15 June, 2021

The Heavens Poured Poison

Pesticides sprayed from above destroyed lives in the hills of Kasargod. This novel borrows from myth and magical realism to convey that real horror.

The Heavens Poured Poison

In the early 1990s, the world got to know about macabre tales from a cluster of south Indian villages where aerial spraying of pesticides across its cashew est­a­tes continued for 12 years. As choppers hired by the Plantation Corporation of Kerala went on spattering endosulfan over the hills of Kasargod from 1979, hapless occupants dev­­eloped deformities that hit headlines.

By the 21st century, settlements such as Padre, Perla and Cheemeni lost hundreds of children to congenital anomalies and mental ailments. Teenagers died or were rendered immobile with twisted limps or big heads. Elders were diagnosed with cancer and calves were born three-legged. Authorities typically refused to concede a link between this grotesqueness and end­osulfan, even as public protests boiled with support from activists within and outside the Deccan. Amid studies by a dozen commissions, the apex court eventually banned the deadly off-patent insecticide in May 2011.

A work of fiction on so sordid a story bears the risk of an overdose of journalese...

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