Saturday, June 27, 2015

Asti अस्ति

I knew I had no choice but to exit and take a look when I read the name of the community: Asti.

What's the big deal about "Asti," you are wondering, right? If you guessed it sounds Italian, you are absolutely right.  But, if you thought that I exited because of that Italian connection, you are dead wrong ;)

My mind played with how the word "asti" sounded and I was reminded of the Sanskrit classes decades back in the old country.  अस्ति means "to be."  It is.  It exists.  Asti.

If only the teachers and the system back then had provided us with a wonderful exposure to the humanities--and to languages, in particular.  Whether it was Sanskrit or Tamil or English or Hindi, the teachers did not teach us how to appreciate the beauty of the language.  Even worse, they failed to convey the rich history that comes with any language.

Instead, all they drilled into us was about learning the mechanics of whatever language they wanted us to learn.  Now, looking back, all I can do is smile at how ironical it was that one of the essays that we read for the English class was Winston Churchill's piece on his learning Latin as a schoolboy.  it is a long tradition of making languages unappealing to students!

Thus, Asti as अस्ति in my mind was why I decided to exit.  I knew there was a story waiting for me.

But then, I suppose stories are never waiting for any of us.  It is up to us to tell stories.  A story is in the eye of the beholder.  Let me tell you what story I saw there.

Asti is named for the Italian town for a reason--this is in California's wine country.  There are vineyards everywhere, and it should surprise nobody that a small community here is named after a place in Italy.  Off the exit ramp, I turned right, and drove slowly admiring the scenery.  A cop car passed me. Otherwise nothing.  It did not seem like there was any story.

I turned around.  I drove past the exit.  There was my story.

I was tempted to park, get down, and take a few photographs.  But, what if I upset them in the process?  Did I really want to mess around with people walking around spraying chemicals that are apparently so powerful that they have to wear Ebola-fighting outfits?  I am, after all, a wuss.  I reached out for my camera, which was lying on the passenger seat, and clicked without even lowering the window.  What they didn't know won't bother them, right?

We seem to do bizarre things in the name of progress, like using chemicals that are so powerful that we need to protect ourselves from them.  While wrapped up  in protective suits, we spray those chemicals on produce that we eventually consume!  We certainly are fucked up. I wonder how I might say "fucked up" in Sanskrit; I wish Pattabhiraman "sir" had taught me that back in the old country! ;)


Ramesh said...

Oh please... "if only the teachers and the system back then had provided us with a wonderful exposure to the humanities" -- you would have still been running behind Mallika. There is an age and time for everything and boys just discovering what it meant to be a boy is not the target audience for that :)

And "Abhishtu Abhishtu" for suggesting that the venerable Pattabiraman Siromani should have taught you that !!!

Anne in Salem said...

May I defend the farmers? Almost all chemicals, even Roundup, require gloves. Some sprayers wear the white suits to protect their clothing, not out of necessity or label requirement. The dust masks could be for pollen or dust, though some chemicals require them. If the chemical were really nasty, the sprayers would be enclosed in a tractor cab or wear a respirator. Very few chemicals require the full outfit; I think we may use two in everything we do at the farm. Everyone is trying to reduce use of dangerous chemicals. If these men were spraying something truly terrible, do you think they'd be walking through it?

Second, most chemicals are sprayed on the plant or on the ground (for weeds), not on the fruit. It is rare to spray the actual fruit. All chemicals have a PHI - pre-harvest interval - that all responsible farmers observe. PHI is the waiting period after spraying before the fruit can be picked. Even if weeds on the ground are sprayed and nothing gets on the fruit, the farmer must wait to pick the fruit until the PHI expires. There are tests for chemical residue for which farmers submit fruit samples several times a season. If a farmer does not observe the PHI, the fruit is recalled, even if the danger to consumers has passed.

There are other safety rules, such as wind speed, mixing, etc., but I think this suffices for today's lesson.

As to language, I keep a pad of small post-it notes with me when I read so I can flag a particularly well-written line to share with my friend. There is such pleasure to be found in the written word. Some writers are truly gifted.

Sriram Khé said...

Aha, so you think that those who are into humanities are somehow less interested in "professions" and more interested in life? And what's wrong with that? ;) (is that a good enough bait for you?)

Anne, you really believe there is nothing wrong with this statement that you have written: "If the chemical were really nasty, the sprayers would be enclosed in a tractor cab or wear a respirator" ... as routine as anything else in life? seriously?

Anne in Salem said...

What is the difference between spraying chemicals on plants to make them stronger, produce more, rot less, and be less eaten by bugs, and poisoning a body to fight cancer? We use filters to keep pollutants out of our cars and our homes. The tractor cab serves the same purpose. Yes, I really believe there is nothing wrong with my statement.

Sriram Khé said...

Hmmm ... Anne, looks like we will continue to disagree on this. I am sure there will be posts in the future on this topic, which means this debate will get more exciting ;)

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