Children of the soil try to save the earth

Article and Image Courtesy: India Today
Date: 31st October, 2011
Chandigarh-based activists Radhika and Rishi Miranhshah.

Two decades ago, Rishi Miranhshah – a student from Chandigarh – read The One Straw Revolution, an internationally acclaimed book by Japanese author Masanobu Fukuoka. The literary masterpiece on the alternative food movement influenced him so much that he gave up an established career in Canada and returned to India six years ago with his wife Radhika Malhotra Miranhshah for exploring the possibilities of enriching the earth.
The young couple has now taken the initiative to spread agroecological knowledge in developing sustainable farming through books.

Earlier, Rishi – a professional translator – did several odd jobs in India and abroad to sustain himself and his wife. But a deep ambition to spend the rest of his life working with the earth continued to haunt him.

After completing his education, he practiced law at the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh. But, he did not like the profession and started learning French in the city. He met Radhika there and they got married. Soon, he switched over to teaching French at Punjabi University in Patiala which he later quit to shift to Vancouver in Canada. He established himself as a professional translator and worked primarily for the ministry of health, British Columbia.

But The One Straw Revolution – which he had read in 1992 – prodded him to understand natural farming. The book has been translated from Japanese into many languages, including English.

It highlights the fact that man’s improved techniques appear necessary because they have upset the natural balance. The land has now become a slave to these techniques.

The couple realised that farmers in Punjab – who have been practicing modern agricultural techniques – needed Fukuoka’s wisdom for posterity.

With an aim to offer their own humble contribution to the efforts towards healing and enriching the earth, the couple came back to India about six years ago.

For the sake of convenience, Rishi began translating the Japanese master’s book into Punjabi a year ago and Radhika started exploring the means to ensure that the book reached the readers.

She was concerned that though a lot of valuable books were published worldwide, only a few reached those who could read only Punjabi. The farmers in Punjab – and elsewhere too – paid a heavy price for their lack of knowledge of English.

When they started exploring avenues for publishing the book, there were few takers. Several people in the publishing industry told them the book was not economically viable and they would not be able to publish it.

Finally, Radhika took charge and decided to set up her own publishing hub, Worthwords Books, to bring out Kakh Ton Kranti – the translated version of the masterpiece. The book – also “the founding document of the alternative food movement” which rolled out in the native language – has recently started generating interest among the farmers in Punjab.

Rishi and Radhika believe that a “civilisational” onslaught has been leading many forms of life towards extinction. People would not be able to understand it till they get this knowledge in their own words and language. The onslaught has been depriving people of natural resources.

The couple has also taken a pledge to publish books only on ecology, farming, gardening and spirituality on a not- for- profit basis. These books would be in Indian languages with the primary thrust on translating important works from other languages into Punjabi.

Rishi and Radhika have been witnessing that an idea which germinated about two decades ago is finally taking roots. They have Fukuoka holding their hand and leading their way through the vast green expanse – “the fields of joy, of laughter, of birdsong and of truth.


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