Forgotten precursor of ‘green wave’

Ranbir Singh

Forgotten precursor of ‘green wave’ 0 SHARES FacebookTwitterEmailPrint Also in this section Closing the gap in ‘Mini India’ Dr MS SWAMINATHAN, the then adviser to the union minister of agriculture, is rightly hailed as the father of the Green Revolution in India (he had pioneered the breakthrough in Indian agriculture on the advice of Nobel laureate Norman Borlaugh by importing the wheat seed from International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in 1961). Swaminathan had pioneered the adoption of a new agriculture technology comprising the cultivation of high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice and the use of fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides. But the ground for their adoption was prepared by Dr Ram Dhan Singh Hooda who belonged to a peasant family of Kiloi village in Rohtak district (then part of Punjab).

Dr Hooda had received primary education at District Board Primary School, Kiloi, and at Government High School, Rohtak. He received intermediate education at DAV College, Lahore, and obtained Diploma in Licentiate in Agriculture from Punjab Agricultural College, Lyallpur (now in Pakistan); BSc degree from Patna University, and MA degree in natural sciences from Cambridge University.

Working at Punjab Agricultural College, he developed famous wheat varieties that were cultivated by progressive farmers of pre-Partition Punjab. This prepared the ground for the adoption of the high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice in the 1960s, ushering in the Green Revolution in Punjab and Haryana, which contributed a great deal in making India a foodgrain-surplus country from one that was deficit and famine prone.

According to a well-known agriculture economics expert, Prof SS Johl, the main contribution of Dr Hooda has been the popularisation of the cultivation of farm wheat (‘farm ki gandam’), the seed of which used to be supplied by various government agriculture farms in then Punjab.

Dr Hooda had worked at Lyallpur with Sir Albert Howard, who was a pioneer in plant breeding and was keen to improve the conditions of the poor peasantry of Punjab. He worked on Howard’s unfinished agenda while working as a plant breeder.

In recognition of his contributions in this field, Dr Hooda was made principal of the college, and was conferred with the title of Rao Bahadur by the Government of Punjab.

Interestingly, Norman Borlaugh visited Sonepat in 1963 to pay personal tributes to Dr Hooda for his contribution in developing new varieties of wheat and their popularisation in Punjab. However, this precursor of Green Revolution was completely ignored by those who remained at the helm of affairs in the post-Independence period.

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The sound of words and music

Satish K Sharma

IT is not too often that a word lover comes across a term which she can take fancy to instantly. But when it happens, the experience is sublime. You hear the word, roll it upon your tongue, savour its music, and park it at a convenient recess of the mind for easy retrieval, so that you can use it again and again.

My earliest such experience was with ‘khulja simsim’. I was 8 or 9 years old and reading the story of Alibaba and Forty Thieves in Hindi. When I came upon the phrase, I found it so fascinating that I kept repeating it till it became an earworm. The expression comprising of two words of two rhythmic syllables each — da-da da-da — seemed to open the locks of my mind in two quick turns.

Two years later, one day in science class, I heard the word ‘eureka’. I loved it as much for itself as for the situation of its invocation. Imagine a buoyed up Archimedes wearing nothing but a beard, running down a street of Athens shouting ‘Eureka! Eureka!’

The Greek expression is made of three neat syllables — ‘eu’, ‘re’, and ‘ka’, like ‘Do-re-mi’! Could any other word express the joy of a sudden discovery more musically? I took such liking to this word that when I first heard the RD Burman song, ‘Monica… O my darling’, I wondered why the lyricist did not use ‘eureka’ instead of Monica, which could have conveyed the exultation on finding one’s beloved way better.

It brings me to a word which has become my favourite recently — recuse. I didn’t know such a word existed until it came to appear frequently in the media. Let’s not discuss the context but recuse, which seems like the innocent child of father ‘Refuse’ and mother ‘Excuse’, has positive traits of both, and baggage of neither.

While ‘refuse’ is offensive and ‘excuse’ submissive, ‘recuse’ is neither. You can question a refusal, but no one can raise a finger against recusal. Similarly, whereas ‘excuse’ is loaded with guilt, ‘recuse’ sits on one’s conscience with the lightness of a feather. Indeed, there is a touch of genius about this simple word. The creator of the word has stitched together three consonants, with equal number of vowels with such ease that the word that comes to mind is, convenience!

So next time you find yourself in a sticky situation, like being forced to take a stand in an argument between your spouse and son, don’t refuse, or excuse yourself. Just utter three magical words, ‘I recuse myself’, and walk away with a straight face.

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IMA through the rear-view mirror

Col DS Cheema (retd)

Since the past few months, I have been travelling to Mussoorie on the invitation of Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of National Administration to share my management teaching experience. I undertake the almost six-hour journey for two reasons: I get an opportunity to interact with well-informed officers from all over the length and breadth of the country, and the route from Paonta Sahib to Dehradun passes in front of the Indian Military Academy (IMA). There is a traffic light right in front of the IMA gates, and the cab driver has to invariably wait there for 90 seconds. After the four-plus hours of harrowing drive, this is the most rejuvenating stop to lift my drooping spirits. It takes me through the many good, bad and ugly physical and emotional experiences of the nerve-wracking training. I look at the majestic building with child-like inquisitiveness, as if looking at the magnificent site for the first time, till my stiff neck forces me to look away, but I return to the captivating scene immediately.

I can visualise Major Bhavani Singh, the then Academy Adjutant, standing ramrod straight, grace befitting his blue blood. He was a terror for us GCs (Gentlemen Cadets). The other face etched in my memory is that of the drill instructor, Capt (Hony) Gian Singh, VC (Victoria Cross). He would often taunt us for poor parade skills that could never meet his high standards. The tall, muscular sahib would thunder, ‘GC, bread mila, anda mila, butter mila… toh fir kadam kyon nahin mila’, and pull a couple of us out of the squad, as if removing a fly out of milk.

I get goose bumps with the thoughts of numerous occasions when I had to circle around the drill square, holding a bayonet rifle above the head. On the passing-out day, ordinary GCs like me who did not get ‘blue’ in any sport, and were nowhere near the coveted ‘Sword of Honour’, or even the lesser, the best ‘Officer-like Qualities’ award, were happy that finally it was all over. I smile imagining the lucky GC tucking the sword into his belt. I also recollect the scene during the final stage of training when Arms/Services were to be allotted. Captain Sapra, an EME officer, was a member of the interviewing team. Though my choice was infantry, he did his best to get EME allotted to me, since I had been a student of IIT-Kanpur.

As the cab races up the winding road, I recall the Sundays, when we could go out in mufti, as the best time I spent at the IMA. Going to Mussoorie, roaming around leisurely was the dream of every GC. Once, four of us planned a trip to Mussoorie to have beer. We were sitting in a restaurant when one of us spotted our Company Commander (Major) with his wife. We heaved a sigh of relief when he suddenly changed his route. But our happiness was short-lived. The next day we were punished with extra drills.

My return journey is always more peaceful and relaxing. I say bye-bye to the great institution, till we come across each other again on my next trip.

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It happened in times of telegram

Pankaj Deo

Millennials may have used or heard of telegram messenger, an app that can instantaneously send heavily encrypted messages that are capable of self-destructing, but they perhaps know little or nothing of its 19th century namesake, telegram — the telegraphic service offered by the Department of Posts in India till July 2013. Written in all caps and delivered by a groggy postman on a bicycle, the telegram was once the fastest means of communication, which lost its relevance as smartphones enabled people, not only to send and receive messages/pictures/emails instantly, but also to make video calls.

In that pre-Internet era of snail mails, all caps didn’t imply yelling; it indicated urgency. Sending a telegram was costly, as it charged a huge amount of money per letter. So, people used fewer words, which the person at the telegraph office typed frenetically with staccato sounds, which were transmitted to the destination telegraph office immediately. Naturally even the messages, mostly sad, sounded staccato and unceremonious, e.g., ‘COME SOON. FATHER SERIOUS.’ Sometimes, it also brought messages that brought cheer to people.

Many a time such a system of communication led to a situation bordering on a comedy of errors. In the late 1980s during our university days, a friend from Kanpur, Prakash Joshi, told his parents that his friend would be arriving in a few days and staying with them. Since Prakash had to suddenly go out of town for a week, he asked his parents to receive his friend who would inform about his train and date of arrival by telegram.

A couple of days after Prakash left Kanpur, a telegram arrived at his home. As his father opened it, his eyes widened with a little more attentiveness. It read: ‘ARRIVING BY 2303 UP ON 18 NOV. ARUNA.’ The father, curious to know whether it was his son’s girlfriend arriving unannounced, called the mother. ‘Did Prakash tell you anything more about who is coming than he told me?’ ‘No, he talked about it only once when we both were present,’ replied the mother. Prakash’s father said smilingly, ‘Now get ready to receive Aruna. She is coming tomorrow.’ The parents decided to go together to receive this mystery visitor.

The train arrived and passengers started deboarding, but the parents had no way of recognising their Aruna. They kept looking at every young female passenger who even remotely resembled the Aruna of their imagination. A little later, they noticed a person, standing somewhat bewildered and carrying a suitcase. The father thought of helping the newcomer with directions to his destination. When he approached the man, he said he was waiting for his friend Prakash. The father asked him his name. And the mystery was solved. His name was Arun Anand, which he had shortened in the telegram! Somehow, the dot between Arun and ‘a’ went missing.

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Old names… feel like old times

Rajiv Sharma

What’s in a name? A lot if you are in India. The name of a man, locality, village or a city speaks volumes about the character and characteristics of the person or the place if one happens to be in a country as diverse and unique as India. Queer names of people, weird names of localities and bizarre names of villages and towns have many an interesting story behind their nomenclature, which often provide an insight into an amusing or intriguing slice of history.

As a physician, while examining a patient, the first thing I am supposed to do is write the name and age of the person before going ahead with the diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes names of patients are so unusual that I can’t help but urge them to share the story behind their names. Names like Dukhi Ram, German Singh, Collector Kumar, Deputy Dass, Phantom Yadav, Punjab Singh, Skylab Kumar and Vancouver Shukla evoke immense curiosity. Moreover, a lighthearted conversation with patients goes a long way in making them at ease.

During my childhood, our ancestral house was in a locality known as Sharif Pura in Amritsar. Every time I got into mischief in class, my teacher would pull me, saying, ‘Have a look! He is the badmaash of Sharif Pura!’ We lived in Sharif Pura, went to buy essentials in Husain Pura and loitered around in Zalaal Pura. These names were given to our localities before Partition by Muslim inhabitants. Many a leader of successive governments tried to change the names of our mohallas, but to no avail. Residents have chosen to faithfully stick to names that bear a stamp of the bygone era.

Though Amritsar was established 442 years ago by the fourth Sikh Guru Ram Das, the nomenclature of the city hasn’t changed. It still has Telian Wali Gali (oil pressers’ street), Mochian Wali Gali (cobblers’ street), Gali Acharzan (those who perform cremation rituals), and so on. Similarly, there are numerous katras, bazars and chowks that have retained their names. The administration tried to change the names of a few places and roads named after Muslims or the British on different occasions, but every move came a cropper. We still have Queens Road, Albert Road, Taylor Road, Cooper Road and Lawrence Road in all their glory.

A few months ago, I was again caught in the quagmire of the curious names of the bygone era. I practice in an area known as Islamabad, which was inhabited chiefly by Muslims before the Partition. I ordered a medical book from an international publisher to be delivered at my clinic. Though I had paid the full amount, I did not receive the book even after a month of placing the order. Later, I received a call from a representative of the publishing house, ‘Sorry, sir, we won’t be able to deliver the book. We don’t have operations in Pakistan.’

Flummoxed, I tried to explain that this Islamabad belonged to India. ‘Since when?’ he asked with despair discernible in his voice, before hanging up abruptly.

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Little by little, space has vanished

Sudhansu Mohanty

My first memory of any earthly object that stirred my toddler’s soul is space, afforded by the football field abutting our home on Cuttack’s medical college campus. It was big, a feast for a child’s eye. It granted me the distance to see the sun rise and set in the distant horizon, day after day. It was uncanny, it looked magical, it felt eerie.

This sense of space has stayed in my heart and mind — space unlimited! Every new place we moved about from time to time, ‘space’ didn’t desert me. While in small places it was sumptuous, in cities and megalopolises, it shrunk to nothingness. In Delhi during the 1980s and 1990s, the supply scene was entirely nepotistic. The Supreme Court had to intervene to tidy things up, packing the immoral ministers off their turf. My space sense took a tumble. I got inured to spatial dimensions of living, telling myself — Delhi’s a leveller, it levels your mind.

We shacked in a hostel built for visitors on short trips — 1BHK flats, bedroom no bigger than 12×10 ft, an outsized kitchen challenging the bedroom in spatial spread. With no space available for our sole steel almirah in the bedroom, it sat squat — as hypotenuse in the sitting-cum-dining hall. The divan morphed into bed and was placed alongside the double-bed to accommodate our 9-year-old son while our daughter slept with us. The bed, slim and petite, grumbled to take in all three. We improvised, sleeping the other way — portrait to landscape! Short on width, I slept feet planted on the none-too-far wall, performing a sleeping asana! This lasted over five years.

The children were growing up, demanding their personal sanctuaries — something alien to me when I grew up where family spaces were free-for-all; for everyone to share and partake. But for the bonsaied families, personal spaces were non-negotiable!

Onto this came the cyber-trope of mobile telephony and digital living that impishly, even heroically, ambushed (in)sane obsessive, possessive order — opening ‘sesame’ to the world outside. Slow on the uptake in the 20th century, the shrinking violet burst open in the noughties of the present century to eviscerate the personal-physical spatial dimensions in cyberspace. The mindspace has shrunk, taking its toll on life. Unbeknownst we are under watch and surveillance! The bots robotically draw up our preferences while cookies leave behind our cyber-trail, fiddled with in our devices in personal privacy — serving surefire lookout notices! Personal fiefdoms have evanesced in the nothingness of space.

Have no regrets. Space is no more spatial or of the mind — it’s off-mind. We are trapped in the immanent world of being, where whatever goes around comes around. Strangely, perversely, sinisterly, life’s devices have brought us back from the astral to Mother Nature. But we aren’t nature’s noble savage(s) living on Mother Earth!

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The seventh river of peace

Rajan Kapoor

India and Pakistan can sink their differences and live in eternal peace. But the precondition is that the seventh river of love and friendship starts flowing between the two nations. What else would be a better occasion than the opening up of the Kartarpur corridor for making the seventh river flow?’ a speaker stated hopefully at a college seminar hosted on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

I pondered over the seventh river. Curiosity engulfed me. I approached the speaker and asked him which was the seventh river he had referred to. Was there even a sixth river?

He suggested that I read Fikr Taunsvi’s The Sixth River to find the answer. I read the book, which was an indictment of those who made innocent people go through the traumatic experience of the Partition. Taunsvi narrated a tale of his three-month long miseries on account of his stay in Pakistan — how friends turned foes; how the silvery waters of the Ravi turned into poison in a trice, described vividly as the ‘sixth river’. Punjab that was once the land of five rivers was devoured by the newborn sixth river of hatred and violence. How his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter was killed by his friend and neighbour, simply because she belonged to another religion. How religious fanaticism blunted the power of reasoning. The most touching part of the incident was when the accused realised his mistake, and went to Taunsvi with his three-year-old son, asking him to smash his boy’s head against the wall to square the account.

Another small but arresting incident that shakes the conscience of readers is when Taunsvi’s friend, who was a progressive writer, gets consumed by religious hatred and in a fit of fanaticism calls Taunsvi a Hindu and an enemy of the Muslims. This was the worst jolt for Taunsvi, as his friends were never divided into binaries before the Partition. They were now cut into two camps — Hindus and Muslims. The sixth river flooded the centuries-old friendship and contaminated the bonds of love, camaraderie and peace that once existed between two communities.

Now, Baba Nanak has provided us an opportunity to wash the contaminated waters of the river with the seventh river of love and peace. The opening of the Kartarpur corridor can act as the seventh river; its pure waters washing away the hatred that has kept the two nations into its venomous grip for over seventy years. Let us hope and pray to Baba Nanak that the corridor acts as a harbinger of peace and usher in a new era of love and affection between the two nations.

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