Monday, 6 February 2017

EPW : Anupam Mishra


EPW

Sustaining Water Regimes - The Work of Anupam Mishra
Author: Jyoti Raina, Economic and Political Weekly | January 28, 2017

Anupam Mishra’s work on how the indigenous water systems of Rajasthan have sustained a water regime not only made it possible for a robust civilisation to thrive in the desert but along with his writings on sustainable use of water, also inspired a college lecturer to find solutions to her domestic water problem.  

http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/4/commentary/sustaining-water-regimes.html


Sustaining Water Regimes
The Work of Anupam Mishra
Jyoti Raina (jyotiraina2009@gmail.com) teaches at the Gargi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi.
Anupam Mishra’s work on how the indigenous water systems of Rajasthan have sustained a water regime not only made it possible for a robust civilisation to thrive in the desert but along with his writings on sustainable use of water, also inspired a college lecturer to find solutions to her domestic water problem. 
Nearly a decade ago I came to live at the teachers’ quarters in the salubrious premises of Gargi College located adjacent to the historic Siri Fort Wall in South Delhi. It took me very little time to discover that the residential complex had a water system which worked arbitrarily or did not work so far as I was concerned. My quarter was the last in the water supply chain and hardly received any water, the resource most critical to our daily lives. A long-time resident there who was familiar with the eccentricities of the system explained that this scarcity occurred since water needs to find its own pressure. All the preceding tanks need to be full in order for the water to gush forward into the pipelines. My tank being the last, received its supply only after those preceding it got filled. The previous residents of the quarter corroborated this information.
Struggling to find ingenuous solutions to my domestic water problem, I got interested in water infrastructures and started paying careful attention to possible local water management and conservation systems I could adopt in my individual capacity. Guided by this new interest I was introduced to the seminal work of activist Anupam Mishra on how Rajasthan manages its water in spite of receiving it so parsimoniously. His books on the indigenous water cultures of Rajasthan—The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan and Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab —provided me with ideas that brought to my mind what YiShan Lea wrote about “alternative political referents potentially free our attachment to the status quo” (2013: 307). These referents provoked an interrogation of the dominant water paradigm that I grew up believing in during my upbringing and education as a city dweller.
The Delhi resident presumptively thinks of water as being a product of an efficacious modernity which pipes this precious resource into our homes through the state-managed system. I was simultaneously struck by the revelation that historically North India had a water culture and a water-literate society which harnessed premodern traditional knowledge systems to nourish the local communities in towns and hinterland, century after century through “a mythopoiesis between men, earth, heat and water” (Mishra 2001: 11).
Preserving Drops
In Rajasthan, a robust and extant water regime is based on a tradition of water collection. It consists of a network of ponds, wells and tanks ranging from small kund, kundi, tanka (pond, small ponds, reservoir), narrow wells, vast step wells, family tanks and big reservoirs. This network continues to be an integral part of the local knowledge tradition. The principle underlying this highly efficacious system is simply to hold, stock and “preserve for tomorrow the drops that have fallen today” (Mishra 2001: 53), in a very clean place. With an average rainfall of just 60 cm which is half the national average, the region is a vibrant living desert with villages, fields, towns and no water scarcity.
The knowledge of this water culture and the larger water systems of Rajasthan is not available in our “modern” education, Western science or conventional schooling. Mishra learnt and wrote about it by drawing upon the memory of the local peasants, pastoralists and other “ordinary” folk he met during his travels. It is not a formal education or textual knowledge that constructed his knowledge. He developed and deepened this understanding during a decade of engagement slowly, drop by drop, like the water conservation techniques by smiriti (memory), shruti (revelation) and kriti (creation). This could be among the reasons of why the state government’s public and water works departments or even the progressive civil society social action groups have ignored such a sophisticated work of their own society. Moreover he has conceptualised these water management and conservation models in terms of a cosmic inter-connection between physical nature, human action and socio-ethical fabric of the local communities. His writing establishes that water security or insecurity developing from a water-literate society “is a product of nature plus culture, not just a given of nature” (Mishra 2001: 1).
The homogenised urban milieu, that I came from, may not provide adequate foreground or space to seek an understanding of such communitarian practices rooted in local knowledge systems. This makes it imperative to consciously provide space in school and college curriculum for such indigenous knowledge practices without which it may not be possible to sustain water regimes for long.
Persuaded to Speak
I invited him to speak with student teachers of the elementary education department of my college some years ago. He was reluctant to come as he wanted to be known through his writing and work alone and it was difficult to correspond with him since he had no email or mobile telephone. A colleague resided in his neighbourhood. It was a handwritten invitation in Hindi delivered by her schoolgoing daughter that persuaded him to come. The topic was “Gandhi, Environment and Emancipation.” In his unassuming, understated manner he spoke of the fact that the term environment was not to be found in any of Gandhiji’s writing. Beyond that it was an uplifting experience to listen to his moving critique of modernity.
An article on his passing away pointed out how inadequately his work has been known even within the conventional development and environmental discourse (Guha 2016). The article also revealed to me that at some time Delhi’s water system had worked successfully based on retention of rainwater through an intricate network of tanks and canals. A reconstruction of these around my premises could offer emancipatory possibilities for my domestic water infrastructure.
References
Guha, Ramachandra (2016): “The Quiet Fighter,” Indian Express, 21 December.
Lea YiShan (2013): “Travel as a Ritual Toward Transformative Consciousness: Juxtaposing Che Guevara’s Biography and Teacher Candidates’ Narratives,” Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Vol 11, No 3, November, pp 306–25.
Mishra, Anupam (2001): The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan, New Delhi: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.

Sustaining Water Regimes

The Work of Anupam Mishra
Jyoti Raina (jyotiraina2009@gmail.com) teaches at the Gargi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi.
Anupam Mishra’s work on how the indigenous water systems of Rajasthan have sustained a water regime not only made it possible for a robust civilisation to thrive in the desert but along with his writings on sustainable use of water, also inspired a college lecturer to find solutions to her domestic water problem.
Nearly a decade ago I came to live at the teachers’ quarters in the salubrious premises of Gargi College located adjacent to the historic Siri Fort Wall in South Delhi. It took me very little time to discover that the residential complex had a water system which worked arbitrarily or did not work so far as I was concerned. My quarter was the last in the water supply chain and hardly received any water, the resource most critical to our daily lives. A long-time resident there who was familiar with the eccentricities of the system explained that this scarcity occurred since water needs to find its own pressure. All the preceding tanks need to be full in order for the water to gush forward into the pipelines. My tank being the last, received its supply only after those preceding it got filled. The previous residents of the quarter corroborated this information.
Struggling to find ingenuous solutions to my domestic water problem, I got interested in water infrastructures and started paying careful attention to possible local water management and conservation systems I could adopt in my individual capacity. Guided by this new interest I was introduced to the seminal work of activist Anupam Mishra on how Rajasthan manages its water in spite of receiving it so parsimoniously. His books on the indigenous water cultures of Rajasthan—The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan and Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab —provided me with ideas that brought to my mind what YiShan Lea wrote about “alternative political referents potentially free our attachment to the status quo” (2013: 307). These referents provoked an interrogation of the dominant water paradigm that I grew up believing in during my upbringing and education as a city dweller.
The Delhi resident presumptively thinks of water as being a product of an efficacious modernity which pipes this precious resource into our homes through the state-managed system. I was simultaneously struck by the revelation that historically North India had a water culture and a water-literate society which harnessed premodern traditional knowledge systems to nourish the local communities in towns and hinterland, century after century through “a mythopoiesis between men, earth, heat and water” (Mishra 2001: 11).
Preserving Drops
In Rajasthan, a robust and extant water regime is based on a tradition of water collection. It consists of a network of ponds, wells and tanks ranging from small kund, kundi, tanka (pond, small ponds, reservoir), narrow wells, vast step wells, family tanks and big reservoirs. This network continues to be an integral part of the local knowledge tradition. The principle underlying this highly efficacious system is simply to hold, stock and “preserve for tomorrow the drops that have fallen today” (Mishra 2001: 53), in a very clean place. With an average rainfall of just 60 cm which is half the national average, the region is a vibrant living desert with villages, fields, towns and no water scarcity.
The knowledge of this water culture and the larger water systems of Rajasthan is not available in our “modern” education, Western science or conventional schooling. Mishra learnt and wrote about it by drawing upon the memory of the local peasants, pastoralists and other “ordinary” folk he met during his travels. It is not a formal education or textual knowledge that constructed his knowledge. He developed and deepened this understanding during a decade of engagement slowly, drop by drop, like the water conservation techniques by smiriti (memory), shruti (revelation) and kriti (creation). This could be among the reasons of why the state government’s public and water works departments or even the progressive civil society social action groups have ignored such a sophisticated work of their own society. Moreover he has conceptualised these water management and conservation models in terms of a cosmic inter-connection between physical nature, human action and socio-ethical fabric of the local communities. His writing establishes that water security or insecurity developing from a water-literate society “is a product of nature plus culture, not just a given of nature” (Mishra 2001: 1).
The homogenised urban milieu, that I came from, may not provide adequate foreground or space to seek an understanding of such communitarian practices rooted in local knowledge systems. This makes it imperative to consciously provide space in school and college curriculum for such indigenous knowledge practices without which it may not be possible to sustain water regimes for long.
Persuaded to Speak
I invited him to speak with student teachers of the elementary education department of my college some years ago. He was reluctant to come as he wanted to be known through his writing and work alone and it was difficult to correspond with him since he had no email or mobile telephone. A colleague resided in his neighbourhood. It was a handwritten invitation in Hindi delivered by her schoolgoing daughter that persuaded him to come. The topic was “Gandhi, Environment and Emancipation.” In his unassuming, understated manner he spoke of the fact that the term environment was not to be found in any of Gandhiji’s writing. Beyond that it was an uplifting experience to listen to his moving critique of modernity.
An article on his passing away pointed out how inadequately his work has been known even within the conventional development and environmental discourse (Guha 2016). The article also revealed to me that at some time Delhi’s water system had worked successfully based on retention of rainwater through an intricate network of tanks and canals. A reconstruction of these around my premises could offer emancipatory possibilities for my domestic water infrastructure.
References
Guha, Ramachandra (2016): “The Quiet Fighter,” Indian Express, 21 December.
Lea YiShan (2013): “Travel as a Ritual Toward Transformative Consciousness: Juxtaposing Che Guevara’s Biography and Teacher Candidates’ Narratives,” Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Vol 11, No 3, November, pp 306–25.
Mishra, Anupam (2001): The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan, New Delhi: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
- See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/4/commentary/sustaining-water-regimes.html#sthash.dSg7Gpom.dpuf

Sustaining Water Regimes

The Work of Anupam Mishra
Jyoti Raina (jyotiraina2009@gmail.com) teaches at the Gargi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi.
Anupam Mishra’s work on how the indigenous water systems of Rajasthan have sustained a water regime not only made it possible for a robust civilisation to thrive in the desert but along with his writings on sustainable use of water, also inspired a college lecturer to find solutions to her domestic water problem.
Nearly a decade ago I came to live at the teachers’ quarters in the salubrious premises of Gargi College located adjacent to the historic Siri Fort Wall in South Delhi. It took me very little time to discover that the residential complex had a water system which worked arbitrarily or did not work so far as I was concerned. My quarter was the last in the water supply chain and hardly received any water, the resource most critical to our daily lives. A long-time resident there who was familiar with the eccentricities of the system explained that this scarcity occurred since water needs to find its own pressure. All the preceding tanks need to be full in order for the water to gush forward into the pipelines. My tank being the last, received its supply only after those preceding it got filled. The previous residents of the quarter corroborated this information.
Struggling to find ingenuous solutions to my domestic water problem, I got interested in water infrastructures and started paying careful attention to possible local water management and conservation systems I could adopt in my individual capacity. Guided by this new interest I was introduced to the seminal work of activist Anupam Mishra on how Rajasthan manages its water in spite of receiving it so parsimoniously. His books on the indigenous water cultures of Rajasthan—The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan and Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab —provided me with ideas that brought to my mind what YiShan Lea wrote about “alternative political referents potentially free our attachment to the status quo” (2013: 307). These referents provoked an interrogation of the dominant water paradigm that I grew up believing in during my upbringing and education as a city dweller.
The Delhi resident presumptively thinks of water as being a product of an efficacious modernity which pipes this precious resource into our homes through the state-managed system. I was simultaneously struck by the revelation that historically North India had a water culture and a water-literate society which harnessed premodern traditional knowledge systems to nourish the local communities in towns and hinterland, century after century through “a mythopoiesis between men, earth, heat and water” (Mishra 2001: 11).
Preserving Drops
In Rajasthan, a robust and extant water regime is based on a tradition of water collection. It consists of a network of ponds, wells and tanks ranging from small kund, kundi, tanka (pond, small ponds, reservoir), narrow wells, vast step wells, family tanks and big reservoirs. This network continues to be an integral part of the local knowledge tradition. The principle underlying this highly efficacious system is simply to hold, stock and “preserve for tomorrow the drops that have fallen today” (Mishra 2001: 53), in a very clean place. With an average rainfall of just 60 cm which is half the national average, the region is a vibrant living desert with villages, fields, towns and no water scarcity.
The knowledge of this water culture and the larger water systems of Rajasthan is not available in our “modern” education, Western science or conventional schooling. Mishra learnt and wrote about it by drawing upon the memory of the local peasants, pastoralists and other “ordinary” folk he met during his travels. It is not a formal education or textual knowledge that constructed his knowledge. He developed and deepened this understanding during a decade of engagement slowly, drop by drop, like the water conservation techniques by smiriti (memory), shruti (revelation) and kriti (creation). This could be among the reasons of why the state government’s public and water works departments or even the progressive civil society social action groups have ignored such a sophisticated work of their own society. Moreover he has conceptualised these water management and conservation models in terms of a cosmic inter-connection between physical nature, human action and socio-ethical fabric of the local communities. His writing establishes that water security or insecurity developing from a water-literate society “is a product of nature plus culture, not just a given of nature” (Mishra 2001: 1).
The homogenised urban milieu, that I came from, may not provide adequate foreground or space to seek an understanding of such communitarian practices rooted in local knowledge systems. This makes it imperative to consciously provide space in school and college curriculum for such indigenous knowledge practices without which it may not be possible to sustain water regimes for long.
Persuaded to Speak
I invited him to speak with student teachers of the elementary education department of my college some years ago. He was reluctant to come as he wanted to be known through his writing and work alone and it was difficult to correspond with him since he had no email or mobile telephone. A colleague resided in his neighbourhood. It was a handwritten invitation in Hindi delivered by her schoolgoing daughter that persuaded him to come. The topic was “Gandhi, Environment and Emancipation.” In his unassuming, understated manner he spoke of the fact that the term environment was not to be found in any of Gandhiji’s writing. Beyond that it was an uplifting experience to listen to his moving critique of modernity.
An article on his passing away pointed out how inadequately his work has been known even within the conventional development and environmental discourse (Guha 2016). The article also revealed to me that at some time Delhi’s water system had worked successfully based on retention of rainwater through an intricate network of tanks and canals. A reconstruction of these around my premises could offer emancipatory possibilities for my domestic water infrastructure.
References
Guha, Ramachandra (2016): “The Quiet Fighter,” Indian Express, 21 December.
Lea YiShan (2013): “Travel as a Ritual Toward Transformative Consciousness: Juxtaposing Che Guevara’s Biography and Teacher Candidates’ Narratives,” Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Vol 11, No 3, November, pp 306–25.
Mishra, Anupam (2001): The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan, New Delhi: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
- See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/4/commentary/sustaining-water-regimes.html#sthash.dSg7Gpom.dpuf

Sustaining Water Regimes

The Work of Anupam Mishra
Jyoti Raina (jyotiraina2009@gmail.com) teaches at the Gargi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi.
Anupam Mishra’s work on how the indigenous water systems of Rajasthan have sustained a water regime not only made it possible for a robust civilisation to thrive in the desert but along with his writings on sustainable use of water, also inspired a college lecturer to find solutions to her domestic water problem.
Nearly a decade ago I came to live at the teachers’ quarters in the salubrious premises of Gargi College located adjacent to the historic Siri Fort Wall in South Delhi. It took me very little time to discover that the residential complex had a water system which worked arbitrarily or did not work so far as I was concerned. My quarter was the last in the water supply chain and hardly received any water, the resource most critical to our daily lives. A long-time resident there who was familiar with the eccentricities of the system explained that this scarcity occurred since water needs to find its own pressure. All the preceding tanks need to be full in order for the water to gush forward into the pipelines. My tank being the last, received its supply only after those preceding it got filled. The previous residents of the quarter corroborated this information.
Struggling to find ingenuous solutions to my domestic water problem, I got interested in water infrastructures and started paying careful attention to possible local water management and conservation systems I could adopt in my individual capacity. Guided by this new interest I was introduced to the seminal work of activist Anupam Mishra on how Rajasthan manages its water in spite of receiving it so parsimoniously. His books on the indigenous water cultures of Rajasthan—The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan and Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab —provided me with ideas that brought to my mind what YiShan Lea wrote about “alternative political referents potentially free our attachment to the status quo” (2013: 307). These referents provoked an interrogation of the dominant water paradigm that I grew up believing in during my upbringing and education as a city dweller.
The Delhi resident presumptively thinks of water as being a product of an efficacious modernity which pipes this precious resource into our homes through the state-managed system. I was simultaneously struck by the revelation that historically North India had a water culture and a water-literate society which harnessed premodern traditional knowledge systems to nourish the local communities in towns and hinterland, century after century through “a mythopoiesis between men, earth, heat and water” (Mishra 2001: 11).
Preserving Drops
In Rajasthan, a robust and extant water regime is based on a tradition of water collection. It consists of a network of ponds, wells and tanks ranging from small kund, kundi, tanka (pond, small ponds, reservoir), narrow wells, vast step wells, family tanks and big reservoirs. This network continues to be an integral part of the local knowledge tradition. The principle underlying this highly efficacious system is simply to hold, stock and “preserve for tomorrow the drops that have fallen today” (Mishra 2001: 53), in a very clean place. With an average rainfall of just 60 cm which is half the national average, the region is a vibrant living desert with villages, fields, towns and no water scarcity.
The knowledge of this water culture and the larger water systems of Rajasthan is not available in our “modern” education, Western science or conventional schooling. Mishra learnt and wrote about it by drawing upon the memory of the local peasants, pastoralists and other “ordinary” folk he met during his travels. It is not a formal education or textual knowledge that constructed his knowledge. He developed and deepened this understanding during a decade of engagement slowly, drop by drop, like the water conservation techniques by smiriti (memory), shruti (revelation) and kriti (creation). This could be among the reasons of why the state government’s public and water works departments or even the progressive civil society social action groups have ignored such a sophisticated work of their own society. Moreover he has conceptualised these water management and conservation models in terms of a cosmic inter-connection between physical nature, human action and socio-ethical fabric of the local communities. His writing establishes that water security or insecurity developing from a water-literate society “is a product of nature plus culture, not just a given of nature” (Mishra 2001: 1).
The homogenised urban milieu, that I came from, may not provide adequate foreground or space to seek an understanding of such communitarian practices rooted in local knowledge systems. This makes it imperative to consciously provide space in school and college curriculum for such indigenous knowledge practices without which it may not be possible to sustain water regimes for long.
Persuaded to Speak
I invited him to speak with student teachers of the elementary education department of my college some years ago. He was reluctant to come as he wanted to be known through his writing and work alone and it was difficult to correspond with him since he had no email or mobile telephone. A colleague resided in his neighbourhood. It was a handwritten invitation in Hindi delivered by her schoolgoing daughter that persuaded him to come. The topic was “Gandhi, Environment and Emancipation.” In his unassuming, understated manner he spoke of the fact that the term environment was not to be found in any of Gandhiji’s writing. Beyond that it was an uplifting experience to listen to his moving critique of modernity.
An article on his passing away pointed out how inadequately his work has been known even within the conventional development and environmental discourse (Guha 2016). The article also revealed to me that at some time Delhi’s water system had worked successfully based on retention of rainwater through an intricate network of tanks and canals. A reconstruction of these around my premises could offer emancipatory possibilities for my domestic water infrastructure.
References
Guha, Ramachandra (2016): “The Quiet Fighter,” Indian Express, 21 December.
Lea YiShan (2013): “Travel as a Ritual Toward Transformative Consciousness: Juxtaposing Che Guevara’s Biography and Teacher Candidates’ Narratives,” Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Vol 11, No 3, November, pp 306–25.
Mishra, Anupam (2001): The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan, New Delhi: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
- See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/4/commentary/sustaining-water-regimes.html#sthash.dSg7Gpom.dpuf

Sustaining Water Regimes

The Work of Anupam Mishra
Jyoti Raina (jyotiraina2009@gmail.com) teaches at the Gargi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi.
Anupam Mishra’s work on how the indigenous water systems of Rajasthan have sustained a water regime not only made it possible for a robust civilisation to thrive in the desert but along with his writings on sustainable use of water, also inspired a college lecturer to find solutions to her domestic water problem.
Nearly a decade ago I came to live at the teachers’ quarters in the salubrious premises of Gargi College located adjacent to the historic Siri Fort Wall in South Delhi. It took me very little time to discover that the residential complex had a water system which worked arbitrarily or did not work so far as I was concerned. My quarter was the last in the water supply chain and hardly received any water, the resource most critical to our daily lives. A long-time resident there who was familiar with the eccentricities of the system explained that this scarcity occurred since water needs to find its own pressure. All the preceding tanks need to be full in order for the water to gush forward into the pipelines. My tank being the last, received its supply only after those preceding it got filled. The previous residents of the quarter corroborated this information.
Struggling to find ingenuous solutions to my domestic water problem, I got interested in water infrastructures and started paying careful attention to possible local water management and conservation systems I could adopt in my individual capacity. Guided by this new interest I was introduced to the seminal work of activist Anupam Mishra on how Rajasthan manages its water in spite of receiving it so parsimoniously. His books on the indigenous water cultures of Rajasthan—The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan and Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab —provided me with ideas that brought to my mind what YiShan Lea wrote about “alternative political referents potentially free our attachment to the status quo” (2013: 307). These referents provoked an interrogation of the dominant water paradigm that I grew up believing in during my upbringing and education as a city dweller.
The Delhi resident presumptively thinks of water as being a product of an efficacious modernity which pipes this precious resource into our homes through the state-managed system. I was simultaneously struck by the revelation that historically North India had a water culture and a water-literate society which harnessed premodern traditional knowledge systems to nourish the local communities in towns and hinterland, century after century through “a mythopoiesis between men, earth, heat and water” (Mishra 2001: 11).
Preserving Drops
In Rajasthan, a robust and extant water regime is based on a tradition of water collection. It consists of a network of ponds, wells and tanks ranging from small kund, kundi, tanka (pond, small ponds, reservoir), narrow wells, vast step wells, family tanks and big reservoirs. This network continues to be an integral part of the local knowledge tradition. The principle underlying this highly efficacious system is simply to hold, stock and “preserve for tomorrow the drops that have fallen today” (Mishra 2001: 53), in a very clean place. With an average rainfall of just 60 cm which is half the national average, the region is a vibrant living desert with villages, fields, towns and no water scarcity.
The knowledge of this water culture and the larger water systems of Rajasthan is not available in our “modern” education, Western science or conventional schooling. Mishra learnt and wrote about it by drawing upon the memory of the local peasants, pastoralists and other “ordinary” folk he met during his travels. It is not a formal education or textual knowledge that constructed his knowledge. He developed and deepened this understanding during a decade of engagement slowly, drop by drop, like the water conservation techniques by smiriti (memory), shruti (revelation) and kriti (creation). This could be among the reasons of why the state government’s public and water works departments or even the progressive civil society social action groups have ignored such a sophisticated work of their own society. Moreover he has conceptualised these water management and conservation models in terms of a cosmic inter-connection between physical nature, human action and socio-ethical fabric of the local communities. His writing establishes that water security or insecurity developing from a water-literate society “is a product of nature plus culture, not just a given of nature” (Mishra 2001: 1).
The homogenised urban milieu, that I came from, may not provide adequate foreground or space to seek an understanding of such communitarian practices rooted in local knowledge systems. This makes it imperative to consciously provide space in school and college curriculum for such indigenous knowledge practices without which it may not be possible to sustain water regimes for long.
Persuaded to Speak
I invited him to speak with student teachers of the elementary education department of my college some years ago. He was reluctant to come as he wanted to be known through his writing and work alone and it was difficult to correspond with him since he had no email or mobile telephone. A colleague resided in his neighbourhood. It was a handwritten invitation in Hindi delivered by her schoolgoing daughter that persuaded him to come. The topic was “Gandhi, Environment and Emancipation.” In his unassuming, understated manner he spoke of the fact that the term environment was not to be found in any of Gandhiji’s writing. Beyond that it was an uplifting experience to listen to his moving critique of modernity.
An article on his passing away pointed out how inadequately his work has been known even within the conventional development and environmental discourse (Guha 2016). The article also revealed to me that at some time Delhi’s water system had worked successfully based on retention of rainwater through an intricate network of tanks and canals. A reconstruction of these around my premises could offer emancipatory possibilities for my domestic water infrastructure.
References
Guha, Ramachandra (2016): “The Quiet Fighter,” Indian Express, 21 December.
Lea YiShan (2013): “Travel as a Ritual Toward Transformative Consciousness: Juxtaposing Che Guevara’s Biography and Teacher Candidates’ Narratives,” Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Vol 11, No 3, November, pp 306–25.
Mishra, Anupam (2001): The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan, New Delhi: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
- See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/4/commentary/sustaining-water-regimes.html#sthash.dSg7Gpom.dpuf

LINK: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/4/commentary/sustaining-water-regimes.html#


************

A Clerk Who Saw the Genius in the Ordinary - Anupam Mishra (1947–2016)
Author: Sopan Joshi, Economic and Political Weekly | January 28, 2017

Anupam Mishra’s personal qualities characterised his work. There are others who researched and wrote about traditional water management in India with great depth and commitment. Mishra, however, saw himself as the voice of his people, his society. He did not see with the eyes of academic objectivity or impartial commentary, but with empathy and imagination. He noticed the environmental wisdom in the ways of ordinary people and appreciated the cultural threads and values that carried that wisdom from generation to illiterate generation.


http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/4/commentary/clerk-who-saw-geniusin-ordinary.html


Home » Journal » Vol. 52, Issue No. 4, 28 Jan, 2017 » A Clerk Who Saw the Genius in the Ordinary
A Clerk Who Saw the Genius in the Ordinary
Anupam Mishra (1947–2016)
Sopan Joshi (sopan.joshi@gmail.com) was associated with Anupam Mishra over a long period and is a research fellow at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, which published his book Jal Thal Mal in July 2016.
Anupam Mishra’s personal qualities characterised his work. There are others who researched and wrote about traditional water management in India with great depth and commitment. Mishra, however, saw himself as the voice of his people, his society. He did not see with the eyes of academic objectivity or impartial commentary, but with empathy and imagination. He noticed the environmental wisdom in the ways of ordinary people and appreciated the cultural threads and values that carried that wisdom from generation to illiterate generation.
Since Anupam Mishra’s death on 19 December 2016, after an 11-month battle with cancer, numerous tributes have been published, several condolence meetings held. Most have dwelt on his personality, more than his work. Not without reason, for his work is now quite well known, especially his bestselling Hindi book Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab, first published in 1993. An extraordinary person in several ways, Mishra steadily and actively managed to avoid attention. On the day that Mishra died, journalist Ravish Kumar said on his show on NDTV India that he could now talk about the person, and not just his work, since Mishra was not around to deter him from doing so.
Mishra’s work is inseparable from his life; his personality created his work, his work shaped his persona. He is often described as an environmentalist, although he did not like the term; he was averse to new-fangled language or any kind of emphasis on classical/technical learning. His words of choice came from farms and pastures, railway stations and bus terminals, from dialects and sensibilities not often found in learned circles. He called himself a faithful clerk of ordinary people, of ordinary communities.
In 1969, when he started working, “environment” was not a common term, as also its Hindi translation paryavaran. He was a young postgraduate in Sanskrit from the University of Delhi. He had dropped his plan to work on a doctoral thesis because his professors were not interested in his proposal to make 3D models based on the descriptions in Natya Shastra, the ancient Sanskrit treatise on the performing arts.
From Journalism to Himalayas
He was born and brought up in an atmosphere that prized Indian languages and socially relevant work. His father Bhawani Prasad Mishra, a renowned Hindi poet, had learned Persian and Bengali during his incarceration in 1942–45 for taking part in the Quit India movement. After his release, he settled in the mahila ashram in Wardha, Maharashtra (close to Sevagram where Mohandas K Gandhi lived and worked), along with his wife Sarla and a young family. The family moved first to Hyderabad and Bemetara (now in Chhattisgarh), and in 1958 to Delhi. In the late 1960s, Mishra’s father was editor-in-charge of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG) in Hindi. The 22-year-old Mishra joined the Gandhi Peace Foundation (GPF) in 1969 as an apprentice in the research and publications unit. He spent his entire productive life—47 years—at the GPF, politely turning down several lucrative offers from newspapers and well-funded organisations. He treated people at the GPF like his family, and he did not believe in changing families.
The GPF had been set up in 1963 for research, publication and advocacy on socially relevant issues. Its founders were important figures in government like Rajendra Prasad, Zakir Husain, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Jawaharlal Nehru, among others. Yet they felt the need to create an independent, autonomous body that worked only in the social framework, free from the trappings of government machinery. Mishra wanted to be part of such a body.
He started as an editorial assistant contributing to Gandhian publications like Sarvodaya Press Service and Bhoodan Yagna, honing his skills as a writer, editor and photographer. When the Gandhian leader Jayaprakash Narayan engaged with dacoits in the Chambal Valley to persuade them to surrender, his three-member team on the ground in 1972–74 included Mishra. After the dacoits surrendered, the GPF brought out a book titled Chambal Ki Bandookein Gandhi Ke Charnon Mein. Veteran journalist B G Verghese called it “the fastest journalism in India.”
It was around this time that Mishra’s attention turned from the Chambal ravines to the Himalayas, towards ordinary villagers protesting the commercial logging in the higher reaches of Chamoli district of Uttar Pradesh (now in Uttarakhand). In October 1972, at the Gandhi Samadhi in Delhi, he met Chandi Prasad Bhatt, a sarvodaya activist from Gopeshwar. Mishra took him to meet Raghuvir Sahay, the editor of the influential Hindi magazine Dinman. This resulted in a special issue on this mountainous region, which talked about the struggles of villagers in the face of loggers and the forest department.
From 1973 onwards, Mishra began travelling to some of the villages in the region but not simply in his role as a journalist from Delhi, but to lend a sympathetic ear. Wherever he went, he stayed for a few days to understand the villagers, their hopes and fears. It was much later that Mishra wrote a feature article in Dinman. It was perhaps the first major report by a journalist from outside the hills on what later came to be known as the Chipko movement; it was published along with the famous photograph of Gaura Devi, a protagonist of Chipko.
Along with Satyendra Tripathi, Mishra wrote a book in 1977 on the Chipko movement that was to herald a new environmental consciousness. Historian and writer Shekhar Pathak calls Mishra the first historian of Chipko. But Mishra never saw himself as either a journalist or historian or photographer or an environmentalist. He preferred to be a faithful messenger of the villagers and activists, as their man Friday in Delhi. He readily assisted Bhatt in his work and became an associate and guide to other journalists and researchers writing on Chipko.
During the Emergency, Mishra worked as a freelance reporter and photographer, often alongside other journalists protesting the government’s excesses. The GPF had emerged as the hub of anti-Emergency activities, and Mishra did his bit.
Around this period he began travelling to the Narmada River basin, not far from his father’s ancestral village. Irrigation canals from the Tawa dam had caused waterlogging in the otherwise fertile fields with black cotton soil. When the villagers joined hands against the ill-effects of the dam and its canals, it became the Mitti Bachao Andolan, also the title of a thin book Mishra wrote on the struggle. Again, Mishra was not just the first chronicler and messenger of the villagers but their friend and associate. Later, this movement segued into a wider protest against dams in the valley.
Role as a ‘Bridge’
The early 1980s drew Mishra to Bikaner in western Rajasthan, where social activists were rallying to protect common pastures. He made friends there, brought journalists from Bikaner to Delhi, and took journalists from Delhi to Bikaner. (One of his favourite words was saakav, which in western Maharashtra means a small, seasonal bridge; Mishra saw himself as a saakav.) It was during these travels that the wisdom of the desert folk and their traditional water management came to his notice. Over the past decade, he had observed how ordinary people related to their physical environment. How their practices and lifestyles were shaped by the physical conditions, and how they, in turn, shaped their physical conditions. They had not learnt this through a classical education or modern learning; it was common sense, accumulated over generations, transferred in the oral traditions.
Mishra’s had an affectionate nature which encompassed all kinds of people he met during his work and travels, and he made it a point to stay in touch with them, to foster the relationships, through good and bad times. He wrote numerous postcards by hand and telephoned people regularly, a habit he had acquired from his father, a generous man with a charming manner that made each person who met him feel special. Mishra was no networker; he simply kept expanding the range of his home and his family ever further. His office in the GPF gradually became a source of great recourse to all manner of people, who came there just to meet him. He always found time for each visitor.
Among his regular visitors were a few mentally disturbed people, who had been cast aside by their near and dear ones. One of them, a schizophrenic, did not trust anybody other than Mishra. He appeared regularly at the office, and Mishra used to leave aside all work and step outside to meet him, hear him patiently, help him in some small way, come back to his seat, and remind other visitors that mental health is a lottery; any of us can lose our mental balance at any time. Among his favourite works of fiction was Anton Chekhov’s Ward No 6. Mishra had compassion even for colleagues who mistreated him. Since his death, obituary after endearing obituary has mentioned his remarkable composure and social warmth. On meeting him for the first time, some people suspected his humility was pretence. Those who knew his family recognised its origin: his mother Sarla. Mishra had been raised by a devout mother who offered compassion and reassurance to even total strangers.
Voice of the People
Mishra often talked of how we can get carried away with what we know, and make assumptions about what we do not know. He stressed the need to be forthright about what we do not know, and to acknowledge the limits of our knowledge. After he relaunched the GPF’s Hindi bimonthly magazine Gandhi Marg in 2006, he often published articles that dealt with the humility required to handle knowledge, be it the views of Vinoba Bhave or a modern scientist like Stuart Firestein. The magazine steadily grew under his editorship and acquired a committed readership.
His personal qualities characterised his work. There are others who researched and wrote about traditional water management in India with great depth and commitment. Mishra, however, saw himself as the voice of his people, his society. He did not see with the eyes of academic objectivity or impartial commentary, but with empathy and imagination. His discerning editorial taste meant he allowed his readers plenty of room for doubt, just as he was forthright about the limits of his knowledge. He noticed the environmental wisdom in the ways of ordinary people and appreciated the cultural threads and values that carried that wisdom from generation to illiterate generation.
His writing did not alarm; there were no rallying cries, his tone was always understated. With a quiet dignity, his prose showed how to respect the ordinary and the powerless, as also the folly of judging people and things we do not understand. His criticism was laced with wit, although tempered with friendly warmth. When he was asked to comment on the proposal to interlink rivers, in which political leader Suresh Prabhu was involved, he said in Hindi: “Nadiyan todhna aur jodhna prabhu ka kaam hai, ise Suresh Prabhu na karein” (It is up to prabhu/god to join or separate rivers, Suresh Prabhu best leave it alone).
He produced crisp, vivid text; all his books are slender, because his editing pencil was carved out of Ockham’s razor. No tome, no compendium. He wrote only in Hindi, not out of any ideological obduracy, but because it was the language in which he had grown up, the language in which his friends and subjects were comfortable. His Hindi was steeped in an earthy idiom; his narratorial voice was that of a friend being candid over an evening walk. Yet literary critics fawn over the lucidity, simplicity and attractiveness of his Hindi prose.
Gentle Stewardship
This meant that the environmental good sense he described appealed to ordinary people and urged on their imagination. Sachhidanand Bharati, a schoolteacher in a village of Pauri-Garhwal, Uttarakhand, found in Mishra’s book a description of traditional structures that captured runoff in the mountains, preventing erosion and improving soil moisture. These were called khal and chal. As a young man, Bharati had taken part in the Chipko movement, but he could find no examples of these structures in his region, even if his own village’s name—Ufrainkhal—indicated the traditional waterbodies. Mishra had kept in touch with him over the years, so he asked the writer how to revive these structures. Mishra did not hand him a recipe for a solution, for he was averse to the prescriptive mode; instead, he urged Bharati to talk to old, experienced people in his region. And to experiment with the ideas on his own.
Gradually, along with ordinary village women—the menfolk from these parts usually migrate to the plains in search of employment—Bharati and his associates built scores of such traditional structures. Today, the health of hundreds of hectares of forests in the region owes to the revival of these structures by ordinary village women. They have an abundance of fodder for their livestock, irrigation for crops, and the moist forests are less vulnerable to forest fires. Bharati credits Mishra for this, acknowledging the latter’s gentle, wise stewardship.
Likewise, in the parched regions of western Rajasthan, a peculiar kind of well was built traditionally in areas that had a belt of gypsum running underneath. This narrow well, called kui, taps rainwater trapped in the sand. The droplets percolate slowly towards the well, but the impermeable layer of gypsum keeps them from sinking into the saline groundwater. This marvel of engineering had become a thing of the past, and was described by some as a dead tradition, since nobody was making new kuis.
After reading in Mishra’s book a description of how the kui was built, an organisation called Sambhaav has built about 200 new kuis. While these are based on the same concept as before, they have been built with a new material—reinforced cement concrete. In Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, ordinary farmers in some regions have revived their waterbodies after reading about it in Mishra’s book, Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab. He often stressed that ordinary people have an intrinsic technical knowhow, without which they could not have survived. Just that this knowhow exists in a cultural idiom. If you develop a taste for that idiom, you can access that knowhow.
Apart from how it is written, the influence of this book has a lot to do with the fact that Mishra did not employ copyright. Several people published their own editions of the book, either for free distribution or for sale. It has been translated into several Indian languages by enthusiastic readers, who felt compelled to move forward the message of folk wisdom. It has been translated into Braille, French and English, and an Arabic translation is in the works. The book has been serialised by several publications and radio stations.
Whenever Mishra was asked about his decision to forgo copyright, he agreed willingly: if you want the fruit of good effort to be dispensed far and wide, you have to let other people own them; you have to let go of personal claims and credit. Like Mishra’s research, his writing also followed the open source principle. He believed he was drawing from the collective, so he needed to put something back into the commons.
How did he manage to finance his efforts, then? For one, he kept down costs. Most of his work was accomplished on a shoestring budget. His commitment and manner encouraged generosity in other people, so there was always enough to get the job done. In his personal life, Mishra lived frugally, just like he had been brought up. He often said that the most important lesson he learnt was from his father’s friend Banwarilal Choudhary, an influential figure and an agriculture scientist who had led the Mitti Bachao Andolan in the early 1970s. He had told a young Mishra that good work does not depend on a wealth of resources and that an abundance of resources becomes a preoccupation and a distraction from the overall objective. Mishra took this lesson to heart and made it the cornerstone of all his efforts over almost five decades.
On his chair in the GPF is an anti-dam sticker from the 1980s. “Power Without Purpose,” it says. It is a reminder that Anupam Mishra believed only in the power of purpose and in the genius of the ordinary.


LINK: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/4/commentary/clerk-who-saw-geniusin-ordinary.html#

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wildlife Sanctuaries in News