The rhythms of the field: Exploring the poetry of India’s farmlands

‘Who could fathom the moods and shades of mountain, sky, earth and rivers to create a masterpiece of art, if not a farmer?’

The Japanese farmer philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka said, “There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write poetry or compose a song.” For though life for the farmers of old was a perennial cycle of work, traditional agricultural life had set patterns of rest, festivals, ritual and – if one was so inclined – the time to write. Fukuoka believed that the farmer must write – poetry, songs and stories of the joys and sorrows of life. For who could be better equipped to write than the farmer? Who observes the change of seasons, the brightness of the stars, the formations of the clouds and the fragrance of rain in the air as astutely as the farmer? Who could fathom the moods and shades of mountain, sky, earth and rivers to create a masterpiece of art, if not a farmer? Who could speak of love more eloquently than a farmer, whose proximity to the elements of nature gave him an advantage – to equate his emotions to the changing seasons, the mystery of rain clouds, the flight of birds and the unfurling of a tender bud? Fukuoka once saw a mysterious phenomenon in his own fields: millions of spiders weaving silken webs on the rice stubble after the harvest. Seeing this, he wrote, “You understand that poets and artists will have to join the gathering.”

Over years of being in the company of farmers and food producers, I have been constantly surprised and moved by their sensitivity and deep understanding of nature and the ways of the world. Behind the wry humour lies a depth of knowledge and a pragmatic outlook towards life. Farming was no passive endeavour, but a craft that needed to be honed to perfection. Through the ages, books on agricultural practices were compiled by farmers and rishis, wise men from agrarian communities. The books were no boring tomes, but documents of wit and wisdom, with attention to beauty and detail. Man’s own weaknesses and frailties, his ego and vanities were mocked, a constant reminder that he was just a cog in the universal wheel, and of all he had to be thankful for. There is a song, a couplet, a fable or a quote for every occasion in agrarian life, and words on the seasons of farming, on how to observe the zodiac to plan agricultural activities on auspicious days or on studying the seasons to predict rain and winds, and astute advice about the environment. “Know that forests should not be felled, even in times of distress for when forest cultivation is done, it [the area] is entirely dependent on natural rainfall.” On farming and family matters, come these words of advice in an old farming almanac: “An unmatched pair of bullocks is as unproductive as a poorly matched couple in marriage, each straining in opposite directions, and no work gets done.”

Most agricultural traditions were passed down orally through the ages and farming communities have ingenious methods of transferring knowledge through storytelling, poetry, legend, folklore and music. The agrarian Khasi tribes have a vast repository of legends and folk tales called phawar, passed down generations in the oral tradition. They were related around the family hearth, often accompanied by a dui-tara, or sung while working in the rice fields. Myths and sacred stories are called khanatang, legends are khana pateng, folk tales are parom and stories of animals paju, while the riddle, an endearing Khasi feature, is called jingkyntip. As the British missionaries slowly eroded folk culture and branded their traditions as heathen practices, a few Khasi scholars tried to record the old folk tales, poetry and maxims which narrate the stories of nature and the mysteries of the universe. Like parables, the phawars form a structure of morality and society even today, reminding them of their traditions and culture, and of the perils of greed, foolishness, laziness and other human frailties. As the poet Rabon Singh Kharsuka advises sternly:

“Tend to your land, your flock
Work, manufacture with hands and skills
Make your own wealth, increase it
The mind becomes fertile and life prospers.”

But there is clarity and purpose in the patterns of farming life: work, food, a song in your heart, and even time for a little romance. Life is often hard, an endless cycle of work that never ends, but as this exuberant rhyme expresses, he would not have it any other way.

“Where will you get a life like the farmer’s?
We have rice in the house and meat in the sheds;
My implements readied, I leave for work
Carrying my axe, spade, khoh and star;
No stumbling, sans worry, I leave free of care
Singing a ditty, whistling a song;
Clear is my head, my heart, my voice
As I hummed I spied two pretty girls;
They stopped and asked, where are you from?
From Riatsamthiah, I replied at once;
I noticed one wore a ryndia stem
And my heart overflowed with excitement.”

The fourteenth-century philosopher-poet Ghagh wrote eloquent poems about every aspect of farming life, which were passed on through generations of farmers in north India. With his wife Bhadari, he wrote pithy verses on a range of topics from farming advice to family matters – for in most agrarian communities the two are intrinsically connected. His poems, full of earthy wisdom and humour, were popular with the farmers and peasants of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, and a well-used copy of his book – Ghagh Bhadari Ki Kahaavatein – is found in many farmhouses even today.

In one of his whimsical poems he declares:

“Heaven would be a farm close to a village, with Ghagh the proud owner of four pairs of bulls for ploughing,
A milk cow, a duo of blood brothers as companions
And a wife who still gives her man a coy glance when she serves him a good meal—
A ladle full of arhar dal on fragrant freshly made rice,
Fresh butter, lemon slices and
A bowl of rich yogurt solid as a duck’s egg, topped with raw sugar.
Yes, that would be Ghagh’s Kailas, his heaven.”

Krishi Geetha (The Farmer’s Song) is a fascinating treatise from the ancient Malayalam Desam, modern-day Kerala, which then comprised the Chera kingdom and parts of the Chola kingdom. Written over a few centuries as a discourse between Parasuram, one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, and the landowning Brahmins, the agricultural tome addresses the various aspects of agriculture in the form of verse. The author (or authors) of the book are unknown, but it can be deduced that he had a deep knowledge of agriculture, geography and politics, and may have been a farmer. As the farmer–poet travels to distant lands learning about new agricultural practices, he spreads this knowledge in the form of verse in a guidebook.

“In your territory known as Malayalam Desam,
Often it may be possible to grow some of the navadhanyas—
Wheat, rice, red gram, mung bean, chickpea, beans, sesame, black gram and horse gram.
However, navadhanyas are widely grown outside.
Listen, how wonderful are the sesame and other wild seeds.”

Excerpted with permission from Mother Earth, Sister Seed: Travels Through India’s Farmlands, Lathika Geoge, Penguin Random House.

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.


The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.