Monday, August 03, 2015

Government Nouns


A muddy bund breaks two small pieces of backyard land in two, leached in soapy pesticidal discard, boiling its way down with water gushing out the nearby pump-set. Sad weevil families shriek and fall and drown, on their backs, legs in the air, poison awash. On the left, the happy Norman Borlaug paddies, tossed with indigenous genes stick up straight, whooshing handsomely with the little breeze. The right, a sorry excuse, sags with the weight of every surviving grain, stippled with weevil worms, inbred, dying, and organic. She bends over a small plot, sinking her feet into the muddy soil that gobbles them up hungrily. Expertly, she swings a sickle underhand, flinging the plant into an old sari made into a pouch around her neck. Her mother works the healthy plot, leveling every square inch. By noon, the harvest is complete, the two plots equaled by sickles, shorn, stumpy, stubbly.

Harvest days were always a struggle between choosing the rewards of a healthy meal, versus reserving grains for buyers. She decides to cook two pots today – one with a handful of the sweet, long-grained hybrid rice for her daughter, and they take turns in picking the insects out of the government rice on the sifting pan, tossing it expertly up and down, to separate the husk. Tomorrow, the insects and ugly rice will travel to a godown in the town, to be sold at a discount to welfare card-holders. The GM rice will feed the wealthy in a stew of GM chicken, fat with bright white eggs, slathered in GM butter from GM cows. The ironies of bipartite rice economy in the East – organic for the poor, and GM for the rich.

As the starchy steam wallops their one room and roof, their mouths water. Missed, and now boiled weevils float in the froth. She strains the rice into a pungent mix of watery buttermilk, asafoetida, green chili peppers, and mustard, and saves the water. Lunch is served. 

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