The play begins:
The cast of players is almost complete. What happened next in the play? "Ferrer is one of the least recognised men in India," says Bablu, now."His role in evolving development strategies was path breaking." But twenty years ago they were impatient with his prescriptions. Ferrer believed in technical and management solutions: tube wells, women's organisations, efficiencies etc.
It takes a very long time to work with people who may not know how to articulate what they want, but who certainly know what they don't. Despite great stresses in her personal life, Mary's hard work in Nalgonda was bearing fruits. But the YIP was not going anywhere. Work put in seemed to amount to nothing. Were they on the right road?
That's when Ram Esteves happened. An intense, serious man, he brought Marx over as a solution. In a course that ran 3 months he taught 'dialectical materialism': set conflicts in motion and out of their interaction, solutions will be born. Marx Study Circles sprang up everywhere. Mary and Bablu met at one of them. Bablu and Narendar were transformed men by now. Mary too was. They had all 'got' Marx. They would seed local revolutions and realise rapid, total development.
For the next ten years, they travelled the district threadbare. They raised awareness among marginal farmers and organised them into effective unions, in order to leverage their struggle for rights. Today, the Agricultural Labourers Union they initiated has over 200,000 members all over AP. But that is another story. Mary and Bablu and a close associate John D'Souza believed they had to go beyond unionising farm workers. D'Souza is a pioneer in the field of development whose work stretches back to 1972. He is today the Executive Director of Centre for Education and Documentation, Mumbai, a fine institution serving development work.
Driven to Gandhi:
"One day, a long-known fact popped up again, but with a new and greater compulsion," says Bablu. Rayalaseema ["Royal Realm"] was in living memory, a wooded country. Streams flowed everywhere. There were numerous reserved water bodies across the country. Penukonda, now a bald, burning hill, was then known as a balmy hill station where the king had his summer retreat.
Environmental vandalism of the last six decades had disrupted ancient work cycles of the countryside. Villages had been shell-shocked by the discontinuity. They were too wise to know that the prosperity that YIP promised cannot be grabbed from someone else but had to rebuilt. They needed new maps to rediscover their disrupted connection with nature.
"It occurred to me then, that we were not part of the productive processes but were standing apart, preaching revolution to preoccupied villagers," says Bablu. Then he adds softly: "Marxism is a great analytical tool. But it breeds arrogance and closes your mind."
Gandhi was wiser. Even as he carried on his political work, on another plane, he strove to understand the salt of the earth. Gandhi went beyond drilling deep wells or organising the masses for revolution. He believed in life that was aligned with nature, not in a struggle against it