paperback activists considered really, really harmful

September 2, 2013


This is a rant about the seemingly unbridgeable  dichotomy between ‘doers‘ and ‘talkers.’

... It is amidst a lot of difficulties created by 'Talkers' that, our Civilizations have progressed. But the talkers have to be allowed to talk - though they cannot (and cannot be allowed to) do  any real work, they have to be carried along... Balancing these deadweights, is difficult, to say the least - but there IS progress because of the relentless 'Doers!'     Photo courtesy: Abid Miyan Lal Mian 'A.L.' Syed (Risky balance, Sanali, Gujarat)

… It is amidst a lot of difficulties created by the ‘Talkers’ that, our Civilizations have progressed. But, in the name of Democracy, these talkers have to be allowed to talk – though they cannot (and cannot be allowed to) do any real work, they have to be carried along… Balancing these deadweights, is difficult, to say the least – but there IS progress because of the relentless efforts of the mighty  ‘Doers!’ Photo courtesy: Abid Miyan Lal Mian ‘A.L.’ Syed (Risky balance, Sanali, Gujarat)

Lately, I am becoming sick of having to patiently listen to the talkers who seem to have all the great ideas and appropriate solutions to address and solve ALL problems of the world;  they wail in high decibel shrill  tones that nobody is acknowledging their contributions and initiatives… This makes me sad. :-(

And, there are other kinds of people who keep complaining, COMPLAINING, COMPlainING, compLAINing ad nauseam… Driven to desperation, I have been forced to pen this, not that I am complaining ;-)  but… I hope, this write up may help you folks to recognize these talkers (and complainers) and take appropriate remedial steps;  this will make you  real  sad! ;-(

Erm, by the way, as you may have realized by now, my humble solution to this earth shaking problem of doer-talker dichotomy, is to offer a third set of people called ‘ranters;’  but then, my rant against  ranters and ranting in general, will have to wait for some more time… Relax! ;-)


Most of these characters are indeed real (for a given value of reality)  and are also reflective of _my_ attitudes at various points of time — and spring from incidents that actually happened – wherein I have played the role of either the protagonist or an antagonist. I would actually say that any resemblance to anyone – of the character trait sketches – is NOT at all accidental.

It would be intentional,  yeah?

In fact, I have asked (or at least tried) the kind of questions that I have raised in this rant, but then most of these target individuals are so self-centred, self-absorbed and/or so full of self pity that, they just didn’t get it…

For example, when I asked a very climate conscious individual (who was going on and on and on… about environmental degradation, atmospheric pollution, CFC, the way the ozone ‘hole’ is becoming bigger – the works – liberally borrowing from Rachel Carson, Winin Periera et al) – as to whether his car is air conditioned – he said YES! — and added  “Why are you  asking? How on earth can one drive on a hot summer day?” – righteous indignation, am sure…

But then, in my sincere opinion, the complainers NEVER look inwards to see whether, they are themselves contributing to the problems, that they want to fight against, like benighted knights-in-armour!


< <… and of course, as the editor of this write-up, I have usurped the privileges of sitting on moral high ground and pontificating ad naseam, whereas in reality, I have, at least the minimum common denominator of the attributes of the characters described in various scenarios…>>

Scenario #1

Lately, Shreemali has registered a keen interest in the farming of the Excel spreadsheet kind. Apparently, he has read that illustrious tome ‘One straw revolution’ and the other –  ‘Permaculture primer’ by Bill Mollison. Obviously he has instantly  become a repository of all knowledge regarding those dreaded  ‘development’ phrases  – ‘sustainable agriculture,’ ‘biodiversity,’ ‘organic farming’ etc…

He has become a diehard activist of the swivel chair kind – and converts any and every discussion into sustainable vs unsustainable harangues! Mommeeeee!!

Well, I told him one day about a settlement/commune of an ‘alt’  type near Bangalore, and apparently his highhandedness  had paid a visit to that place afterwards. When we met after a few days, he told me with a disdainful face that ‘they are using a TRACTOR to till the land! How can the agriculture there be sustainable?’ – An outburst of righteous indignation from a very concerned, ecologically aware citizen, I am sure.


    1. Where from did this enlightened individual get the idea that sustainable agriculture (hic!) can actually be undertaken from the comfort of an armed (oops, swivel) chair?
    2. How does he assume that the cases of ‘One straw revolution’ are replicable word for word all over the world? Does not this approach negate the very concepts of biodiversity and localization of solutions?
    3. Does he know that the gurus of the likes of Masanabu Fukoka are very much available here? What about that venerable and unassuming Cherkadi Ramachandra Rao, who in my opinion offers better   localized solutions… Of course, unfortunately, he has not published any book nor has chronicled anything…
    4. If Bill and Masanabu were Indians, would Shreemali even bother to read up on them?
    5. How can a person who has not even actually dug a pit of one cubic foot,  assume that he has solutions to offer to the agronomic scene?
    6. Did he bother to (at least) check on what the intentions and objectives of the commune were? May be their agenda was not to make the land use sustainable as much as making their mental strengths and thought patterns sustainable…

(of course, it transpired later that, ‘actually’ he had mistaken  a neighboring farm to that of alt commune that he had visited! So much for Shreemali’s powers of keen ‘observation!’)

Scenario #2

These days, there is a lot of press for RWH (for the uninitiated and non-un-in-disenfranchised folks out there, it is – rain water harvesting, the techniques that have been practiced for thousands of years all over the world, wherever it had/has been possible) and our Amul Panigrahi has been reading a lot about it (Well, um, he actually read a textbook); being a socially aware person that he is, he tries to describe in detail how RWH can indeed save the world, create jobs, make the blind see, deaf hear etc – whenever he can corner a person; my eyes become moist when I hear Amul’s missionary  zeal… He keeps saying that, in India, we waste a lot of water… and that, we do not have any tradition (or ‘culture’) of harvesting water… all these thingies about reduce-reuse-recycle-renew  have to be taught to us by them westerners… Oh the sadness.

I am also really sad, we need to do something about this… India definitely needs these kinds of dedicated youngsters, I tell myself. But then…


    1. Oh well, by ‘harvesting’ does he mean, sowing water seeds, taking care of the water plantlings and then when they mature, harvesting water droplets off the ripe plants or what? Why in the bloody hell, can’t he use the word SAVING? Isn’t this the correct and appropriate word – for the simple capture and storage of rain water?
    2. Well, what kind of water harvesting has Mr. Panigrahi been doing at his home, leave alone elsewhere?
    3. He lives in the city of Bangalore(South India), whose water requirements are mainly pumped out from the river Cauvery or one of its contributaries – Arkavathy… Has Amul tried to reduce his dependance on the Cauvery water?
    4. How can one justify the pumping of each liter of water from Cauvery, some 150 KMs off – to Bangalore? Is he aware that, this creates a lot of problems (electrical power requirement, distribution and what not…) and after having promptly been used to wash-up the butts at his end (what pun!) once again creates the problem of disposal of sewerage?
    5. If you get an opportunity to see Amuljee shaving – which pretty much is the only  brisk physical activity that he does, you would be glad to know that he wastes water like nobody’s business, just like the ‘environmentally conscious’ rest of us.  – he gladly keeps the water faucet open, during all  the 15 minutes of his shaving time. Every other evening, he has a leisurely ‘hot -tub’ bath – and then drains the whole ‘dirty’ and soapy water off the tub –  measuring  only  some 300 odd litres. My eyes become glassy, when I hear the sacrifices made by him because he says that, he uses the tub only on alternate days!
    6. How can RWH be seen in isolation as a messianic cure, where as there are lots of other factors that need to be taken into consideration too?
    7. Hasn’t Mr.Panigrahi heard of the ‘surangams’ of Kerala, Rajastani ‘beris’ and ‘kundis’ and Ladakhi ‘zings’ ?
    8. Is he even aware of the average annual rainfall in Bangalore – and whether it is measured in kilometers or light-years or kilotonnes?

Essentially if there is a ‘technology’ or a buzzword from overseas, then it has to be swallowed hook, line and sinker – is it not? And if that could be abbreviated or better still – acronymized , the better it is… I get the idea – it is important to facetiously  utter development   jargon, to be interpreted as a ‘socially aware’ person.

(statutory warning: you have just scrolled down to this part. don’t cheat. anyway. other three parts of this rant will follow soon. so don’t swoon. Not yet.)

JournalEntry#  14th April, 2004

One Response to “paperback activists considered really, really harmful”

  1. aram3526 Says:

    Wow. It looks like you have found your true calling (in rants!)

    By the way, the use of the word harvest in the phrase, Rain Water Harvesting is appropriate.

    One of the uses of the word as per Merriam-Webster,

    “the quantity of a natural product gathered in a single season ”

    Oxford dictionary:

    “collect or obtain (a resource) for future use:the research teams are leading the way in identifying new ways of harvesting the sun’s energy”

    You suggest using the phrase – Rain Water …SAVING? Taking a leaf out of your shtick, may I ask, “Saving from what/whom? Saving from being wasted?”

    Do you have anything substantive to offer – instead of meaningless name dropping ?

    Let us get a real discussion going. Why not provide specifics about:

    What are the strengths and weaknesses of Rain Water Harvesting?

    What other specific issues need to be considered for that to be effective in countries such as India?

    What are the unique innovations of Shri. Cherkadi Ramachandra Rao? Why are they ‘better’ in your opinion.

    Let us see some beef. The sizzle is getting tiresome.

    Aren’t you taking yourself a bit too seriously in this self-appointed task of ‘busting’ other people’s vanities?

மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

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