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Eight Billion! So What ?

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I need my morning cup before I can function properly. Since I was alone at home I walked over to Lachhu’s tea-shop for the morning cuppa. The sun was already up and the day had begun as it does in any Indian village. I sat down on the bench, nodded my head towards Lacchu and started scrolling down the messages that had come from the early risers. I had not taken more than a couple of sips, and my sleepy ganglia had just about risen from their torpor when Kannu came up the hill obviously agitated. ‘There you are daksaab. Did you see this news today?’ He said waving his phone at me. ‘Kya hua?’ I asked. ‘Did you know the world population crossed 8 billion yesterday. What will happen now? And the news says that India’s population will become bigger than that of China in one year’s time. We are going to the dogs. No one seems to be doing any thing in Delhi!’ Since it was morning there was some activity at the cluster of four shops that goes as the market of our village. Some people were e

Season of Mellow Fruitfulness and Mists

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We are now at the tail end of the fruit season here in Buribana. Our house is in an orchard. To the east are long rows of young apple trees. These trees started bearing fruit this year and we kept a close watch and saw the dozen or so apples on each tree slowly grow and change colour over the weeks. Below our house is the more mature orchard of our neighbour Ram Singhji. In this orchard there are apples, and peaches and plums and apricots and a few Kaphal trees as well. The season started with the bright orange juicy apricots, locally known as khomani, in late May. Early in the season we were shown around the orchard by Basantididi. The trees were laden with fruits. The apricots were either gola or chapta. There were a few trees of the smaller local variety, which is tarter, called the chuaru. This year the plums somehow were not so abundant, but the peaches were in plenty. Most peaches had furry skins, but some were smooth. Basantididi also showed us red peaches which looked more li

वर्तमान कठिन घडी में जनसंख्या से जुडी चुनौतियों पर पुनरावलोकन

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इस वर्ष विश्व जनसंख्या दिवस का विषय मज़बूत  और स्थाई विकल्पों के बारे में है । 11 जुलाई 1987 को , दुनिया की आबादी 5 बिलियन  (अरब) से अधिक होने का अनुमान लगाया गया था और उस समय  यह दुनिया भर में चिंता का कारण बन गया था , जिससे  यूएनडीपी और फिर संयुक्त राष्ट्र महासभा ने 11 जुलाई को विश्व जनसंख्या दिवस के रूप में घोषित किया। भारत में आगे चल कर  संख्याओं का खेल एक बेहद महत्वपूर्ण मुद्दा बन गया  जो देश को पीछे या रसातल में ले जाने के कारक के रूप में देखा जाने लगा । जनसंख्या घड़ी देश भर में कई स्थानों पर आम जनता को याद दिलाने का औजार  बन गई। 11 मई 2000 को , दिल्ली के सफदरजंग अस्पताल में पैदा हुई आस्था अरोड़ा को भारत में अरबवें बच्चे के रूप में मनाया गया था , और हाल ही में मैंने लखनऊ विश्वविद्यालय परिसर में एक जनसंख्या घड़ी देखी थी जिसमें घोषणा की गई थी कि हमारी वर्तमान आबादी 1.4 अरब से  से अधिक है । भारत में बहुत से लोग , विशेष रूप से हमारे राजनेता , ' अधिक जनसंख्या’ का मुद्दा उठाते  रहते हैं , लेकिन यह समीक्षा करने का समय  हो सकता है की किस तरह से पिछले  35 वर्षों में चीजें बदली  हैं । इ

Revisiting the Population Conundrum in the era of Resilience

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This year the theme of the World Population Day is about resilient futures and choices. On the 11 th of July 1987, the population of the world was estimated to have exceeded 5 billion and this became so much a cause for concern the world over, that first the UNDP and then the UN General Assembly declared the 11 th of July as the World Population Day. In India subsequently the numbers game became an immensely important issue and tied to many doomsday prophesies. The Population Clock became a common sight and reminder in several places across the country. On 11 th May 2000, Astha Arora born in Safdarjang Hospital in Delhi was celebrated as the billionth baby in India, and recently I saw a Population Clock in the Lucknow University campus proclaiming that our current population was over 1.4 billion. Many people in India, particularly our politicians, continue to obsess about ‘over population’, but it may be timely to review how things have changed in the 35 years since the day was

Life Lessons from COVID

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We are probably seeing the back of the 3 rd wave of the Covid pandemic in India. Here in Kolkata where I am a winter migrant, there are now many relaxations. All public places and spaces are now open to 75% capacity, the evening curfew starts at 11pm instead of 10pm, even though the city does not really have a nightlife. Schools have reopened after a very long hiatus. City parks, which had been completely shut for most of the last month or so are now open for some hours. I am certainly feeling much better now that I have resumed my daily walks in the Dhakuria lakes. There is a sense of optimism all around. Our worst nightmares seem to be behind us. After two years of unprecedented chaos we are now looking forward towards a brighter future. I have been wondering whether there are any lessons we should take with us. I know it may still be premature, but what the heck, we can keep adding and editing this list as our insights grow. Lesson 1 – Death and disease remain closer than we would

Fly Away

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After more than 30 years I spent 17th September or Biswakarma Puja in Kolkata. Ever since I came to Kolkata as a nine-year old this day has been a red-letter day for me. I had fallen in love with kites in Delhi but as a kid most of my efforts at that age nose-dived into the ground. In Kolkata I had first tried to fly kites from the balcony of our flat on the third floor. My mother worried that I would tip over gave me permission to go to the roof above the fourth floor, and it was like being in a child’s heaven. Getting the kite to soar up with the lightest lift or ‘dharai’ from my brother was easy. I learnt how to balance the two wings by adding a small twist paper to one or bending the bow stretched across so that the kite wouldn’t tilt and loop. The other important skill that I quickly picked up was to repair kites with paper and rice, since we were still novices and would damage many kites.  We had come to Kolkata in June, if I remember correctly and September came swiftly. I vivid

Monsoon Magic

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After twenty long years we spent the monsoon in the hills. In the last twenty years we have visited the Himalayas either to escape from the burning heat of the plains or to enjoy the view of the magnificent snow peaks. We had usually avoided the period between mid-June to early October and I remember one time when we managed to leave just before the flash floods and landslides hit the region. This time we were finally able to reach our home in Uttarakhand, after the lockdown after the second wave was relaxed, and it was already June. Technically monsoon was still some days away, but it started raining from the day we arrived. The area had been starved of rain for nine months, but the villagers felt this was untimely rain. The potato crop was nearly ready for harvest, and a few more days of sun would have been perfect for the potato to mature. It rained incessantly for about the week and fearing that the potato would start rotting in the fields the villagers started digging it up. Unfor