University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
I was born in the year of the Elephant – an auspicious year according to the elders – with 30 other million born in that year.
My father had hopes for me, hopes that I would see what he did not, achieve what he could not, and enjoy comforts he only read about. In his day, there were few people who lived in the village, and some did not have enough to eat and had to work hard to grow their food.
But there were many things even the poor could have. They had forests and mountains, animals and birds, lakes and streams. They could go into the woods to enjoy the call of the birds, the animals, and the flowers. They could swim in the river and look at deer grazing. The village, my father says, had forests all around it.
Now we have electricity in the village, tractors on the farms, and roads that bring nice things from the city. My father says that before we had electricity it was dark in the evening and very hot in summer. Now we can work outside in the evening and cool ourselves with fans. But often the electricity does not come, and the road becomes so packed with trucks that it is faster to walk.
My father had several brothers and sisters, but many of them died. Now hundreds of children are born, and the doctor looks after them. We have large families, and every year our village population is increasing.
My father remembers swimming with the buffaloes in the pond near the school, in the field with only one house nearby. Now countless houses surround the pond. I wonder how many more children, how many more families, how many more houses can our village take?! In the city, they live one on top of the other – they say up to ten houses can be stacked on top of each other.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had fewer people? If only a few children were born and we could all live as a family? We would have lots of space, electricity to give us light in the evening, and good clothes from the city. We could have a forest again, and trees, enjoy the pond, and the animals, and the birds again ….
DR. AROOP MANGALIK is a medical oncologist at the University of New Mexico Cancer Research & Treatment Center in Albuquerque. He was born and spent most of his life in India. There he saw first hand the effects of overpopulation on people at all levels, rich and poor, urban and rural. This essay is one of the efforts he has made to increase awareness about the problems arising from overcrowding.