Fishing Rods That Velutha
River Meenachal plays a important role in the development of the novel. River Meenachal in novel. Yet, Roy treats the river as an organic entity with a life of its own. She traces the influence of the river on the twins, Estha and Rahel:
Here they have learned to fish. To thread coiling purple earth worms onto hooks on the fishing rods that Velutha made from slender culms of yellow bamboo. Here they studied silence (like the children of the Fisher People), and learned the bright language of the dragonflies. Here they learned to wait. To watch. To think thoughts and not to voice them. To move like lightning when the bendy yellow bamboo arched downwards.
Her dreamy description of the scenic beauty of the nature is harmfulin the name of development. Roy from exploring into the impending ecological imbalance brought about byindustrialisation and modernisation:
Downriver a saltwater barrage has been built, in exchange for votes from the influential paddy farmers’ lobby. The barrage regulated the inflow of salt water from the backwaters that opened into the Arabian Sea. So now they have two harvests a year instead of one. More rice, for the price of a river. Once it had the power to evoke fear. To change lives. But now its teeth were drawn, its spirit spent. It was just a slow slugging green ribbon lawn that ferried fetid garbage to the sea. Bright plastic bags blew across its viscous, weedy surface like subtropical flying flowers.
In the name of economic progress ecology is destroyed. It is well-planned strategy on the part of the rich and the affluent people who progress at the cast of nature. But then they must remember that humanity has to pay a heavy price in order to restore nature back to its normality. Roy here criticizes the imprudent policy of the government which has built a saltwater barrage down river in exchange for votes from the influential paddyfarmer lobby. Though there is a commercial purpose behind building this barrage regulating the inflow of saltwater from the back-waters that opened into the Arabian Sea, it eventually brings an imbalance natural flow of the the river. It is true that people are now enjoying two harvests and more rice but they are getting them in an unnatural way by desrtoying the originality of the river. Environmental science does not support building barrage on the river for the purpose of agricultural activities. But the government is doing this for the sake election politics.
Mukherjee in Postcolonial Environments blames the process of globalization firmly for the state of both environmental and cultural degradation by pointing out:
. . . we are ushered into the next stage of Kerala and India's development in the era of the post-Fordist global capitalism often crudely known as 'globalization' as if this had not always been the tendency of historical capital overthe past five or six hundred years. Within and outside India, the neo-liberalmantra endlessly circulated without much critical analysis presents this as a kind of utopian border-crossing available to all the citizens of the world who sign up to its prescription of 'structural adjustments' and the corporatization of economic and political process. Roy's novel punctures this myth by showing it to be a continuation of the despoliation and degradation of the Indian environment and peoples that had accelerated under colonialism and has now taken on an unprecedented velocity. (98-99)
However, the physical environment that includes nature in the beginning, finally moves to culture. When people live in tune with nature, a tendency of civic sense and social hygiene reflects in their mind. Baby Kochamma, Ammu’s aunt, exposes her aesthetic sense making and looking after a garden in front of Ayemenem house in the midst of nature. She used to spend her afternoon in the garden and worked in it:
. . . Like a liontamer she tamed twisting vines and nurtured brisling cacti. She limited bonsai plants and pampered rare orchids. She waged war on the weather. She tried to grow edelweiss and Chinese guava. (26-27)
Roythus intends to show a physical environment in the novel where human beings can dwell in a harmonious relationship with nature leading to grow a sound culture that strengthens human ties. Ayemenem, therefore, is known for its freshness, unpolluted river and matchless greenery which make life pleasant for the people.
For instance, the first reference to the environmental problems mentioned in the very first chapter of the novel. In 1991, when the silent Estha goes on long walks along the local Meenanchal River, this is what greets his senses:
Some days he walked along the banks of the river that smelled of shit and pesticides bought with World Bank loans. Most of the fish have died. The ones that survived suffered from fin-rot and had broken out in boils. (13)
The novelist is here critical of the hands behind polluting the river and the policy of the government buying with World Bank, both of which will ultimately contribute in making the life of the people miserable.