An Isha moment at the Dr Vandana Shiva Lecture Part 3

I see a world where the wisdom of a child over-rides our learned notions of ‘common-sense’

I was talking to a good friend two days ago.  His name is Herbert.  I call him zio which means ‘uncle’ in Italian.  He’s not Italian. He is an informed, enlightened, man who I’ve known my whole life.  I was telling zio Herbert about my new blog and how we must gather support for organic farming.  He said, “Well, you know Gurdeep,” (he doesn’t call me Deepa but ‘ga-deep’ due to his German accent)… “the truth is that our population is increasing and it’s a sad but necessary evil to use all these pesticides.  How else can you feed everyone?”

Believe it or not, I was delighted he said that.  It is the refrain big chemical companies have been putting into our heads, making us accept their bitterly wrong agenda. It is simply not true.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to explain to Herbert that the vast bulk of GMO production is actually not for human food but for biofuel and animal feed.  Feed for those poor animals whose stomachs are evolved to digest herbs. ( ie: herbivores as in grasses people, grasses….)  And biofuel is only sustainable when it doesn’t take 10 times the amount of energy to produce it.  Herbert went ‘oh!’.  And I saw the wheels turning deep behind his glasses in his wise, kind eyes.

There’s a little wheel a-turning in my heart.  There’s a little song a-singing in my heart.  In my heart.  There’s a little wheel a-turning in my heart.

 

Isha at VS lecture

Isha asking Dr Shiva he question. Photo courtesy of Erin Sebastian

Now I’ll conclude the Isha moment that some of your have been waiting eagerly for.

My six-year old decided she wanted to ask Dr Vandana Shiva a question at one of the 5 microphones in front of thousands of quiet, ear-pricking spectators, including the President of the University, his spouse, dignitaries, professors, politicians, eloquent activists and hundreds of intellectuals.   My husband is a professor at the University of Victoria and he had his peers in the room, even though he left the talk to teach a class.  This was not some jovial family gathering or a concert – although the applause Dr Shiva received might have  mistaken some folks.

I tried to dissuade Isha gently and spoke slowly, ‘There are lots of people here.  If you want to ask a question, you need to go up to the microphone.  All by yourself .  I will *not* go with you. [NB: even though my girls are great performers, I am not a ‘stage-mom’].  So.  Are you still sure.  Really really sure you want to ask a question?”

The gums where her front teeth are slowly growing-in gaped pink at me as she expressed her iron will, rolling her eyes at first, “Yes, I am really sure.  I want to ask a question.” She growled “RRR!” and then she looked back at me with a huge smile on her face.

“Ok… You can’t ask for a hug.  You know that.  No hug.  And you need to have a question…”  I looked into her excited eyes.  My dissuading wasn’t working.  I thought I would try another tactic, “So what is your question?”

Isha replied without skipping a beat, “I don’t know, Mom. What is my question?”

Now here is where I started laughing madly (but quietly) to myself.  This kid had me at my wit’s end.  But I had reinforcements!  We rolling stones had moved back to Canada a few years ago to grow roots and moss.  I also wanted ‘a village’ for my daughters.  The village being my extended family.  Thankfully Aunty Megan was a few seats down the row.  Having come to my rational limit with Isha, I was going to hand her off. To the village.

“Megs,” I hissed over my Uncle Godfrey.  “Help me!  Isha wants to ask a question.”

Megs opened her eyes really wide and raised her eyebrows in alarm.  She also knows Isha quite well.

“Go over and talk to Aunty Megan,” I told Isha, sure that Megan would talk her out of it.

They had a huddle and next thing I knew, Isha was striding up to the closest microphone.  I was beside myself.  I remember being put in a similar spot by my dad when I was a similar age when he announced to a crowd of thousands that I had a beautiful voice and I could sing.  I collapsed with shyness.  Those of you who know me will know that I got over stage- fright.  But Isha is not me.

As a mom, I think I was most worried about Isha going up, embarrassing herself and then having a negative experience of public speaking.   I was also worried she would get up there and then call upon Me, her Mom for help.  So I squirmed as she waited.  Other folks also wanting to ask questions stepped in front of her, not noticing that a little girl was in line before them.

As question after question was asked,  worry-wort that I am,  I worried about her *not* getting to ask her question.  Aunty Megs got up and hovered in the back behind the microphone, while I worried in my seat.

It got down to the last question which was a good one.  Someone asked about the role of poetry.  Yes, said Dr Shiva, we need our words when politicians fail to protect the rights and will of the people.  In Canada many of our scientists are now muzzled as are our artists (Robert Bateman recently in Alberta, for example).  What kind of whistle-blower do we need?  What on Earth can we do? Dr Shiva was asked.   ‘Plant seeds,’ she said.  In your gardens, on your balconies.  If you don’t have a balcony, plant in a pot.  Plant seeds, save seeds.  The message is positive.  We can.  It’s simple.

Gandhi, when told that the Indians had to pay a salt tax, went down to the sea and took his own salt.  That was a story I had grown up with since my father Arran had put it on a package of Lifestream sea salt when I was a kid.

Eventually, someone had given the mike to Isha which she was clutching like a prize chicken.

At the tail end of that last answer, Dr Shiva said, “I think I will end on that note.  Thank you.”

People clapped.  Isha’s face fell.  After all that, Isha wouldn’t ask her question.  It was over.  I was both relieved and disappointed.  Megs and I shrugged our shoulders.  Well, at least she tried.

Then Dean Peter Keller said something like, “I think there is a little girl in the back of the room.  Perhaps we have time for one last question?”

Dr Shiva graciously accepted.

I chewed on the insides of my cheeks.

But without batting an eyelid, without looking at me, without calling me and going ‘shy’ without hesitation, Isha put her mouth up to the mike like a seasoned professional and said in a clear ringing tones:

“Why don’t everyone go and plant seeds this weekend?”

Thunderous applause.

Dr Shiva didn’t hear it for some reason.  Isha repeated it (maybe with better grammar) and was praised by her and everyone.  If the evening had been scripted, it couldn’t have ended better.

Fearlessness.  I must learn from Isha.  We all can learn from her.

Let’s embrace our inner courage.  Deep down, we know what’s right and what’s wrong.  We are noble creatures.  Let us open our ears and hearts and listen to the wisdom of the child.

Plant seeds, water them, protect them, allow them to grow.  Harvest the fruits and save the seeds.  Exchange them with others.  Support the farmers and the food companies who are doing the right thing.  There is so much good to support.

Sow other seeds: tolerance, understanding.  Have the courage to shine on what is right, what is just and noble.  Shine like the sun.

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