“So-and-so kaku sent you some mangoes from her family farm in Kaij,” my mum announced, handing over a handful to me. I beamed in delight. I looked down lovingly at the three or four golden orbs cradled in my arms. These were not mass-produced, anonymous items scanned in a supermarket. No, they were specially selected for me, the farmer’s touch infusing the natural red blush with warmth. Needless to say, they tasted supernaturally sweet and divine, like ambrosia.
Kaij is a tiny town of about 30,000 people, located in Marathwada. It’s surrounded by farms that stretch as far as the eye can see. Once, this was a lush setting, with roped swings hanging from old trees, fields filled with budding crops, and contented buffaloes chewing cud lazily after a hard morning’s work.
Now, there is a terrible drought going on in Marathwada this year, and fruits like the ones brought for me are starting to seem unusual. Farmers are suffering, girls and women are spending their time in search of water. The terrain feels too bright, brown and brittle. Anxiety pervades the air. It’s distressing.
This has provoked a scary thought in me. How long will I be able to continue savouring the delicacies from my native place? Is this experience to be one of my last, as next year maybe there will be no harvest because there was even less water? Is this, a given ritual of Indian summers, no longer to be assumed?
The Guardian, taking the cue from the UN, announced it is changing the way it reports on environmental phenomena, escalating “climate change” to “climate crisis” and “global warming” to “global heating”. It’s more accurate. Maybe it will spur urgency.
I have a personal stake from my corner of the world. I would like to see Marathwada thrive, for farmers to continue tilling the earth, and for local produce to nourish me and future generations. This experience of connectedness to the local should not become a thing of yesterday. It is what gives us a rootedness to our identity. What will you and I be without it?