FRIDAY REVIEW

Speaking science from the Kannada stage

Continued from Page 7

The last few years you are working a lot with schools that are turning around the way we think about education. It is an interesting model caught as we are between the regular system and J. Krishnamurthy alternate method of schooling -- both of which have serious pitfalls. Can you explain this 'new' model of schooling and the future you see for it?

Such novel experiments are being carried out by others. I am just a remote partner. Yes, villages are withering away with all their accumulated knowledge, inherited wisdom, honed skills, folk art and craft. The new effort is to infuse modern soft technology into rural knowledge. While urban students are introduced to rural crafts and vanishing skills with field works in real village environment!

Food first! The idea is to prepare the students to take up farming as a possible profession, to create a tiny army of educated farmers. After all we need someone to supply us healthy food.

Karnataka has rich biodiversity, ecological wealth, and dense forests, wildlife etc which is gradually being squandered away, like it is happening elsewhere. Why do we never see these as “local” issues? Isn't it as important as the language and culture question?

Surely it is! As I said earlier, everything comes these days with advertisement. And all the advertisements are top down. The word ‘local’ is looked down upon either as stale or unfashionable. Our own seebe kai (guava) cannot compete with kiwi fruit, our elneeru (tender coconut) loses the battle against bottled water. Soapnuts and Triphala are slowly regaining grounds thanks to Patanjali but again, they have to be marketed with gleaming package and enticing advertisement. Commodification and corporatisation is the buzz word. The corporate sleuths know better about ashwagandha in the village backyard than the panchayat members who were supposed to keep watch over their own natural wealth.

There is this saying ‘you use it or else you lose it’. Young rural students rushing to English medium schools cannot use their own language to describe the local berries. Biodiversity vanishes when linguistic diversity is lost. Language, culture and biodiversity are all entwined in rural settings. You pluck one and the rest is lost.

Can you speak of your experiences as a rural reporter? Is it a fulfilling or does it set in a feeling of helplessness?

My experience is surely one of exasperation. After 70 years of freedom, the rural India has lost many forms of freedom. They are made to depend on industrial society for everything -- from baskets to animal fodder to roofing material.

Rural citizens’ surrender is complete. Gram Swaraj of Gandhiji has become grim swaraj.