By Humra Quraishi
I’d never met the milk man of the country, Dr Verghese Kurien .And nor am I into drinking milk .In fact, being a diabetic I try to keep dairy products at bay .Yet, last week as news came in of his demise at the age of ninety, I’d sat reading his autobiography – I Too Had A Dream ( Roli Books ). Why ? Simply because there was tremendous honesty and dedication in what Dr Kurien tried achieving , with the basic goal of trying to reach out to the farmer out there. The very ‘architect of operation flood’ and ‘father of the white revolution’ he went about setting up the biggest dairy development programme in the world .Mind you , he didn’t inherit this milk empire but tried setting it up , raising it from a nowhere of sorts .Perhaps, it was one of those destined turns that landed him in Anand , where a group of farmers were forming a cooperative ( Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited , better known as Amul ) .Rather intrigued by their leader Trbhuvandas Patel’s commitment , Kurien joined had joined them. And since then he’d remained unmoving , from Anand and from the very focus .Reaching out to the farmers.
And in this autobiography, which Dr Kurien has written along with journalist Gouri Salvi , he recounts those details. In fact, right in the prologue he writes this letter , to this grandson Siddharth where he takes off in one of those candid moods , “When did I write to you last ? I have trouble even remembering ! In today’s fast paced world we have become so addicted to instant communication that we prefer to use a telephone . But speaking on the phone only gives us an immediate but fleeting joy. Writing is different .Writing – even if it is a letter – not only conveys our present concerns and views of the events taking place around us but it becomes a possession that cam be treasured and re-read over the years , with great, abiding pleasure …What is contained in the chapters that follow is , of course , more than a letter .You may not wish to read it all right away but , perhaps , a couple of decades or more from now , you will pick up these jottings of mine again and they will give you a deeper understanding of what I have done and the reasons I pursued a life of service to our nation’s farmers .You will then discover in them a valuable reminder of the days just before the world entered the twenty – first century .And you want to share my memories with those of your generation ,or even younger ,to provide them a glimpse of the world your grandparents lived in and knew …”
And with that take off , Dr. Kurien spread out that world where he lived and worked in .Starting a whole new movement ,benefiting thousands for generations to come . To quote him from this book , “ I have often claimed that I have had one good idea in my life : true development .is the development of women and men .This idea took such a hold of me that I remained in this small , sleepy town of Anand for over fifty years as an employee of farmers. I was never able to give this up for what many call ‘a better life’. These years have , without an iota of doubt ,been the most rewarding years of my life .Over the years I have spoken ceaselessly of this idea , hoping to enthuse young women and men to adopt my passion as theirs.”
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION FAST SHRINKING ?
About two years back I’d interacted with several journalists from Myanmar and was somewhat surprised to hear them recount a certain set pattern in their home country – before they would submit a news – report or a feature or a photograph or even a cartoon it had to go through a certain government department .To get that okaying nod and the government’s approval before the publication stage .And this, as they’d told me , was one of those musts and compulsory for all publications , government or non – government.
And last week as one saw those shots of the Mumbai based cartoonist Aseem Trivedi getting arrested with those sedition charges , it relayed a very disturbing offshoot .
After all , a creative head cannot create if there’s an atmosphere of restrictions holding out .Out to sabotage and throttle thoughts and expressions and unleashes . Yes , you can be critical of his or her creativity and unleashing prowess but arresting him or her is serious ,as it concerns the very freedom of expression .