Kartik's days start at 5.30am, when his wife wakes him up, having already set off to prepare breakfast for the entire family as well as, on weekdays, the tiffin he'd carry to Calcutta. He too tackles his morning duties diligently: first of all, he walks to the fields and attends to little works; then he collects grass for the cows' daily consumption; and on the way back, he stops at his pond to carry a bucket of water for them. Having attended to the tasks of every farmer for one hour, he goes back home to feed the cows and sweep the stall, after which he himself will get ready for a quick breakfast. 06_KAR_2-2_RHY_PIC_01.jpg
The act of leaving home is typically preceded by an inaugural puja, which Kartik performs himself at the small shrine built close to the house; after the prayer, at 6.45am or 7 at the latest, he hurriedly takes off on his bicycle to catch the 7.30am train in the nearby Kamarkundu. Although the recent introduction of a second train that leaves just 15 minutes later has made commuting a little more relaxed, he strives to get at the station on time – one never knows what will happen at arrival, as crossing the Howrah Bridge and the crowded business area of Dormotola by bus can take very long and delayed arrivals at office cost bitter fines on the part of the employer. 06_KAR_2-2_RHY_PIC_05.jpg
If everything has gone well, Kartik reports to office at ca. 9am; there, he gets instructions about pending works, which he'll tackle along with a small team of carpenters and caretakers until, normally, 5pm. He doesn't leave the premises of the company for lunch, when all have the right to a leave of one hour, since he carries his tiffin from home. Although he's been working at ITC for almost 30 years and his routine there has got perfectly tuned, Kartik doesn't feel at home there – not that one necessarily ought to, but what acts as deterrent in his eyes is significant: his superiors' and the company's white-collar employees' lack of respect and acknowledgement for “manual workers” like him, which for Kartik mirrors the city's hierarchical, anonymous and indifferent relationships, cannot be repaid by standardised working hours, contractual holidays and pension scheme. 06_KAR_2-2_RHY_PIC_09.jpg
When his workday ends at the regular time, 5pm, the morning's hurry to the station repeats, just in the opposite direction, in order to catch the 6.05pm train, which guarantees he'll reach home by 7.30/8pm. Often however, urgent jobs require for him to work for one or two hours overtime and in rare events, for longer – in which case he stays at ITC over night. At home, he'll take shower, eat a light snack – generally muri (popped rice) – and spend time with his wife and children; most of the times, they end up watching TV until it's time to have dinner, which is served by 9.30/10pm. By 11 at night, the lights are switched off and all go to sleep. 06_KAR_2-2_RHY_PIC_10.jpg
It is looking at Kartik's activities and at his earnest but serene expression on Sundays, when like every other farmer in his village, he stands on his fields from 6 to 6, that one understands his true vocation, agriculture. Abstracting a little, she might think not only about the obvious economic advantages, but also about the pride and sense of resilience that derives from owning some land, cultivating it and getting its fruits. For a while, she might indulge in a phantasy inspired by Kartik's homeland, the state of West Bengal, where one of modern history's most looked-at land reforms was carried out – if not fully, if not without flaws and bias, at least with an overall vision – by a communist government still faithful to its principles: if so many people have preserved such attachment to it, what would it take to invest differently in rural areas, to enforce their modes of production already based on reciprocal support and shared facilities? Subsidies along with a scientific knowledge available to all, instead of being retained by seed banks, could ensure higher and better production in rural habitats not anymore backward and poverty-prone, but productive and tech-savvy. In an India that seems desperate to urbanise and industrialise, this obviously shall remain a mere phantasy. In the same country, however, partly because of the increasing population, partly due to the intensification of cultivation of cash crops, food sovereignty is at risk; and hundreds of millions are undernourished. The consequences for the habitat, the disappearance of double livelihoods such as Kartik's and the creation of an increasingly homogeneous landscape managed by the grains and food multinationals, is already on the horizon. 06_KAR_2-2_RHY_PIC_13.jpg