The mantras of the new revolution
I. HEALTH IS WEALTH
“What a lovely saree you are wearing!” said Aakash in a flattering tone to a women who seemed occupied staring at the products on display. “Oh, thank you” she greeted and with a pinch of pride annexed, “It is handcrafted, an exclusive collection...” Aakash smiled courteously, and looking above the woman’s shoulder made a poaching signal towards Aaranya. She trod gently to the women’s better half, and asked “Sir, do you like the products?” The man busy sieving the shelf glanced towards Aaranya and nonchalantly replied, “It must be better than what we generally get outside!” Aaranya twinkled and nodded looking towards Aakash. The bait had worked.
Aakash and Aaranya, standing shoulder to shoulder at one corner of the shop, watched in delight as people poured in on a Sunday morning to 'Nature’s Market' – a makeover where earlier used to be just a supermarket. People came in from all parts of the city in chauffeur driven vehicles, in singly occupied cars and geared bicycles.
The owner of the store standing at the doorstep, exchanged pleasing glances with Aakash and Aaranya to appreciate their efforts. An effort that turned the store to offer a range of products – an ensemble of shampoos to soap and lotions, vegetables to fruits and grains, sugar, seeds and other handpicked essentials. Not that the store never had seen this range, but today it provided an ‘organic’ alternative to the rest.
Across the street, the ‘rest’ who had come out of their houses to buy regular groceries, made suspicious and doubtful stares at the plush products that were on display.
Youths gathered across the street in front of the general store, passed glaring looks and spoke in murmurs about the changing face of the street as one remarked, “This is the fourth such fancy store, to open in the last three months.” Everyone kept a keen eye on the happenings, but none attempted to enter the store. A man standing within this crowd, waved from a distance towards the store; Aakash nodded to confirm.
Aakash started bidding farewell, as Aaranya accumulated the accolades from everyone. After all, this was their first great success of revamping. The guests (and even the owner, standing in one corner) in the meantime were seen flapping their hands to get some air, as the outside could not keep up with the temperatures conditioned in this glass façade store that faced westwards. As Aakash walked down the steps, which now left traces of the market’s brochures, Aaranya looked back at the store and smirked. She saw one more product that was as ‘fresh’ and ‘priced’ as the others – the people.
II. GREEN IS VACCINE
The man standing across the street held his hand over his forehead to cut the glare that reflected of the new shop. With murmuring laughter and daily bartering exchanges that occupied the background, he finally managed to catch the attention of Aakash who was seen networking inside the shop. Aakash and Aaranya approached him and boarded the car, as a young child stood across and shouted, “Balloons, Balloons – Organic balloons?”. Aaranya winked at the child and rolled up the glass. As the man seated in front said, “The boss is worried about the business, so he wanted to meet urgently.” Aakash acknowledged hesitantly.
“Look, I really want to implement your ideas. You are the experts but there are operational issues”, stated the boss seated in a sofa quivering his feet impatiently. “The business has taken a hit, with new products all of sudden coming into sales. Earlier there were just businessmen, now even gurujis have a market”, grinned the boss. Aakash and Aaranya, patiently heard the digression, as the man stood firmly behind the boss. “To turn an existing business, into an organic one takes time. The process is labour intensive, its yield is lesser than standard practice. The entire infrastructure must be re-laid.” “How do the others do it?”, sighed the boss and immediately added, “Is there another way to boost the business?”
Aakash seated beside Aaranya, did not exchange looks and both stared right at the boss. For a part of them, agreed as what the boss had just exhaled.
As silence loomed, a young girl smiled at Aaranya, and she responded back with a gesture. At the same time Aakash, spoke up and said assuredly,“Well, in that case, let us focus on marketing!” The boss listened motionlessly prompting Aakash to continue.
“We will just print on the product ‘Natural’ and ‘Fresh’. So, the only additional cost you will incur now will be packaging” said Aakash emphatically.
“How will that help?”, the boss inquired.
“Well, it will - in building consumer trust” Aakash stated this based on his experience.
“Will that work?”, the boss asked excitedly. To which Aakash, promptly replied, “Well, that is how it is working” resulting in a loud giggle from the boss, that echoed the room. The man behind now eased his stance, Aakash sighed silently and Aaranya winked again. This time towards Aakash and headed to the terrace. Aakash stood up to leave as the boss chortling said, “Here, some green notes for your green ideas”, as he handed him a briefcase and added, “More than an expert, you are a businessman!”. Aakash stood speechless as an awkward smile painted his face.
III. ORGANIC IS TONIC
With earphones plugged in and a well-suited fitness attire, the girl jogged back and halted only in front of the dining table. The table was neatly arranged with a glass of Kale shake; a bowl with counted variety of dry fruits and a bottle of water that read ‘with extra oxygen.’ The girl then turned her wrist, checked out her ‘counts’ and the calories burnt. Then she held her phone upward, posed and ensured that the eatables frame the background, as she carefully sipped the juice and clicked.
She then headed up to the terrace where a detailed garden was laid out. Cute pots growing heirloom tomatoes, colorful trays of chilies and ornate horizontal beds with assorted leafy vegetables distributed deliciously across it. She stooped below removed the dust, positioned herself and clicked an image of each adeptly. Spotting a few ‘chewed’, leaves she hurled, “Are you not taking appropriate care? Look what is happening!” The gardener to whom it was directed stood in dismay. He appeared to be preparing an answer, when the girl interrupted and read out a step wise instruction from ‘Homegrown garden remedies’ – swiping through her phone. The gardener this time stood unfazed.
Suddenly a heartwarming announcement, “Hello, little garden queen, what are you upto?” broke the ‘heat’ brewing in the terrace. The voice was of Aaranya calling out to the girl through her social media username. “Just what I do best”, said the girl and hugged Aaranya. For the girl, Aaranya was both a philosopher and friend. Aaranya, was the one who made this girl, the social sensation that she is now. Over a thousand virtual followers and more importantly a wide acceptance among her own status of friends.
It was Aaranya who had suggested that other than growing flowering plants, the girl ought to grow vegetables. As that seed was planted in time, other growth took place.
“So, is everyone still feeding you, your own factory-made rice?” chuckled Aaranya. “No, I have completely given up my household habits of eating rice and even fish! My new culture is vegan! And I am starting millets”, the girl emphasized. “Have you not seen my post?” enquired the girl as she unlocked her phone to show Aaranya. Only to be suddenly distracted by the ‘homegrown remedies’ web page which made hurl again at the gardener, “There better not be birds, insects and other pests eating my vegetables. Do something!” Aaranya chuckled again, pecked the girl on the forehead and said, “Sometime later.” And left. Within the voices, the gardener smirked.
IV. FARMING IS CHARMING
“Is Aaranya back?”, asked Aakash as the old man opened the door. He nodded and said, “There was a call for you. Aaranya said she was on another call. So, I have just noted the number.” Aakash quickly grabbed the piece of paper, dialed the number and said, “Hello, you had called. I am sorry my father is not well versed with English. He has been a farmer all his life...” and disappeared behind the door. The old man turned back saw his reflection on a family photo frame.
The old man stood, and then turned back another forty years to a time when he was the same age as Aakash, witnessing the changing face of farming. He recollected the modern methods that seeped through fields – tractors, irrigation pipes, high yield seeds and chemicals – industrialising traditional methods. He only witnessed, for what else could he have done. Land was his only source of income, the only means to repay loans was harvest. The more the produce, the more the money. And for produce, one could not be only dependent on climate. Not many hands to help but all relied on shoulders like theirs to feed the country. Especially the ones who migrated to cities. Normally he tried to farm without any industrial assistance – but that time science had overpowered the uneducated practices.
The old man’s memories suddenly got disrupted, when he heard Aakash’s voice on the phone, “We provide solutions for organic farming and natural products. We are in the process of opening an eco-friendly seed bank, and planning to export across geographies. It is currently a start up with my sister, but we are still employed to make sure there is consistent cash flow.”
The old man trudged towards Aakash and sat beside him as he now rested on the sofa finishing his call. He pulled out a few articles from his pocket and placed it on the table. The father picked up a card that read:‘Go Green. Aakash P – Urban Farming Solution Consultant.’
“I tell you papa the future of the world lies in farming. That is where the money is today.” The old man was tempted to question but controlled as Aaranya walked in. As they discussed the success of the Sunday, with beaming voice, the television channel played out a song. “Hum pe yeh kisne haraa rang dalaa? Khushi ne humari maar daala...” (Who has put this green color on me? My happiness is killing me). Unable to control now, the old man broke into laughter. Aakash and Aaranya halted their conversation abruptly, and rested their heads on the sofa.
Illustrations by Shivika Jain (posthumously published for the story.)
Content and authorship - PULP Crew