Before him, Rahul Singh, Director of the festival talked about this year’s theme — ‘The Climate of Change: Sill sprightly @ 75?’ and stressed that ecology, women’s empowerment, education of the girl child, and better relations between India and Pakistan were some of the issues close to his father Khushwant Singh’s heart.
Ghosh, with reference to his book acquainted the audience with Banda islands, a cluster of islands not even on many maps. Going back to the 17th century and incorporating concerns like exploitation, and ‘development’, he took the audience on a journey that linked the past to the contemporary.
He said: “On the Banda Islands, eruptions from the volcanoes and the magical mix of materials created forests and it was only here that the nutmeg tree grew, and the nutmeg originated.”
Describing the nutmeg as, “objects of desire”, considering the fact that spices were synonymous with luxury, the author said with nutmeg travelling the world, it assumed great value in Europe. “And very soon, European traders became conquerors, and in a matter of 10 weeks, the indigenous Bandanese communities had ceased to exist. The Dutch invaders took over the cultivation and trade of nutmeg in the Banda islands and ensured that the community was alienated from their own land.”
“The voices of nature, the songs about volcanoes and nutmeg, were not heard. For the colonizers, these were mere resources. They just used humans as slaves and commodities.”
Adding that in India, forest dwellers are under constant attack, with adivasis taken out of their homes, and the mining and tourism industry taking over their land and mountains. “We see the pace with which dams are being built, and this is a replication of colonial practices. In the last three decades, we have seen this mimicry of the colonizers,” reflects Ghosh.
Stressing the Russia-Ukraine war is the greatest disaster in contemporary times, one that has legitimized the fossil fuel industry and taken away focus from climate, he concluded, “It is a global catastrophe. Let us not forget war is the single most environmentally destructive act, we need a departure from mechanist ways of thinking, and focus on restoring the soul.”
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