Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home |  Volume 6, Issue 08, Tuesday, February 22, 2011




We are what we eat

Urban farming is such a retro concept but, what is interesting is, like many glamorous practices of the past it is making a comeback. There are two possible reasons for it: one, the modern city dwellers are now more into organic food. Their abhorrence of pesticides and insecticides, fertilisers seeped in urea and other equally harmful chemicals have led them to take matters into their hands and utilise their rooftops or backyards as farming grounds. And two, the basic human instinct to grow our own food gives them a pleasure that is totally unparalleled.

In yesteryears, independent lavish houses always had a kitchen garden, from where the lady of the house invariably got fresh vegetables. In fact, she and all her neighbours were proud of their agricultural bounties and were in silent competition with each other. That was the sixties and seventies for you, when urban farming was purely a hobby and horizontal farming, with plenty of arable lands, the only way to uphold that hobby.

By the eighties the city attracted a lot of rural dwellers and the metropolis was overcrowded. Food security became an important issue at that point and genetically engineered produce hit the markets. Although the city dwellers did not take an instant liking to these hybrid products but at least their regular demands were met.

It is exactly at that point that High Yield Variety (HYV) found its way in; it not only helped local indigenous varieties to stay healthy and remain available, but also made the yield quantities increase exponentially, thereby rectifying the discrepancy between supply and demand.

The simple mathematical deduction in favour of this kind of yield is that population, as we know, increases at a geometric rate while food production increases at an arithmetic rate, thus there always remains a deficiency.

During the eighties, BTV ran a very popular show on agriculture, 'Mati o Manush' hosted by Shykh Seraj currently the Director and Head of News of Channel I. Seraj motivated people to take up vertical farming -- drums were turned into big tubs and fruits, chillies and other seasonal vegetables were planted in them. The lush backyard kitchen gardens went to the rooftops.

However, during the nineties vertical farming completely declined and took a back seat. According to Seraj, “By the nineties backup food was available in abundance. And over the last 15 years, vegetables or fruits were available all through the year. The concept of seasonal vegetables no longer works; you get winter veggies throughout the year now, for which urban farming declined. Additionally the city ladies, who were mainly the ones practising this sort of farming, have less time now. They are mostly office goers and are always on the run, and superstores take care of their demands.

“The Kyoto or Cancun summits were not successful; one of their main agendas was to address the carbon emission issue. The Kyoto summit emphasised that office and house rooftops must be kept green, gardening in these areas should be mandatory to help reduce carbon emissions, to keep the house cool and to keep it green. After 15 years the world is in the same position, with climate change and food security still at stake. Thus urban farming is finally given its due importance and is slowly making a comeback,” he explained.

Now, instead of drums people are encouraged to use big plastic sacks, which come cheap. These bags are dotted with holes and stuffed with soil mixed with fertilisers and kept closed for a few days. Then seeds are planted and harvests reaped. The entire sack is dotted with your desired vegetable plants and the produce is fresh and home grown.

“HYV after 30 years is now degenerating; the soil is losing its arability. Now it's time for a new technology that is of a saline tolerant variety and drought tolerant variety. New research needs to be done.”

There is something special in knowing that the vegetables on your dinner table are completely safe because they were nurtured under your watchful eyes. Other than the benefit it gives you, urban farming stands to benefit the environment if the fad catches on. Every bit will help.

By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo courtesy: Shykh Seraj


Pros and cons of being a single child

My friend has a cat named 'Billo'. The reason that I am writing about Billo is that she seems to be giving birth to kittens every now and then. Every time I go over to my friend's house I find Billo walking around with a fat belly although only a few months ago she had given birth to a litter. In the animal kingdom having babies does not involve any consideration at all. They just go ahead and have them. However, if humans were to follow the same animal instincts they would probably have to burn down more trees (as if that is not happening already) and would probably have to begin filling in the seas to accommodate their off-springs. But, as we are homo-sapiens, the wise-man, we hold in our animal instincts and choose not to act like Billo.

Being the finest of the Almighty's creations, humans have realised that it is just not reasonable to have as many babies as is possible in their lifetime. A few generations ago, during the time of our grandparents, having nine kids was reasonable. During our parents' generation having two to three children was the way to go. However, some human decided to be finer and seems to have gone a step further and thought of taking it to an even lower number. By lower I mean the lowest of them all.

I happen to be the child of a pair of the finer kind of people, an only child. For me being an only child is the way I prefer it, but, I cannot refute the fact that at times it does not have its difficulties.

The brighter side of being the prince or princess of your own kingdom
During the younger years, the best part of being an only child is that you are your parents' only object of affection. They will always pay attention to you no matter which time of the day. A five year old single child will not even have to put up a tantrum or try and please their parents to attract their attention. Unfortunately, children not belonging to this group have to come up with more irritating tantrums and much more sophisticated talents everyday to capture their parents' attention.

By the time you grow older, if you are one of the kinds who do not take much pleasure in sharing, (in other words, me) being an only child is an utter bliss. Even if it is a tiny bread crumb or an entire cake, you will not have to share it with anybody else. Starting from food to toys to your room and more importantly to the possession of the remote control, you are the supreme owner.

If you are in your teen years having a sibling, be it older or younger, it can be a lot of hassle. If you are not lucky enough to have a compassionate sibling then you are in for a lot of pain! Your siblings keep an eye out for any mistake on your side and always make sure to nose in on your business. Older siblings will almost always make sure to lecture you and younger ones will not fail to report you to your parents. When you do not have a sibling you will have a greater reserve of energy which you would have otherwise spent trying to get back at them.

The gloomier side
No matter how much I say being an only child is fun, this is not always the case. The bond that siblings share with each other cannot be replicated in any other bond. Siblings are the ones who will be with you when your parents are not around.

Children of working parents have to spend most of the day alone only to have their parents returning all tired at home and not having the energy to spend time with them. For these kids, siblings are their saviours. They have somebody, to share their emotions and their sorrows with, which single children lack. There are family problems that a person cannot discuss with anybody other than family. This is where people with siblings are clear winners.

Siblings can also be your saviours when you are in for a good scolding from your parents. Whether you broke a vase at home or sneaked in home late, your sibling will definitely save you from the scolding; at times even by taking the blame on themselves.

Last but not the least, if you have an older sibling you get loads of gifts especially if you have one living abroad. Starting from shoes to chocolates, you will have a constant supply of everything. It is a rare occasion for gifts to come your way if you are the only child in the family.

I feel that being an only child is a blessing for me (apart from the fact that I do not keep getting gifts) although people with siblings find it difficult to imagine life without each other. I often have people wondering whether I get really lonely at times. But, at the end of the day you get used to what you have. And the way they love being part of a team, I like being my own team.

By Karishma Ameen
Photo: Lifestyle Archive


Anger management


Anger it's the defining emotion of almost every household. It's boiling across the country and much of it is directed towards mismanagement in vital sectors.

Who is angry? Who is dissatisfied? Who is upset over the economy? The answer in short -- “Pretty much everyone everywhere.”

Now dear readers, let us control our anger before it controls us.

Forget about anger. Keep yourself busy being noble in your own way. Find a project and set yourself a deadline.

Life was pathetic as usual with limitless power failures inside and unbearable traffic conditions outside. The bleak weather and humidity made the mood worse on that particular day. But I had an urgent job to finish. Guess what? A very dear cousin needed a favour.

She wanted addresses of some of our nearest relatives living abroad to send invitations for her son's wedding. I was angry with myself. Why did I not have the addresses handy in the first place? Before anger could play a difficult trick on me I decided to start the project right away. I instantly used all available links to acquire full mailing addresses, telephone numbers, full names of all the family members (no abbreviations allowed), politely stating that I am updating my records. Thankfully everyone obliged and all information is now safely loaded in my computer in a new file named “Family Ties.” “Friends Forever” is another newly completed file that stares happily at me from my desktop. I aim to note all the above data down in my address book too. If you have a similar agenda, use a pencil, friends, and one day soon you will appreciate my advice.

Maybe most of you are more organised than me. Maybe you have a very beautiful address book with all the necessary information neatly recorded. But do you have the names of all the members correctly written down under each family as well? Dear readers, please believe me, it surely feels great when you communicate and can inquire about each member specifically. The satisfaction is unconditional.

Imagine being stuck in traffic on your way to a close relative's or friend's house. Do not be angry. Rehearse the names of the people living in that household. Talk about fond memories both the families shared in the past. This should keep everyone focused on active recollections instead of the unruly scene outside. Make the ride worthwhile.

Live long and prosper.



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