Fried fish and flying cheels: It’s not a fantasy

Fantasies are fantasies. But, Credible Fantasies aren’t fantasies. These move around and act within a reality.

The characters in the Credible Fantasies by T Vijayendra are real, from reBal life. Its perspective and settings are real, a reality. The pushes and pulls pictured in the Credible Fantasies (Ecologise Hyderabad, 2023, [email protected]) are of existing reality.

credible fantasiesThe 79-page book’s “central idea […] is to imagine a future for [the] young […] with ‘Green Jobs’ […] that helps in restoring ecology and creating equity among humans.” T Vijayendra, Viju, to his friends irrespective of age, admits: “It”, the green jobs that helps restore ecology and create equity among humans, “is a very difficult proposition under the present circumstances”.

Therefore, Viju refers the incidents he has depicted in the book as “fantasies”. He tells the inescapable fact: “Present circumstances”.

The circumstance is full with dominance by markets – its forces, motive power, and modus operandi. There’s the politics of markets. This politics takes form of politics with investment, politics with research and development, politics with taxation and tax holidays, politics with employment, politics with the commons, politics with defacing and destruction of environment and ecology, politics with life, lives of innumerable. The mainstream mostly avoids these issues, as these are connected to class power, and to be specific, power of the exploiting classes that dominate the entire setting with billions of people, and exploit labor and nature.

Thus, in Viju’s “fantasies”, characters like Yajat, Rohit, Malini, Sadiq, Soujanya, Priyanka, Suresh, Dhiraj, Mala, Hanif, Sant Salunkhe Maharaj or Beej [seed] Baba, Deepthi, Navin. Nora, Trupthi capable of cycling 50 kilometers a day and visit nearby towns and villages, Madhulica, Kussuma, Jose, Katiyal, Virendra, Sucharita, and some more reside while Viju weaves his “fantasies” around school, part time work, small earning by students, workshop on bicycle, the World Environment Day, the 200th Birth Anniversary of Bicycle, World Bicycle Day resolution, second-hand bicycle, “vulture”, IIT Hyderabad, Permaculture Demonstration Farm, seeds promotion, chicken kaabaab [mostly spelled Kebab], dhaabaa [mostly spelled dhaba] that serves fried fish fresh from nearby waterway, a small organic farm, a good lady’s Namaste and her lightening move of hand, an arrogant member of upper class experiencing humiliation – an important lesson for lifetime, a “Call Girl of Andheri” who calls flying Cheels, (Small Indian Kite, former Pariah Kite, milvus migrans), an approach to befriend life and nature, and to fully construct the “fantasies”, some more.

Viju, born in 1943 in Mysore, grew up in Indore, studied in IIT, Kharagpur to get a B. Tech in Electronics in 1966, was drawn into the red-rebellious days of the late-1960s while working in the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, has not given up his activism, after participating in those rebellious days and passing time in prison. All the time he was involved with some sort of political-social activism. It does not astonish that environment and ecology turn to him as a socio-political issue, and he keeps involved by organizing members of the young generation, and conveying message to them – the social force with a huge creativity and energy, but suffering from the burden imposed on them by the markets of environment destruction. One of his efforts is educating the Left-wing cadres; and as part of that effort, he writes in Frontier, the famous socialist weekly from Kolkata, and in Countercurrents, the widely read e-journal from Kerala, India, having the motto Educate, Organize, Agitate.

Homes of Viju’s eight “fantasies”, written between February 2017 and March 2023, include school, bicycle maintenance workshop, Bicycle Health Check-up Camp, Cycle Hospital, Bicycle Bandhu Program of Hyderabad, Kayakalp – a program to restore old bicycles and gift those to the needy members of the working class, dead dog burial ground, Bilgram Reserve Forest, the Chinnaprabha River, a system of you-eat-what-you- want-and-pay-what-you-can-afford, friendship with fishermen, tappers and forest people, naturopathy, yoga classes, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Conservation Education Centre of the Bombay Natural History Society, the Bewda Hill, which is a hill top hidden by green trees and shrubs, and similar places.

The stories tagged as “fantasies”, are about his “young friends”. “In some stories”, Viju uses “real names and locations […]. But readers should keep in mind that this is fiction, no matter how credible the situations sound.”

Although “fiction”, but can’t cross limits of reality, as reality always defines a limit. For example, in Shahjahan’s Delhi, it was impossible to imagine leeching of toxic agents from heaps of industrial wastes in the imperial capital city. Even, at that time, it was impossible to imagine washing down of chemicals from farms to waterways in the farm communities in the northern Americas, or pollution of ground water from atomic wastes, or, heaps of medical wastes in Kolkata when Hastings, the robber, was expanding the city. Here’s the limit of Idealism, as a method, as a philosophy, as an approach – how much words it borrows from progressive literature and uses to hide its face that doesn’t take away Idealism’s crippling condition.

The creator of these “fantasies” stands on a reality – a reality that takes into account the existing condition, that includes young minds looking for new avenues, looking forward to be organized, educated, mobilized, imbued with spirit to work for humanity and for this planet. It’s not Idealism, the philosophy that bases itself on individual’s salvation, not on collective interest.

Viju writes:

We are facing the very extinction of life on earth unless we take corrective measures right away.

But what can we do? Actually we are also part of the problem. No matter how frugal we are, we still are consumers of products that destroy the environment. What is worse, most of the jobs we do are part of the system that is destroying our environment.

What we need to do is to change our life including our jobs towards green alternatives. The ultimate goal at an individual level is not only to reduce one’s carbon footprint, but also to earn one’s livelihood exclusively from Green Jobs. We define Green Jobs as those which involve in ‘Restoring Ecology through Rebuilding Communities’ on the basis of ‘Equity and Sustainability.’

So, he writes these stories to “explore the possibilities of green jobs.”

Green Jobs within capitalist economy is difficult to create and find. But, that doesn’t mean, it’s impossible, totally impossible. There’re niches, narrow spaces with possibilities of widening, pores that can hold a few possibilities. These spaces are to be explored and utilized. No doubt, these spaces will experience onslaughts of capitalist system that, by its nature, grabs, conquers, encroaches everything, that, by its nature, demolishes everything that appears having tinniest possibility of an alternative to the dominating system – capitalism/exploitative system.

It’s a contradiction in the reality; and the contradiction is to be handled by those working to explore and organize green jobs, green jobs for a huge labor. It’s a need for radical change in production and distribution systems. This turns the task a struggle. The struggle’s form changes with time, expansion of the initiatives, gathering of forces in the initiatives.

Bicycle takes a major part of the “fantasies” that Viju has weaved. It’s symbolic. It’s also real. Other than eco-friendly – no consumption of hydrocarbon, one of the tools leaving behind least carbon-foot print – bicycle increases mobility of that segment of society that earns less, that consumes less. As a flexible mode of transport, bicycle occupies least possible space, and doesn’t produce noise pollution, and it can be used for many types of work other than movement. In cities today, bicycles have appeared as a movement to defy capitalist mode of transport – individualized, hydrocarbon guzzling private cars that pollute a lot, from air to other surroundings, occupy a lot, and a tool for hydrocarbon, rubber, steel lobbies bent on reaping profit at the cost of community and environment. Paribeshpatra, an environment periodical from Dhaka, Bangladesh, covered the issue of private car in December 1999 (“Motor gaareer jhakkee”, “Troubles with private car”, vol. 3, no. 4). Source of the Paribeshpatra photo-feature was Down To Earth from Center for Science and Environment, New Delhi, India.

The style of narration by Viju in the “fantasies” is like telling gossip: Simple, easy, short; but sharp, and deep in meaning. It seems his target audience is young learners, concerned with well-being of humanity. His “fantasies” are practice-centric – anyone concerned with our planet can begin these practices within her/his capacity, within her/his locality/community, with friends, in the family, in school/educational institution.

It’s Viju’s example – instead of making some high sounds that ultimately turns hollow, he practices, and shows the way of practice in a specific area, with a specific issue, with friends, in a small way that can gradually spread to wider areas.

Viju, the founder-member of Peak Oil India and Ecologise not only professes this – wider use of bicycle; he practices it, as he writes: “In 2017 he spent a year celebrating the Bicentenary of the Bicycle. Vijayendra has been a ‘dedicated’ cyclist all his life, meaning, he neither took a driving license nor did he ever drive a fossil fuel-based vehicle.” “For the last thirteen years, he has been active in the field of ‘Peak Oil’ and Transition Town movement”, and spends time with organic farms in several places in India.

Credible Fantasies pulls readers to settings, rural or urban, where people are plain, simple-living, friendly, easy-going, cooperative, not engaged in rat-race. Rather, they are engaged with conserving or greening of environment, and have a friendly, non-hostile relation with ecology. Flying cheels respond to their call, and they listen to birds’ songs and befriend cheels. The author’s “fantasies”, actually examples, are ways of mobilizing people, mainly the young. His book is a learning material for young environment activists.

Credible Fantasies

Author: T. Vijayendra

Editors : Bhashwati and Karnika Palwa

Publishers: Ecologise Hyderabad, Email: [email protected], Mobile: +91 95916 05634

For Copies

Manchi Pustakam

12-13-439, St. No. 1

Tarnaka, Secunderabad – 500017

Email: [email protected]

Mobile: +91 73822 97430

Price: Rupees 50

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