms of the bio diversity; however one does not earn a single penny. Every farming household in this country will have a few members who are forced to migrate to the city in search of jobs & money. It’s the same with us, with one having to keep going back to the city to earn some mullah, which gets immediately recycled back to the farm.

Action on the farm during the past few months has been the more or less the same like the last few years. Sometimes we tend to go two steps forward & one step back, whereas sometimes it is one step forward & two steps back. Nothing is stagnant or constant when one is farming. Every 3 months there is a change for sure. Crops change, weather changes, what we grow changes, how we grow changes, relationships change, we also keep evolving as human beings, hopefully for the better like the soil on our land. As the organic content in the soil improved we can see a real leap forward in the health of our soil, especially in retaining moisture.  I manage to put in a lot of work on the farm from October to May. Then due to certain reasons the routine gets disturbed & one tends to ease off a bit. The winter was really cool, however by March the temperatures started to soar, yet still in comparison with the city the weather is pleasant and there is no reason to complain.

During the winter we had great sightings of the Great Hornbills on our farm, however I was not lucky to take some snaps. A pair of winter visitors from Eastern Europe (Orange Breasted Flycatcher’s) had decided to stay with us, which was really lovely. They were always there in our compound nibbling around in our Mulberry bushes for about 4 months & now they have gone 10,000 miles away. Hopefully they will be back again in November.

orange breasted flycatcher

Our Buffalos are doing fine and demanding more & more food. Our chickens were part of a winter menu in a very popular restaurant, we also introduced them in our Underground Kitchen menu, the quality of the meat was well appreciated. Kadaknath birds also grew very well & since we had too many roosters, we introduced them in our menu & for the first time many people got to taste one of the best meats, actually India’s only Black meat.

kadaknath

India's only black meat

In the meanwhile Galangal & Pea Brinjals have also become two of our premier produce.

All these years we had never consciously inter-cropped in our Turmeric plots. This year the inter cropping was intense. We had standing crops of Sunflower, Maize, Tomatoes, Chillies, Brinjals, Cabbages etc along with the Turmeric, even while we were harvesting our Turmeric & also even we replanted the tubers last month. This was a totally out-of-the-box thinking from our side and I am very happy that we pulled it out without damaging any of the standing crops. We harvested about 60kgs of fresh turmeric from about 700 sq ft. The final product of good quality turmeric powder is 13kgs. The quality of the Brinjals & Cabbages has been excellent. Some tomatoes have yielded really good quality tomatoes, whereas some have been disappointing. All put together for the first time our vegetable produce actually crossed 400kgs & more yet to come. On one hand one feels good about the fact that so many things are growing well, whereas on the other hand one feels sick because its been difficult to find takers for these vegetables.

Among field crops our Finger millets ( Nachni/Raagi) had done well and we have about 100kgs of the final product. This year we plan to introduce another very nutritious millet species called BarnYard Millet (Varai/ Bhagar). Our Paddy was a bit of a downer, one reason was that the last rains which we had in first week of Oct 2016 had come down quiet heavy, along  with strong winds, so a lot of paddy had fallen down. As usual immediately after the paddy harvest we planted Wheat by the last week of November 2016. We had heavily inter-cropped Wheat with Sunflower & Mustard. Last year we had sown 40kgs of seed, whereas this year we sowed only 20kgs. The output has been the same around 300kgs. So, when we plant Wheat next year, we can reduce the area of growing to half to get the same yield.

wheat

In end of Feb we lost all our dogs on our land due to a rabies epidemic. All of them were special, however one of them was really close to all of us. He was my best friend in the farm, his name was Babu.

Babu

It wasn’t a nice moment for me, when I had to hold him for the last time, so that the doctor could put him to sleep. Slowly almost all the dogs in the village died in the epidemic. For a couple of months we had no dogs on the farm and one felt really odd. It’s really an odd feeling when one doesn’t have one’s constant companion alongside. My co-workers on the farm also share the same feeling. We need dogs on the farm, dogs are also happy to be staying on the farm. However it’s a huge responsibility, especially when one takes into account the fact that the nearest Veterinary doctor is 60kms away!

For the moment it is back to the same story of water drying up, the river (our lifeline) adjoining our land has gone completely dry. We only have a couple of feet of water remaining in our open well to survive till the first week of June, when the rains come.

our well

The main casualty is our Onion crop. Since it is not going to be possible to irrigate, we are forced to take the painful decision of giving up on our onions. Agriculture in this country is such a mess. Only if we had other farmer’s in our neighbourhood who were also taking winter crops we could have done something in putting pressure on the government to do check dams and swales. On the other hand my neighbours (who otherwise have an hand to mouth existence) would think of taking winter crops only if there is a security of water. Who can afford to take these kind of risks ? Have a look at our riverside, it is completely dry…

river bed

I leave you in this rather serious & sombre note

Peace, love & Khudā Hāfez

Useless bits of information !!

As we come down the valley this is how our farm looks from afar. One can really see the thick vegetation around our land which has happened only because of our presence. Seven years back this hillock was quite barren.

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One of the best parts of the drive to & fro to the farm is that almost 80% of the drive is next to the some water body or other, its incredibly beautiful, especially when the sun rays gets reflected from the water

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Some spectacular views are here in this gallery

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Then finally when one is crossing this river and entering our farm, one feels the urge to melt into this land and be one !!

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Some interesting Scarecrow designs we come across in different fields that we cross

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Within two weeks the flowers would be in all full bloom and with it all the amazing butterflies will be flitting from flower to flower. The Sword tail’s, Crimson rose’s, Pioneer’s, Jezebel’s, Emigrants, Plain & Blue tiger’s, Bush brown’s, Europa’s, Coster’s, Sergeant’s, Mormon’s and even the magnificent Blue Mormon will be visiting.

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More of the useless bits of information later.

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There has been some political mobilizations on caste lines happening in our area:

……“However the unprecedented mobilization of marathas in Maharashtra cannot and should not be ignored by progressive rationalists.

For all who believe in social and economic justice, when a 7% oppressed community unites as it did after the Una incident that is to be welcomed. but when a 40% strong dominant forward caste unites on caste lines, this is time for alarm, just as it was when Jats gathered in Haryana or Patels in Gujarat.

The demand for reservations for any forward caste, even on economic grounds, makes no sense. the rationale for reservations for SC/ST was not just their economic backwardness but their social isolation. no such isolation exists for forward castes. if sections of marathas are economically backward, let the anti poverty measures that should be in place for all poor be implemented equally and properly across the state.

As for the scrapping of the Atrocity Act, on the contrary it should be strengthened so that its non implementation (lack of convictions) can be addressed. if there are loopholes that allow innocents to be targeted, that can be looked at legally, but with a view to better catch the actual guilty.

Shocking and deplorable as the rape murder of a maratha girl at the hands of dalits is, it cannot be the only talking point when the ratio of rape murder of dalits at the hands of higher castes is the larger story that few report or get agitated by.

i know individually some of you have addressed these points, but it should be done unitedly, with intellectual rigour and we should remain caste-bias free and fearless even in the face of numbers”…..

Peace, love & Khudā Hāfez

a month in slow motion..

Time seems to have come to a standstill. On one hand one wants the rain to continue, on the other hand one wants to see some good sunlight.

The beauty of the place is just intoxicating, whenever i have to return from the farm to the city there is always the urge to stay on for some more time and soak in the surroundings.

Sometimes it feels as if the clouds have descended on us, the visibility becomes almost zero. Sometimes one feels as if one is walking into ghosts !

In between there was a dry spell and a break from rain and everyone had enjoyed full sunlight for a few days. All the plants and trees had really pepped up during those few days. Our rice went a little too tall for our comfort and we did decide to trim it down a bit, so that when the paddy starts to come out the plant might just fall over with the weight of paddy.Otherwise the general health has been really good. Now we can almost see the paddy coming out in a few plants.

The Galangal, Ginger and Haldi are looking fine as of now.

Nachni (finger millet) does look a tad taller than last year & has also started to bloom.

We have some Sweet Potatoes, Corn, Tomatoes, Brinjal’s, Chillies, Beans and Fodder grass called Lussun grass (alfa alfa) growing. The heavy downp0urs seems to have affected our best Avacado tree, keeping my fingers crossed and hope it will revive. Almost 90% of the saplings we had planted before the rains have managed to survive & now with the Sun slowly finding a way to peep out, they can now get into  business. All the chickens were ready for sale by the mid September. The bulk of the lot was taken by a very popular restaurant in Pune. The next lot of chickens will be ready in a couple of months.Bamboo plantation of last year looks quite healthy as of now and mother plants are sending many new shoots into the world and forming their own clumps. With the availability of abundant green fodder the buffaloes have really grown in the last 3 months. We have employed a person full time to take the buffs out grazing in the forests, so they are out for almost 8 hours walking and grazing to their hearts content.

More later.

Peace, love and Khudā Hāfez

Rain fury

During the first three weeks of July the rains were steady. However this years transplantation was really slow and arduous. Since everyone in the village had started  transplantation at the same time we couldn’t get many people to come and help us. So for the whole two weeks it was just four people who did all the required tasks. It was harrowing, laborious, back breaking & relentless. Working continuously in the slush for 9 hours a day, for two weeks without a break, in unabating rain, strong winds, mosquito bites all over the body. I don’t know from where our co-workers derived the strength to do this formidable task. Red Salute !

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Also there was added tasks this year with the Buffalo’s & Hens. In the morning cleaning the buffalo house & the Chicken house takes a good couple of hours, then in the afternoon the buffalo’s have to be taken grazing for another 3-4 hours. Plus one person would be busy with cooking tasks. So at any given time it was only two people who were able to work continuously.

There was no pre-monsoon this year, so all the tree plantations was done only after the rice & millet transplantation. Extensive reinforcements of the fence has been carried out & a line of Vetiver grass has been added to our already thick live fence. Lemon grass has also been added around our rice fields, giving it a nice aesthetic touch.

In between there has been a few heavy showers, once partner and me just managed to get out from the farm at the nick of time,just before the water started gushing over the bridge. Otherwise we would have been stuck for more than 5 hours due to the heavy deluge & lack of visibility. For the last 10 days it has been heavy to very heavy showers. Going to the farm can be an intoxicating drive watching nature just rejuvenating itself with an immense show of flora, the bird calls & raw beauty.

However, these days the drive is full of certain dangers. 1) There is always the fear of landslides. The hills are simmering due to the overuse of earth moving machines, a big natural disaster is bound to happen any time. I had witnessed one unfold in front of my eyes last year & i really don’t want to witness another one. 2) Beyond our village a newly made bridge was washed away, however there was no casualties. Down in Mahad, a shocking tragedy took place where the people who were driving their respective vehicles didn’t realise, nor see that the bridge over River Savitri, which they were about to cross was already washed away by the river in spate. Reading about it or watching the footage brings tears of helplessness. 3) Another danger which always lurks during this season is the drunken revellers. Lumpen elements from Pune come here during the weekends, firstly they drive so badly, they are so loud and always wants to create trouble, they disrespect the local people, especially the women, they leave behind tonnes of garbage, basically they behave as if its their right to destroy & disrupt. This year there has been an marked increase in this rowdy behaviour and hopefully the villagers will give them a fitting reposte which would teach them a lesson for life. I remember a few years back after a drunken altercation with a villager, many people from the village had gathered and smashed the windowpanes of their car & kept the revellers tied up in a house for more than 12 hours, till the cops came & took them away. Something worse is bound to happen this year.

Coming back to the rain fury…

Logically speaking, a region, which receives more than 3,000-mm average rainfall in a year, shouldn’t be suffering of water shortage in the months of summer. Agreed, Basalt rock has poor porosity & Red soil doesn’t allow much seepage of water. However for seven years i have been witnessing the lethargy of the government officials towards farmers & agriculture in general. Last summer only intensive work should have gone in making Swales & small 2ft check dams. Just a small intervention would have made a world of difference for the farmers. Now, who actually stands to gain from this bumper rainfall ? Does a farmer stands to gain ? No. The rainwater is gone into the arabian sea 25kms away in a matter of hours. Only city dwellers, Industries & Sugarcane farmers stand to gainwill be receiving 24 hour water supply. Would it be a fallacy to predict one more drought starting March 2017 ? As someone recently said “….how agonised we are about how people die, how untroubled we are by how they live….”


August is a really important month for this country, however the resemblance of the person in helm and Zia-ul Haq is so real. They almost look alike. Zia had destroyed a beautiful country called Pakistan in 10 years & the present Junta is following his footsteps. Hopefully i will not be alive after 10 years to see our beloved country ripped apart.

Today, Irom Sharmila broke her fast in Imphal, friends, supporters, sisters-in-arms gathered at Jantar Mantar to sing, acknowledge and celebrate her unimaginably courageous and resolute struggle for 16 long years. The date August 9 holds memory…it’s the day when fighters for India’s freedom were arrested during the Quit India movement under the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance…the forebearer to the present Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Irom Sharmila’s solitary resistance against it should seed a new phase in the movement against it. A pamphlet distributed at Jantar Mantar put it this way,”HUMANE, DEMOCRATIC SOLUTIONS ARE NEEDED TO SOLVE REAL PROBLEMS FACED BY PEOPLE, DIALOGUE RATHER THAN REPRESSION.”

August 20th is also one of the saddest for the citizens of Pune…read it once more here

Peace, love, Khudā Hāfiz.