All fathers will find their child’s notions often well expressed, and very interesting. The conversations are overwhelmed by specificity, mindful carelessness and genuine curiosity. These moments will come unannounced, for a brief flash of time. All you know that you are in it. Now. These questions are many and trivial. I would have ignored them because it never made sense to me. Yet, for these little ones it is a matter of great awe. I’m also amazed at the observation skills, and after listening to the questions, I would wonder why didn’t I think of it before or Hmm, this is also possible. The common element across all such questions is honesty of ignorance and determination to know the why.
When Dhriti was 5 years old, in her school, she was taught about professions. Her school, Shree Ram stressed on values and included many from real life. I didn’t know about this till Priya pointed out an observation. It was a honest answer and noble purpose.
Dhriti, what do you want to become when you are older?
I want to become a farmer.
So that I can grow trees and make oxygen.
Dhriti is 8 years this year and has still maintained her ambition of becoming a farmer, though this time she also said that she wants to become a Rockstar at night.
There are only two professions, a man is either a hunter or a farmer. Yuval Noah Hariri’s book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, marks the agricultural revolution, which started in about 10,000 b.c. as one of the milestones in our evolution. Increasing number converted from foraging (hunting and gathering) to farming. Harari writes, “Before this, they (humans) were insignificant animals with no more impact on the environment that gorillas, fireflies, or jellyfish.” Now we had more time to think and plan because now food such as grains could be stored. Therefore, everyday hunting for survival was not required. Humans became more interested in studying all the patterns responsible in detail to become better such as, knowledge about soil, seasons and water, so that output could be similar or better. We became more settled, protecting the land and our produce. However, according to Harari, the agricultural revolution did more damage, “A faustian bargain between humans and grains” in which our species “cast off its intimate symbiosis with nature and sprinted towards greed and alienation”. It was a bad bargain: “the agricultural revolution was history’s biggest fraud”. A bit sensational, but it would do. I could finish Sapiens in 10 days, because it was very entertaining and well expressed.
Not just Dhriti’s answers, but also Yuval Noah Harari, poses fundamental questions about happiness for us as a race. Were we happier being farmers or as hunter gatherers chasing the game and feeling accomplished for the day? Or it is our quest to seek beyond the unknown, such as fathom death. Some of these questions will encourage you to think more about us and our future.
While I pondered over these questions about farmers and existential questions on happiness, few events hinted at harsh truth. A boy approached my car, while I was waiting at the red light. He was carrying books, including Sapiens. The boy was not tall, about 3.5 feet in height. Thin structure, determined to sell, sharp eyes. His prominent jawline defined his face. My book of choice “Elon Musk” was wrapped in plastic and would cost only Rs.350. I negotiated and the deal was struck for Rs. 160. “What if pages are missing?” Priya asked him as he delivered the book. Proudly, the boy took the plastic cover off and said very confidently, “I would replace the book if any pages are missing”.
I probably bought the book, not because of the title, but because of the boy and his accent. I was also intrigued to find a small boy selling books, which I’m sure he couldn’t read. The boy looked very young and from my home state in India, Bihar.
Because of the long queue, I was not able to get through the red light and met the boy again. This time he came to check if we found any pages missing. Instead, he had to face Priya’s questions, ranging from where he came from to whether he studied or not.
The boy was not amused with the questions. He came from a village near Patna, the capital of Bihar and had ran away from home. He didn’t like staying in his village because they were poor. He came to Delhi to earn money. He also said that there were many people who offered him opportunity to study, but he has no inclination. He only wants to earn to make a good living.
No matter how much we debate about the sensation aspect of Sapiens, the reality is different. When I look around Gurgaon, place I used to live, I can see only tall building. Farmers are selling land, because their crop doesn’t earn them enough to sustain. Farms could be found in patches, more likely it would be because of short term interest than for actual reasons.
Trading land for cash isn’t a bad bargain. If it helps you survive.
“Mr. Cooper, we need more farmers today than Doctors or Engineers.” (From Interstellar)