In February 2018, my brain went haywire! I wasn't able to think clearly. Even melodious music sounded like cacophony. I was unable to do simple tasks at home, step out on the road or process oncoming traffic information, have conversations in groups, process auditory inputs from the phone or any electronic devices. Many many days, I touched madness, shut myself up in a dark room and wept. I was completely home-bound for months.
Having no clue what it was about, I tried many things like chanting, meditation, singing, anti-depressants, time in nature, homeopathy and so on. Nothing really worked. Or may be all of them together worked over time! By October that year, my mind started clearing up and I became normal and resumed life. I attributed all kinds of fancy and divine interventions to this episode and left it at that.
In February 2019, there was a relapse of the exact same condition. This time, though there was familiarity from the previous year, it was just as bad. I went in for sound-based healing called Tomatis along with plenty of rest. This time, I took to cooking at home, which helped me quite a bit. (My healing with the kitchen is another story by itself, for another time). Around October, things started clearing up once again and gradually, I became more functional and resumed life, attributing the healing to Tomatis.
In February 2020, there was a relapse of the exact same condition for the third year in a row. I stopped to see what else happened around this time. This can't be just coincidence! Is it some planetary re-alignment, seasonal change or what? And discovered the cause: extensive pesticide spraying in cashew farms all around Auroville. For those who are not familiar with Auroville, it is not a contiguous piece of land. There are lands that are not part of Auroville right in its heart and all around. And these lands are 90% pesticide-sprayed cashew farms. The spraying starts in February every year and goes on until May-June.
Recently, I joined a whatsapp group called 'cashew spray alert' where members were posting all kinds of symptoms from headache, nausea, fatigue and dizziness. These chemicals seem to especially affect women, who were perfectly fine until they moved into Auroville and later developed chronic conditions like thryoid issues. After I posted my story on the group, many others started sharing similar conditions. If this is the issue with residents living around, I can't even imagine what must be happening to those who do the spraying and spend time in these farms.
About twenty years ago, during my India travels I saw the crisis facing our agriculture. I also saw thriving biodiverse farms which did not use any chemicals. I was shocked out of my wits! How did humanity buy into the stupidity of accepting 'poisoning itself' to be Science? I was both furious and amused. I choicelessly jumped headlong into safe-food, farmer-sovereignty activism for many years. After sometime, I felt ready to move on to other things in life. This seems to be a call to me to step in and see how we can transform the situation. Compassionately. Though conversation and collective effort. It is no longer the story of a family in far-away Khasargode. It's come to my doorstep.
If we think this is an issue concerning agriculture, we're fooling ourselves. This is not even just an environmental issue. This is an issue about our system of education which brainwashes us all into thinking stupidity is cool, especially if it can increase GDP. And if you see this film Our Cashew Story made by a fellow Aurovilian as part of 'The Healthy Cashew Network' of Auroville, farmers do this in spite of knowing that they are being poisoned because it helps them pay their children's school fees. Why do their children need to go to school? To be brainwashed that their culture is backward, that chemicals are here to help humanity, and in order to be good students they should submit to the propaganda machinery and come out with no sense of their own. If they resist being stupefied, they will be punished and labeled as 'failures'. On the one hand we promote schooling, and on the other hand, we activists give our lives wanting to change the world.
If we continue to ask the question "How to convince our farmers to stop spraying?" we are not going anywhere. If we can instead ask "How do we transform our soul-stripping schools into living spaces of learning?" we still have some hope!
Related viewing: Schooling the World; the white man's last burden