In dusty, time-warped Indian villages, the last camels plough the land, last charkhas spin and last handlooms weave. The global ‘outside’ pushes in via Western culture, technology, huge land and agro-chemical contracts and the desire for a ‘number 2’ illegal route abroad.
Zameen (Land) is set in the cotton fields of Punjab, India. Baba, an ageing Sikh cotton farmer, toils away in his fields, struggling against the vagaries of nature and the modern world. His dutiful daughter Chandni dreams of escaping her fate. Her wastrel brother Dhani dreams of ‘Amrika’. When the moneylender Lal’s son Suraj returns from the outside world, Chandni and Dhani reflect on faded lives and aspirations and reach for ‘phoren’ dreams. A final reckoning on Baba’s land draws out truths, forcing the family to the brink of collapse, in a world changing fast and losing its values.
Rooted in Punjabi farming and folk culture, ancestral land and soil, Zameen was written before mass Indian farmer protests against the increasing corporatisation of agriculture, rising farmer suicides and decimation of small farmers. Facing a climate change catastrophe, Zameen captures a world in transition, as nature, tradition and globalisation violently collide around small village lives – lives steeped in a history of toil, struggle – and resilience.