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We're not really growing as we think we are: Mansoor Khan

Mansoor Khan, Aamir Khan’s cousin and Imran Khan’s maternal uncle, made news when he gave up his full-fledged career as a director to go and settle in Coonoor with his family, to engage himself in farming and making cheese.

Director-turned-author Mansoor Khan
Director-turned-author Mansoor Khan

The reticent Khan is now back in the limelight with a book that speaks about how we live under the false illusion of growth and prosperity, along with giving a realistic view of how since we started exploiting nature, our growth has stopped. The book stresses on the need to understand that the world has finite sources and hence we cannot expect to continue growing economically.

So your book is ready after a research of three years. What kind of research went into it?
This book became bit of an obsession with me. I studied a lot about the subject for the last three years and I would think about it even in my sleep. Apart from reading up, I did a lot of debating with like-minded people and it’s been a constant endeavour to connect the dots. The basic point of the book is that all of us are considering growth as a fantastic thing, we all are talking about exponential, quantitative perpetual growth that will take us to the future. We are making more products, increasing more services, and generally living under this grand illusion of growing in every field.

Without getting into a moral argument, my book talks about how we are not really growing as we think we are. We have been destroying forests, harming ecology and thus affecting the energy. When energy around us is getting lesser, how can there be real growth? There is a small definite community who understands that energy is the backbone of our existence and the way we are using up energy, there is no way this world is growing in any direction.

The book brings out the direct relation between the ecological depletion of energy and economy of the world?
Yes. We delude ourselves thinking money on its own has value. Attend any financial meeting and they will be talking about capital, equity, but they don’t realise all this are just symbolic terms. Money is not real, it is the energy that determines the real economy, the real GDP. We all know that oil is running out and we are deluding ourselves into thinking that we will replace it with natural gas.

But none of us wants to realise that if there is no oil, how can we create natural gas? I am not doing moral lecturing about saving the environment in my book, rather I am being a detective who wants to know how we are thinking of making progress in realistic terms. We behave as if the ground is obliged to give us oil forever. That’s not true. Oil and economy has a direct relationship and we have to realise that the oil is not going to last forever.

So you think we have already stopped growing?
Yes, we have. The Red Indians are far more sensible than us. Even animals know that there is a limit to which they can exploit the environment and after that point things start collapsing. We human beings think we are very smart. We think we can somehow make this go on forever with our smartness. We are living in this fantasy world. With the forests disappearing and soil getting depleted, we need to drop off the false concept of growth immediately and start looking at some realistic solutions.

Does writing give you more satisfaction than making films?
Life, not films, is the strongest medium. Films are much more limited, whereas walking around, talking to people face-to-face, travelling, giving lectures is what it is about. People tell me how can you quit films, you could have been earning in crores and here you are making cheese. My question to them is, so am I dead? Am I unhappy? Why should someone’s idea of growth and happiness be mine? I know I could have been traveling in a better car, could own a fancier car but these so called labour-saving devices use up your energy more than the conventional methods.

Money is the monster. I feel like telling the RBI chief, Raghuram over a cup of coffee, that you are a nice guy but you are stuck in the wrong time. We are not growing in any which way because our resources are extremely limited. But if you look at it, our country is the best place to live in right now, because we are fundamentally frugal, rooted and honest people. We don’t have grand delusions of prosperity like some of the European countries do.

You are portraying a very bleak picture of the future...
Not really. We are in the Titanic and I am just pointing out that we are approaching the iceberg. 

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