Manifesto Books

‘Oxygen Manifesto: A Battle for the Environment’ by Atulya Misra: Green thoughts in a green shade

This is a work of fiction which is also an exhaustive analysis of environmental issues. It centres on two characters — Thatha, an elderly person leading a virtually ascetic life in a village on the India-Myanmar border in Manipur; and Ravi Chandran Bose, a civil servant-turned-environmental activist. The latter acts as the author’s mouthpiece, voicing his views on the environment.

Through Ravi, Misra expresses his anguish at the concept of development at the cost of the environment. Ravi says that he is not enamoured of the concept of “sustainable development,” which, for him, amounts to bringing in “environmental degradation by the backdoor.” He believes that development should be secondary to environment.

But Oxygen Manifesto is not merely about the environment. Misra, a seasoned civil servant, speaks incisively on several other issues too.

For instance, through Ravi, he says that Hindi, which can indeed increase one’s outreach in a country of diverse languages, must yet “not be confused as an essential ingredient for nation building.”

His take on the caste system is interesting. He says that in the southern States, a “healthy competition” among the castes “[reduced] the pain” of the caste system but caste per se survived. Oxygen Manifesto also tells us much about the society and culture of Manipur, a State that usually doesn’t get much attention.

The novel’s conclusion is startling. A group of idealistic and independent people, owing allegiance to just the Oxygen Manifesto and not to any political party, get elected to the Lok Sabha. Perhaps such a situation will never come to pass in reality, but one can always hope.

Oxygen Manifesto is a book that can inspire the younger generation to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to tackling environmental change and degradation.

Oxygen Manifesto: A Battle for the Environment; Atulya Misra, Rupa Publications, ₹495

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 12:31:12 AM |

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