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Calendars speak for the commons
By Sudhirendar Sharma

The role of calendars has widened beyond commercials and now they convey crucial statements about social and cultural movements.

The 2010 calendar by ICR highlights public movements

In the world of calendars where hardly anything sticks to the wall or stays on the desk for long, two new calendars have made a mark by going beyond mere date and design. Distinct in form and style, both pursue the common thread of ‘defending the commons’. While one follows a lesser-known mountain river from its source to confluence, the other calendar chronicles peoples’ resistance to protect the commons. Into their second editions, both the calendars have been backed by clear vision and research.

While Dehradun-based People Science Institute’s (PSI) calendar on Gori Ganga is studded with stunning pictures, Delhi-based Intercultural Resources’ (ICR) calendar on Social Movements documents range of civil resistance across time and space. Implicit within both is the central argument that the commons are at the heart of a conflict of interest as they are being appropriated by direct actions of a complicit state and large corporations.

Gone are the days when calendars provided the basis for planning agricultural, hunting and migration cycles, for divination and prognostication, and for maintaining cycles of religious and cultural events. The concept of calendar has gone through significant transmutation; it uses date as an excuse and glamour as a quotient to amplify desire and to legitimise obsequiousness.

The concept of calendar has gone through significant transmutation; it uses date as an excuse and glamour as a quotient to amplify desire and to legitimise obsequiousness.

While starlet Neha Dhupia's topless calendar hogged the limelight for obvious reasons, calendar on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had the unstated ingredients of political opportunism. Go Green, publisher of the topless calendar, argues that the calendar successfully integrates nature with glamour to create images that bring about eco-consciousness amongst the onlookers. What it actually does need no guesses!

These and much more, calendars have implicit messages that go beyond dates and images. From worldly to divine and from sublime to ridiculous, today's calendars have everything on offer. As consumer preference for calendars shifts from divine portraits sketched by Yogendra Rastogi to glamorous images clicked by Atul Kasbekar, calendars seem to be giving a different measure of time to its onlookers.

It is here that both the PSI and ICR calendars stand out. These reflect a clear direction and a sense of purpose, a link between mankind and the cosmos. PSI’s head Ravi Chopra says: ‘living far from remote rivers like the Gori Ganga, many of us are simply unaware of the total ruin of the essential global life-supporting role of such pristine rivers and the Himalaya, which characterise our monsoon climate and agrarian economy’. Using the medium of calendar, the subtle message of protection-of-the-commons has creatively been conveyed through pictures.

Every date and month in the calendar is a grim reminder of the struggles that have been waged in some corner of the country, along rivers, in forests and on the streets.

Reflected through amazing pictures, the upper catchment of Gori Ganga belongs to a class that ecologists define as wild rivers. Scientists value their biodiversity, land forming processes, energy flows and nutrient and water cycling as vital, global life-supporting systems. The calendar, says Ravi Chopra, is aimed at spreading awareness to save our rivers, as also to build support for the spring rejuvenation and river restoration work being undertaken by the organisation in Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Five proposed hydropower projects on its 107 km stretch are sure to ruin the pristine flow of Gori Ganga, with a potential to trigger yet another social movement to protect the commons. ICR calendar argues in favour of social movements as these provide a crucial window into the range of aspirations that communities at the base of our society feel and act on. Every date and month in the calendar is a grim reminder of the struggles that have been waged in some corner of the country, along rivers, in forests and on the streets.

Social movements challenge not only the intentions and projects of the aggressor, but also the implicit attitude that the resisting cultures and peoples are dispensable. The calendar aims to connect various struggles and build solidarity for ‘defending the commons’. Bindia Thapar, who designed the ICR calendar, says, ‘the calendar reflects hope for millions who have been at the receiving end of current paradigm of development, globalization and capitalism’. For late Smitu Kothari, who had conceived the idea, the calendar on social movements has been a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the communities and a document that celebrates their movements.

In addition to serving practical purposes, both the calendars provide a sense of understanding in controlling future. Visionary as these are, the calendars act as a source of inspiration in guiding the onlooker to adopt a socially relevant resolution for the next twelve months.

(Published out of sheer commitment, the calendars are priced to recover costs. Bulk enquiries may be directed to neemresistance@gmail.com (for Social Movements calendar) and psiddoon@gmail.com (for Gori Ganga calendar).

The PSI calendar is available at: PSI calendar.pdf
And a sample of ICR calendar is available at: ICR calendar.pdf

The views expressed above are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of d-sector editorial team.

Sudhirendar Sharma  |  sudhirendarsharma@gmail.com

Dr Sudhirendar Sharma is an environmentalist and development analyst based in New Delhi. Formerly with the World Bank, Dr Sharma is an expert on water, a keen observer on climate change dynamics, and a critic of the contemporary development processes.

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