A Book! (Aliyah)
Well, anyway. I have my work now. I went to Krishnammal this morning and asked for help. She thought for a few hours, and then came to me with a 15-page booklet, with a cover in graduated colors of pink (odd how that color is so prevalent here) with a caricature of Gandhi walking on the front (or at least I assume it’s Gandhi. From the face, he looks a bit more like Jagannathan, despite the figure’s baldness.) The front cover reads, in letters of red and white: LAFTI: Land For Tillers Freedom, and nothing else (I like the back cover much better. It shows men plowing with bullocks, a hand writing, and reads “Land Belongs to God That is to Society.” This, Amma tells me, is the only official history and list of LAFTI’s projects in existence. It has not been updated since 1990. No one has had time. Everything from 1968 to 1990 is summarized in 15 pages. Now that is a terseness that even I, the queen of using as few words as possible, could not hope to match. (Of course, everything is relative. Two years ago, I would have said “15 pages? I can’t write 15 pages!”) Anyway it’s my job to update 15 years of history, and I hope to do it far more thoroughly and interestingly than that little pink booklet. I also plan to do some rewriting of LAFTI’s earlier history.
LAFTI is, though they never say it, having better things to do, the essence of “less talk more action.” This is, in my opinion, exactly what is needed in our information-rich and action-poor society. (Here, I am, saying it. What should I be doing instead?) The disadvantage of this is, of course, that little documentation exists, and publicity is poor. Until The Color of Freedom or its Italian counterpart (the title of which, student of Italian that I am, I have forgotten) was published, there was not, I believe, a single published work that mentioned LAFTI except in passing.
This update is desperately needed (or maybe not desperately, as that is likely a creation of my desperately needing something to do, but it is needed). Since 1990, due to the beginning of the prawn struggle in 1994, and the changing face of India as a whole, the entire focus of LAFTI has changed, although its mission of helping the rural poor remains the same as it was in 1968. There have been droughts and floods and tsunamis, lands and people and struggles have been gained and lost. I am only 17 years old, and still used to thinking of myself as a child. It is odd to reflect that so much has happened while I have been alive, while my sister, born in the same year from which the pink book dates, has been alive.
Of course, my plans for this new book far outrun my means and my time. I want detail and photos and maps. I want to interview not only Amma and Appa but the other LAFTI workers and some of the village people as well. I want to write a full history, and perhaps someday I will finish it. In the meantime, I know that my product will be more modest.
More soon, and I apologize for the gap of a few days,