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 Celebrities & Lifestyle

November 2009
Lucky Ali on Organic Farming
Dr Sreedevi Yadavalli
 
Lucky Ali – of the unkempt beard, honey in his eyes and voice, curly hair and forlorn expression - born Maqsood Mehmood Ali, as son of Mehmood the erstwhile comedian of Bollywood, and, of course, Lucky Ali of the memorable, lilting ballads - O Sanam among the pyramids of Egypt and Na Tum Jano Na Hum along the countryside of New Zealand. Wait, there's more - Lucky Ali of organic farming in Bangalore

What caused you to take up organic farming? Did someone inspire you, or was there any particular event that sparked it?
My family has been into farming from my father's time. We were an agricultural family, growing rice, maize, pulses and different varieties of vegetables and fruits. Thirty years ago – I speak of the time when we had the Green Revolution that introduced high yielding varieties of seeds and fertilizers – I saw the long term effects of such artificial means to attain high crop yields. When you use fertilizers and pesticides, you not only kill the pests, but crops would fail at times, and we wouldn't get optimal produce.Then we had a ten-year lull at our farm in Bangalore when my father was unwell and couldn't tend to the crops. In that period, the land was unutilized; hence it regained its vitality. This firsthand experience was an eye opener for me, and I began associating with go-green farming.

 
Do you physically spend time farming/ gardening? How much time?
Well, I try to spend as much time as I can, though I haven't been successful in doing so for the past seven months. Generally, we try hard to grow our own food – organic food – and I am particular about that, to the extent that we don't feed our cattle anything inorganic. I am serious about organic farming, though I don't want to be known as an activist.
Singer, actor, farmer – which of these is the true Lucky Ali??
All. Though I must say that fame may get you money, but growing your own food gets you a good night's sleep.
Can you explain 'growing your own food'? Don't you eat out at all?
I mean trying to eat local produce, not the mass produced stuff you get in retail, like chicken brought up on antibiotics and oestrogen, for instance. I mean growing and eating healthy food, and getting to protect the interests of the local farmer too.We have a responsibility to look after ourselves and also the earth and the environment that sustain us.
What about your personal diet? How can you be fastidious about eating only organic food even when travelling?
Well, when I eat out, I eat out! I enjoy my food. But when at home, I stick to organic, home-grown food, and advocate the same to my children.
And how difficult is it to advocate healthy food to children? How do you teach them to desist from munching on chips?
I don't. We just make the chips at home. My wife cooks for them, and the potatoes come from my farm.
What's your comfort food?
Milk – not the oestrogen stuffed packaged milk, but fresh farm milk –I get someone to deliver it from the tabela. I enjoy hot milk with corn flakes and oats. Sometimes, I binge on a bar of chocolate or on Indian sweets, though I am trying to cut down on that.
Speaking about GM (genetically modified) produce, what – in your opinion – is the greatest health risk posed by genetically altered/nonorganic foods?
The world population has topped 6 billion, and continues to grow. GM foods were the promise to meet the demand for food supply for this booming population, but will they? We don't know the long term consequences of consuming GM foods, but initial studies do indicate that they are toxic and harmful.
Isn't it tough to advocate organic food, considering that consumers have to pay a premium for it?
See, we need to grow more food, but the rate at which our population is growing, we will not have enough arable land to feed the world's population. We could take to urban skyfarms, do you know what that is?
No, I don't....
Well, skyfarms are sky scraper farms which every city must have. These are vertical 'farmscrapers' or tall buildings that grow produce using greenhouse methods. (Each floor has its own water and nutrient monitoring system that tracks the nutrients a plant has absorbed. We can have systems to monitor plant disease, and also to tell us when a healthy plant is ready to be picked so we get it right off the shelf.) We have the technology, and we are basically an agrarian people, so we can certainly do this. Of course, the government needs to be supportive and encouraging.
 

    
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