Chapter 15: Conclusion
In front of me, a statue stuck out of the earth. He must have been 60 years old, but his body showed no signs of rust. Surrounded by a gaggle of goats, erect as his bamboo cane, he stood. His smile, a collection of crooked brown teeth, told the whole story. He was careless, free, untethered. He had spent the majority of his life wandering. If he ever gets thirsty, he milks his goat. If ever gets tired, he finds a shady grove and lets the goats roam around him. By selling his goat’s milk, he earns enough income to support a family of five. He was, by far, the happiest man that I encountered on my voyage. So it goes.
The goat-herder is a relic untouched by time. All around this man, Sher Pur Kalan was swept up by the tides of change. The Green Revolution brought food security to India, but the small village of Sher Pur Kalan, and many others just like it, suffered as a result. With the introduction of commercial agriculture came an assortment of new machines, fertilizers, and pesticides aimed at increasing production. Consequently, incomes burgeoned. An increase in income led to more expenses, more commodities, and a completely new economic structure in Sher Pur Kalan. From the ashes of the barter system, rose a new sense of individualism which punctured the joint family system and spurred the disintegration of the community’s social support network. The death of manual labor fostered a disconnect with the environment and a decline in work ethic. When pesticides and fertilizers invaded, health fled, leaving behind a population with increasing rates of heart disease. And what’s the end result of all this “progress”? Hundreds of thousands of young Punjabi minds are fixated on one goal: leaving. According to one 80-year-old teacher, many others are “hanging between life and death.” There was not a single respondent who said that the people of Sher Pur Kalan are better off today than they were before the Green Revolution. I wanted to ensure that this wasn’t caused by the “grass is always greener on the other side effect” or a tendency to romanticize the past, and so I urged them to think about all the benefits of technological innovation and the increase in income. “No,” they unanimously declared, “People really were happier in the past.” Almost all who were asked said that they would want to return to a time when there was love among neighbors, even if that means living without a fan.
Anonymous. Goat herder. Personal interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 1 May 2019.
Anonymous. Students. Personal interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 4 May 2019.
Anonymous. Farmer. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 18 April 2019.