Morning light. Ajangaon, November, 2022.
The year was marked by rapid changes month-on-month. Many of these, as I reflect now, will have long term impact personally and how I might spend professional time in the future. Like 2021, this year too went by rather quickly. It helps to have highly active parents who have an endless appetite for building things, for change and industrious as a beaver.
In February, we began constructing a house on the farm. A 1600 square feet DIY-plan with mixed use design for farm and dwelling needs. All it has are large windows and verandas (or bar-amada, the old Persian word). Choice of construction material was guided by convention, perception, cost and ease of execution. And so, trucks of bricks, cement and steel began coming in. It is amazing to see how ideas turn turtle when they encounter practicality and when they need to be worked among individuals with different views. Footprint? What is that? How is cement a bad choice for house construction? Mud and wood? You need to learn much about maintenance and upkeep of houses before suggesting these options. What? The house won’t be used to store grains? What use is it to spend so many rupees then? We were tearing away suggestions at the rate of two per day. By December, the structure is ready with walls and a reinforced cement concrete roof. As I see, over the long term farming will see more time spent on it.
By March, the inconvenience of not having a general purpose tractor for farm operations was felt again. The first one was assigned to a life of earth moving and excavation. The plots still needed rental tractors for routine cropping needs – plouging, tilling, seeding etc. In April, we added a new 57 HP Mahindra Arjun Novo tractor and a 12 feet trailer.
It did not stop there. In farming, nothing really stops as I realized in 2022. By the start of 2022’s summer cropping season the whole ensemble was acquired – cultivator, rotavator, reversible moldboard plough, seeder and a rear-mounted leveling blade.
By the time we finished cropping and had time to hope for returns, an unsually wet monsoon spell swept all expecations away. Kharif of 2022 was wiped out entirely. A high capex season matched with negative returns. The year was giving its due of heartburn and disappontment. Although this was well complimented with plenty of fun on the farm, trails and poking holes in every single national narrative on ‘doubling farmer income’ that the wizards wrote or blabbered on national media.
Soon enough the pain of a distant military operation begain to be felt locally. Russia – Ukraine conflict lifted agri commodities prices. Everyone in the region went bullish on wheat. All of us here have at least a quarter of our acreage commited to wheat as of December 2022. Turns out agriculture and food production supply chains were far more globalised than any other sector and for far longer than any of these upstart industries.
Russia – Ukraine conflict rivaled the pandemic in its widespread impact and pain. Only difference was that this time a single individual could be pointed out and pinned with responsibility. It is not just the two countries that are locked in a fierce combat. In 2022, the whole world is!
If I were to pick a word to describe 2022, it would be ‘combat’. The combat is military, political (Lula in Brazil is taking the oath on TV as I write this), ideological and economic. Depending on which one of these have affected a person, the combat can also be personal. At its core any combat is unsettling or violent. But its consequences can be useful too. The fallouts reveal cracks and spaces that could be done better. This is probably why the year felt busy and with full steam.
On the professional front, a major project came through that doubled the hours spent at work and hours invoiced. Personally, it felt as though I was reversing the ‘great transformation’ that Nehru spoke of. I was going knowledge industry to farming. Income generated in the city was being translated into capex on farming and equipments. Meanwhile, consulting continued to keep steady pace.
The growing discontent with academia reached a head with me exiting all academic engagements. The dial was turned to zero. By August, I had stopped working with the university and contributing even in voluntary manner. A few months down the line, I think it was a useful move. It has helped in revitalising interest in science and pursuing industry-relevant, application oriented collaborations and research. This year I realised that I am ill-suited for a paper publishing and seminar-going life.
On reading front, the annual quantum of reading was low. At the same time, the number of hours spent listening to podcasts and audio lectures went up phenomenally. On an average, two hours were spent per day listening to industry commentaries, science, tech, economics and geopolitics. What I lost in volume of printed words was made up in volume of spoken word. However, print still remains the preferred way to knowledge discovery and undertanding.
I have benefitted immensely from the excellent discussions, ideas and information that is floating around in the world of podcasts.
Changing preference to podcasts and audio also meant that the compromise on outdoor activities was less. Cycling, runnng and travel did not come at the expense of reading or sitting in a university library.
From a ski trip in January to an end of the year 100 K ultra run in Bangalore, the year has delivered much. Shuttling between home and the city has meant a good mix of trails and city parks. Cubbon and GKVK runs continue to provide the necessary city flavour.
These words are written as though ‘year’ is an entity that gives and as a person one is merely subjected to it. But this is how I have felt because every single event impacting our daily lives has been beyond an individual’s control. They happen. Then, the life around us including one’s own, readjusts to the changed situation. If there was a time when individual agency was much impaired, it is perhaps the past couple of years and 2022.
The year has helped me see value in long term thinking. This is also the year when I learnt that problem structuring determines action. ‘What are you optimising for’ as Ashish wrote. My version of it is problem structuring. I learnt to do it better in 2022. Defining personal and professional troubles in terms of conflict of ideas leads to a different end point than defining them in terms of diversity of experiences that lead to different coping mechanisms.
Whether or not I actually know how these things operate, at least 2022 has got me to attempt an articulation. On the whole, its been a lovely run. Hoping more in 2023.