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June 30, 2007

The living trees


"If you are thinking a year ahead, sow a seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree." Chinese poet, 500 BC

"He who plants a tree loves others beside himself." English proverb

"The best friend on Earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources of the Earth." Frank Lloyd Wright

"They are beautiful in their peace; they are wise in their silence. They will stand after we are dust.They teach us, and we tend them." Galeain ip Altiem MacDunelmor

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." Greek proverb

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." Martin Luther

"The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'" John F. Kennedy

"Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness." Kahlil Gibran

"A tree uses what comes its way to nurture itself. By sinking its roots deeply into the earth, by accepting the rain that flows towards it, by reaching out to the sun, the tree perfects its character and becomes great. ... Absorb, absorb, absorb. That is the secret of the tree." Deng Ming-Dao, Everyday Tao

"Plant trees. They give us two of the most crucial elements for our survival: oxygen and books. " A. Whitney Brown

"To me, nature is sacred; trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals." Mikhail Gorbachev

"God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. " John Muir

"The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings." Buddhist Sutra

IF WE LIKED NOISE, WE WOULDN'T BE HERE
IF YOU LIKE NOISE, YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE
(in a board posted in Landour, Mussourie)

Because....

Because I see these mountains,
they are brought low.
Because I drink these waters,
they are bitter.
BecauseI traced these black rocks,
they are barren.
Because I have found these islands,
they are lost.
Upon seal and seabird dreaming their innocent world,
my shadow has fallen

A poem by Kathleen Raine (1908-2003)

June 22, 2007

The three year itch

Three years at work is an interesting period in the present times. Three - because people hardly stay that long in a particular job now - also because staying that long at one job encourages the millions of well wishers and friends and so many others to say that it is now high time to move onto to a higher sphere of responsibility. But those are just the external influences that trap an already confused mind to take steps in extreme anxiety.
What is of concern at the end of three years is a person's appreciaitionof his immediate environment, his profile at work and the knowledge of his increased or continuing stagnant responsibilities. He has been working for three years, starting with little responsibility but high work pressure. He then moves on to roles with a little higher profile but is still working with many superiors, each of whom intends to get his work completed ( wonder whether they care for the junior's work load). At this phase, the person in question is already performing at increasing levels of eficiency and rigour. He is doing better today than he did yesterday. By his third year at work, he has learnt to rope in his ideas into implementable outputs and is immensely satisfied with his efficiency, he is now striving to work even better everyday. He starts getting new and better ideas that seem imminently possible to implement and he sees his ideas forming into a reality every passing day.

He is happy in his work, happy enough in the knowledge of his friends moving on to much better paying jobs, yet expressing their wonder at his work and how meaningful it is, he is also happy enough to somehow fob off the jibes of those who attempt to show him at his lowly place as compared to others of his qualification and background.

This showcasing of his increasing isolation in the overall sphere of rising friends and compatriots does take its toll and the conflict begins. Correct, the work being done is exemplary, it is making a difference at the ground, your employer is gaining with your higher work ethic and appreciating the small differences that you make.

But, you are stressed out, Aren't you... Stressed with your profile, your monthly take home salary and stressed witht the conflicts that never seem to leave you. You were naturally inclined to work at higher levels of efficiency but are stressed out with the knowing fact of not being handed enough responsibilities that match you. You clash with your seniors, severely affected by their nonchalance and realise that often, you are the only one fighting a battle. Even to ask for more work, you need to take up a fight that then seems to spill on to the next day and further still. You are fixed on the organisational pattern that seems to award those who work less and burden those who work more. Your friends concur with your observations and again, tell you - Hey, it is high time for you to leave.


Besides, not being given responsible enough jobs, you are plagued with workload of a different manner. It is true that writiting a book and carrying garbage cannot be matched but you should be doing what is you vocation and not what is others' work profile. You are overburdened and unable to see the positive impacts of your work (almost as if the garden never looks clean though you may prune the roses everyday). This is a time of a sense of failure setting in when you see that your well meaning decisions at the start of your career are actually leading to failure of your dreams and ambitions,,, may be you have just become a failure and incapable of taking up a better job.You are psyched out by by your decreasing self worth and about to burn out from your perceived incompatibility with your present work.

This in short are the symtoms of the three year itch and you may be one of them suffering from this ailment. Though, I have writtn down the symtoms, yet I do not seem to have the right answers to cure them.. Maybe, time woould play a bigger part in this, maybe







June 20, 2007

Tales from the Forest - Chada in Dindori

Wilderness is not all that wild. Maybe what has remained of wilderness today is just a lost memory of what was wild long back.
Sitting as I am in one of the supposedly most primitive villages of the nation, a village named chara, deep inside the sal forests of the central highlands, I feel I know why Verrier Elwin chose to spend a few decades of his life in this place.These are the verdant forests where nothing else but poetry flows and the march of development seems stalled. But fifty years hence sitting in the village square I see the progress right down to the centre of the village. People may have conflicting views on development, but for me it gets increasingly difficult to find the one man yet untouched by our progress.
Leaving aside the development issue, it is better if I look inward and feel its beauty and not its bane. Nestled in the maikal ranges, Baiga Chak is almost a thousand metres above the sea. The temperate climate all round the year has given rise to a wild outburst of fauna and flora, beyond one's wildest dreams. No wonder this area is known as the botanist's paradise. Outwardly silent, the village brims with life in its own way. The startlingly beautiful, well-tattooed Baiga women add to the charm. All similarities with an ordinary revenue village end at the word 'village' itself. Huge forests, calm people, a certain degree of laziness, this is for all I know, a model village.
To the uninitiated, the sarkar proclaims hat the village has four wells, two taps, one pond, one school and the list goes on and on. What purpose these signboards seem to serve is a matter of debate but the villagers use it as an effective place to smoke their morning bidis and the birds for their droppings. The village is crowded with one small hotel selling black tea and a little bhaji. The omnipresent 'pandukan' has made inroads here too, with its standard four-legged existence. A school here, a rest house close, 78 houses, that is it. And then the forests take over. They roll in from the hills on all sides ending only when the hills meet the levelled fields. These great trees catch your attention and hook you onto them. Even agriculture looks beautiful. Small fields in patches close to the forest gives one the impression of a grassy meadow in some virgin patch, the late bloom of rice adding to the colour.
Chara is a hill station where the march of progress takes a break but does have a presence, albeit less. The place may not be wild as the forests adjacent to it, but it still holds forth the hope that there is still wilderness left in the spirits of men here.
Landing here late at night for only one bus comes, and that too late at night, my first morning was as good as it gets. Mist had rolled down to the valley and hardly a living object seemed to be moving. Clouds were playing games with us. Slowly a few drops fell as if to test the mood of the people, and then the clouds burst unleashing the beauty of nature. The village as if on cue has gone quiet as if shrouded by the cloud of silence. Mornings at Baiga Chak are full of non-events, small affairs in the run of life.
Lazy is the word, lazy in its appearance, relaxed in its outlook, problems kept aside not being allowed to interfere in the joy of living life. And surely, it feels nice.

June 19, 2007

For the question of what?


I woke up with a thud. Thinking that the elephant had come inside the house, the mind told me to take evasive action and up I was. But there was neither the elephant nor its scent. It was but my mother waking me up from my sojourn. Handing me a bag, she told me go get some vegetables. I asked her, what would be the worth of these vegetables. Handing a 50 rupees note, she said my expenditure should not exceed this amount.

Fine, I thought, 50 rupees is a lot of money and I am not that much of spendthrift to spend even a quarter of that. Fine, get up Kunal and cycle in the town. Cycle I did but never with so much of sleepiness as that evening. Maybe it was the heat or just that I had slept late into the evening and the mind had become lazy in its action.

Buying the vegetables, I followed my usual routine of taking a circle round the colony. Now, circling is fine but doing so in a sleepy state of mind is never advisable, as per the warnings put up by the highways department. Anyways, I was cycling and seeing so many people in their activities. There was the wife of Mishra ji combing her long hair, combing it in the fading sun and her daughter, again nowhere to be seen. She, Kavita, was always on the play, and I like, others I believe, hardly ever got to view a fleeting glance of her roaming figure. With no Kavita, I lost interest and kept on cycling when I came upon some children playing in the upcoming bunglow of the agent of the colony. These were the local indigenous people, with thin sinous bodies and hardly a cover on them. Unlike, many boys from the officer's arena, I was infact very friendly with many of them and occasionally played football in their area. But those friendly guys lived on the other side and the grown up boys on this side always looked so big and scary to a small, almost always single figure like me.

Hell, leave the thoughts aside and reach home for the goodies must be ready by now. Dreaming, I came upon these small boys, puny compared to me as well. I rang the feeble cycle bell and most moved out of the way. Most but one, who looked at me in shock and me at him in disbelief. Move, move, move and before I could react much, the cycle hit his leg. I climbed down, thinking of what I would say to him when I realised that he was not able to stand up. O my god,I thought, knowing something may have gone wrong. And went wrong, it did. The boy had broken his dear left leg and unbelievably, I was the one who brought this to him. O god, I thought being still sleepy. By now, tens of boys had reached me and some had held me tight. I was forced to now rouse myself up from the sleep as much as I can and reach the state of complete consciousness. In no time, the boys took me to the agents house, enmasse, it was going to be fun for the many bystanders who had nothing better to do that lazy evening.
The thing is, no one wanted me to be taken to my father who had a reputation of being tough and they knew that if he found that I did wrong, I would be in great trouble and so would they as he will throw out the bystanders. So they took me to the agent's bunglow, shouting and cursing and having a jolly good time.
But surprise, my father who was supposed to be inside the mines was actually sitting with the agent and it took him by surprise that they had brought me there. The gang stumped, meekly told him about my mistake and sitting in the agent's house, my father in all his magnamity decided to take care of the boy. I learnt a great lesson in mob control. stump them with their argument and seeing my father do so with great charm, the gang had to dissipiate and let the family memebrs do the talking. My father agreed that it was my doing though the fault lay in both sides and took the boy to the hospital. 8000 rupees and a week later, the boy was released and I went back to the neighbourhood to be friends again with them ( at my father's insistence).
He took care of me then as he would lovingly do now, though he gave strict orders not to let me drive my cycle under the influence of sleep, much as he would do now if I decide to drive and drink, which will never happen. He remained cool under pressure and taught me that no matter what, I must always do so, each and every time, I am stranded with nowhere to look upto...........




June 18, 2007

Mukurthi

Day after tomorrow -

Sleep, me and a thousand trees

To sispara and mukurthi

ANOTHER ILLUSION RINGING TRUE

Snakes and me

As a child and while I was growing up, snakes held a fascination that bordered on the obsessiveness for me. I was born in the rural parts of Bengal that is the natural home to so many snake species and numbers that one leaves count of them and refers to all as 'shaap'. It was in this environment that I met up with real snakes and snake stories that never seem to end.
Now so many years later, i feel that snake stories are buut an integral part of all communities in india, everywhere there is a snake god or snake gem and so on. It was in those days of those movies Nagina and Nigahein where the supremely beautiful Sridevi did all those snake dances and brought the lore of the snake deeply within millions of small and growing children like us. I was made to believe that snakes if killed, would return and definitely target you sooner than later. Ineffect, a snake's patner or some next of kin would come and take it's revenge before your own lifetime comes to an end. This installed fear was so overbearing that even now I think of it to be true. Second, was the power of snakes with respect to its economic benefits. Even in this, which I still sometimes consider to be true, the snake was considered to be the forebringer of valuable gems that lay somewhere above and behinds its outstretched hood. This gem gave the snake the sobriquet of neelkanth. Neelkanth or not, neither did I nor anyone I knew had the courage to search for the gem in its hood. Yes, but of course for Sidharth, who in his infinite wisdom and courage had even done this. He had claimed that he or someone from his illustrious friend group had indeed had a snake in their vast godowns that was a neelkanth. I never did get to see them, neither did he show us his pet blue whale or baby elephant.
But the snake stories lay inside me all the time. And in addition to the stories was the real happenings that continue till today.
I experienced snakes all through my childhood and being in the present profession, I manage to come across them once in while presently. Of all, the most abiding memory remains that of the snake in my birth place, a cobra, a cobra that gave me the fear of life. It was one moring when I was sitting and studying on the driveway that comes up from the main gate in Girmint colliery. It was early morning and mummy called me to take my glass of milk. I had been sitting since early and was focussing on the studies. However, in my half sleep and partial drowsiness, I absentmindedly came upon the chair and sat on it with a thud. It was afyter a few seconds that I heard a hiss, a real hiss that no human could have possibly made. Turning back, half expecting a snake below my chair and getting more excited at the thought, I turned back and saw to my greatest scare, a snake was coiled to my chair and was hissing on my turned face now.
AAAAAASSSSSSHHHHHHH ..............and I was off to the ground, leaving the snake saping in shock, much as I was in shock... What happened next, wfter my hysterical shouting had woken up the entire country was a sad demise of the snake and with it, one of the stories of its partner coming back to take its revenge against its killers. For, the bhaiyas that had killed the poor snake are still running and doing fine..... But I did learn a lesson, never cause a snake to die because of your shouts....
I still think in disbelief and wonder aloud, how did the snake coil itself around that broad chair and why at such an early morning that day... i still wonder.....

MY SNAKE STORIES TO CONTINUE IN THE COMING MONTHS

Theories we make in our lives

In the midst of all the trauma I face and cause others to undergo, the feeling of acute silliness arises now. What Samita had to suffer has all to do with me and with me alone. She should not have felt any discomfort but for my indiscretion. And why ? I have been made to realise that these incidents are what brakes and makes one's life long association with the ones you live with.
with the not so happy events of the past few weeks (now, I guess), i am beginning to realise that no matter how hard you try, things will go the way your subconscious chooses it to move.. And my internnal engine is way out of equilibrium these days, infact I was never so uncertain, tired and exhausted as I am now. I feel disgust and neglect at the way I am treated back at o, but why is there the need to be so personal with the work you do. Everybody who knows me asks why on earth do I feel so tired and so pissed off as I am feeling now and then move on tonsuggest that maybe ' it is time to move on'....
These talks have hopefully made me realise that whatever i may do for the place I work in, how many plastic bags I may lift and throw into the dustbin, how much material help I may provide to the not so well off people of the staff and beyond how well I do my daily work and with an efficiency that no one can match in a radius of some square kilometres, i still do not have the right to assume that this place is mine and neither can I get emotionally attched to the place that gives me my daily bread.
When I was in school, I used to be very friendly with the coutless gardnerers and other sundry staff that make up the bulk of St. Patricks. Today, when I go back, it still feels so strange that most of them copme upto me and ask me and ask about my sister and my father and my mother. How, after so many long years do they still remember me. How they ask each time, '' ae re kamon acchis''. Was being happy and smiling to them each time I met them for more than ten years sufficient reason for them to be emphatic about me, especuially they have no material gain or loss talking to me. Being good and positive brings about a vibe that stays till the end of time, isnt it.
In college, I was good with so many people, taking part in the daily lives and me not making an issue about it. Talking to them, evening having an occasional tea with them, laughing with them, letting them laugh at me and just having a whale of a time. I never had to make an effort to make them feel that i am being good to them.
It was around that time in 2000 and 2001, that I began to develop a theory that there is absolutely no motive, other than being good for the sake of it, in bringing about those few minutes of smile to a persons' life and also that THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO LET THE WHOLE WORLD KNOW, O HOW GOOD YOU DOING TO THE WORLD.
This theory took shape and worked everywhere and even works presently where I live, but with an afterthought. People took a lot of time and probably still do not accept it with full faith, that anybody can take care or think good of thers without asking something back from them.
But what picks me and rips my thoughts, is that the quantum of work I do and the level and the quality of work I do, seemingly does not cross the levels to the concerned people and each time I have to make an effort to tell them that 'hey, look, I have done so much'। They say if you have to talk loud of your work to the ones who matter, your work then is ' नाकाम ' Is it true then, is my work not substantial enough to make an impact directly without me having to make an effort to put it across to others.
Has my theory gone bust..........

June 15, 2007

Quotes at work

- If you have to get work done, make the team comfortable

- What is to be done is less important than who does it

- For every step taken by your team members, be a flag post of observation

- Ask not what can be done, ask when it will be complete

- Plan in advance, plan comprehensively and plan to DO

June 11, 2007

Pressures on the forest- Mudumalai


Mudumalai is situated on the southern extremity of the Mysore Plateau and separated from the Sigur plateau by the Moyar River and bound by the Nilgiri massif in the south east. The sanctuary is unique in several aspects as it was among the earliest declared protected areas of the nation. More than 70 years of protection have resulted in a high faunal density as well as adequate natural regeneration.
However, the sanctuary is not bereft of problems. Though, it is fortunate to be bounded on two sides by Bandipur and Wynad, yet it continues to reel under rapidly increasingly biotic pressure from the east and south. Small towns like Masinagudi and Singara pose immense threat to the fragile ecosystem, besides the numerous villages dot the area along Gudalur. Land rights are still ambiguous and encroachments are common. The plantations eat up into the forest most of the time and often there is a small thread of sanity that divides the forest from the hungry cash crops. Farmers have devised unique ways of living in their strange lifestyle and are up against the elements as well as the giant pachyderms that constantly threat to invade their fields. However it is the tribals who are the worst lot. With their traditional rights having been blotched, they are between the horns dilemma, having nowhere to go. There is no land available for resettlement, much of the allotted land for the insiders of the sanctuary has already been encroached upon, and even while they stay inside they are constantly harassed by the forest department and exploited by petty traders who buy numerous minor forest produce (not so minor for those whose life depends upon the quantity of honey collected each year) at dirt cheap rates.
The issue of encroachment is all pervading. Inside the sanctuary, lies the Benne block having a few patta lands. There are a few groups of Chetti patta land in Mudumalai block as well. Combining benne and Mudumalai forest, the total leased land is 55.00 hectares. In addition to this, the Chetties and the other tribes are cultivating 645.63 acres in different revenue settlement inside the sanctuary. The forest department has plans to relocate the people living inside the sanctuary to other places in the taluk. The villages originally envisaged for rehabilitation were Srimadurai and Cherumulli with potential land being offered as high as 1600 acres. But there has been little further progress in this matter.

With rapidly increasing populations and a shrinking land base, it is but critical that the sanctuary be accorded greater safety, but in hardening their stance, the forest department often isolates the marginal tribal groups who have no other means of livelihood, other than the forest and its resources. The tussle goes on and in the midst of all, suffers the tress and the tribals.

Keystone

Nestled amongst the high ranges of the Nilgiris in Southern India, Keystone strives to bring about positive transformation in the lives and livelihood of indigenous people. A motley, professional bunch of 30, from divergent cultures and thoughts, one hand grappling a GPS and the other coming to grips with the adivasi way of life, Keystone is an idea that is being implemented – on a daily basis – to enhance the quality of life and of environment through ecodevelopment.

The Keystone Path

Keystone works primarily in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) covering the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. NBR is a unique, biologically rich and ecologically fragile region of India. There exist numerous parks offering sanctuary to wild flora and fauna, geography has nurtured isolated adivasi groups dependent upon natural resources for their livelihood, high hill ranges serve as a fountainhead to parched throats in the drought prone plains. Yet, much has changed over the past. Large swathes of forested hills have been ruthlessly exploited, much of the original land use altered. NBR faces an unprecedented crisis of survival today. Located at the heart of these changes, Keystone has been working with indigenous people in the field of Environment and Natural Resources over the past decade. The organisation was born more than a decade ago when four young folks while surveying the hill regions of Tamil Nadu realized that there are only a handful of development groups with a mandate of working with both conservation and basic needs issues.

The challenge has been and continues, to synchronize social, economic and ecological systems and introduce effective strategies that would work in hill ecosystems while ensuring that the pristine environment of the Nilgiris remains preserved.

As an ecodevelopment group, Keystone strives to:
∗ Increase conservation perspectives
∗ Increase availability of alternate livelihoods for adivasi people
∗ Enhance the economic status of adivasi people
∗ Sustain traditional practices

Our primary interventions are in the field of –

Natural Resource Management ensuring that conservation becomes a mandate of communities living close to forest areas and not just an intervention by outsiders. NRM is a tricky issue with overlapping concerns such as sustainability of the resource, increasing population and indiscriminate extraction of resources. How do we achieve a balance between divergent interests of people? Through interventions that closely and positively affect the person residing in the village. Interventions such as Beekeeping, promotion of Traditional Agriculture, documenting, studying and value adding Non Timber Forest Products and conserving Water Resources such as wetlands, rivers and drinking water sources.

Enterprise Development where we have strived to find the right mix between extraction and exploitation. This search for a middle path led us to develop our philosophy of Value Addition as a key balance between conservation, enterprise and livelihoods. We are also involved in motivating adivasi farmers to ‘grow your own food’ by providing Participatory Guarantee and Marketing support for sale of organically grown produce.

Institutional Development & Local Governance to develop community governance and strengthen decision making institutions. It is our belief that village institutions must have the capacity to handle their resource judiciously and whether economically or culturally, these institutions must be strengthened. Strengthened so as to serve as a platform of economic and social growth for the future generations.

As an environmental group focusing on eco-development, Keystone has traversed a long distance in its quest of developing a progressive adivasi society and devising strategies that fit into the overall ecology of the hill district.
In the slopes, towards the town,
stands a house alone forlorn.
Washed by the evening rain,
the town shines yet again.
The house stands alone, I wonder why,
I think to myself, hope all's right.
in broken letters, I move on,

and see the house never shine on

June 9, 2007

In the rains... diary date June the 9th 2007

Ha... In the rains I stand today...in the cold I sit now.. Where did I start and where am I today... Gues anybody can say such things at any time and go on and on.

I would definitely have a billion concur with me when I say that rains make people so thoughtful and contemplative. I become one and right now - though cold, i am indeed thinking...

Thinking and writing of the so many years that have passed of my life and so much that has happened. But sitting now and lokking ahead, i know that time as unexpectedly as it is shall move ... march on relentlessly... perhaps the only entity that is stopped by none. I sit alone and enjoy the thought and think about it and see a silverfish... the ones that eat up your precious books... skim by....

I am right now, in Kotagiri, 2000 metres above the sea, 20 degrees below what most people are experiencing in most parts of India and in a building that has become a part of me.... I am here and I am satisfied... most of the times.... learning a lot.. thinking a lot... I see others and think for them though I bet, they would be doing the same for me now.

What am I doing here... having come on an alternate whim... staying here longer than most people spend their times in government jobs as well.... loving this place at all times.... cursing so many aspects at other times.... I feel like a danseuse in a harem.. loving and loathing under the same roof....

But why do I stay here... one because the loving overshadows the loathing by several degrees and the loathing is not made up of hatred but essentially my inability to work around these condition, besides others.

I bet a lot of people feel the same and though I considered myself to be superhuman sometimes, I do understand that in an attempt to go around the loathing, I am bound to be affected by it ... isnt it

June 6, 2007

What does Tourism mean to me?


To me, Tourism is synonymous with wanderlust…….

traveling to interesting places away from the din of our daily lives, for leisure or combined with work. It is about breathing in the fresh whiff of sea swept air and walking through soft sand melting at my feet. It is about roaming places without worry - carefree and childlike. Tourism means all this to me and much more. It is also about prodding myself to tread into unknown territory, into roads less taken that gives an intoxicating delight comparable to none. Standing on the edge of a precipice, letting down your excess baggage and kissing the air is what it symbolizes to me- it symbolizes freedom.

We are all tourists in one form or the other, for the joy of seeing new places, people and learning is immeasurable. We want to explore new places. We strive to sense the wonder of those ancient artists honing their skills to perfection in Khajurao or Konark, we reach out to be one with nature in all its wild beauty whether in Corbett or Kaziranga, we trek miles of our vast earth to observe and explore the ancient practices of the Baigas and Bhotiyas. And the best way out is to pack one’s bag and set out into the fascinating world. For it opens our eyes to new wonders of our world, new vistas of knowledge, providing thrill and wisdom simultaneously.

The tourist travels abroad or at home in search of pleasure and leisure in wildlife parks, beaches, towns and villages. Tourism is an educational activity as well, for it gives a whole new insight into the natural history, culture and varied traditions of diverse communities. It is a stepping stone to cross-cultural friendships and understanding. It brings people from one part of the world into interaction with another. Tourism in its pure form is an invigorating mélange of sights, smells, tastes and sounds of the world we live in.

Completing a tour is not just an end to itself but is a window to myriad colours of life. For, it is about being carefree but not careless. Tourism enables me not only to enjoy places but also imbibes a deep sense of responsibility for the upkeep of the environment. It is an opportunity not only to discover joy in the exquisiteness of the destination but also to ensure that the splendor remains undisturbed and cherished by future generations.

Above all, Tourism is about creating lasting imprints not on places we stopped by, but on ourselves - Enlightened and Enthused by every single place we visit, meals we partake, sights we behold, cultures we salute and extra lives that we live…..

I...

I stood alone when all had left,
I watched over the shining glade,
I saw my eyes shine over,
I wondered what else is left.

I saw the world so small today,
And felt the wind so pure now,
I wish time could stay still,
and wish the forest remained an illusion.

Honey Trails in the Blue Mountains

The Introduction to my new book... Honey Trails

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) is a massive physical, ecological and cultural complex merging some of the most forested regions of the three states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka into a single ecological block. NBR is spread over eight districts - Nilgiris, Coimbatore and Erode in Tamil Nadu, Palakkad, Malappuram and Wyanad in Kerala, and Coorg and Mysore in Karnataka (Daniel, 1996).

The Biosphere Reserve is home to major honey-producing zones in the overall context of South India, with massive honey cliffs or ‘bee nesting’ trees present in large numbers. Forest sanctuaries have been accorded a high degree of protection resulting in abundance of floral and faunal species and a subsequent enduring tradition of honey harvesting. The dense forests and steep escarpments that abound in the Western Ghats provide a natural resting place for the Giant Rock Bees and ancestral dwellings of adivasis. These bee habitats are critical for the survival of the diversity of these forests having ecological, economic and socio-cultural foundations for adivasi groups.

The honey hunters of the NBR are renowned for their skill of collection from highly treacherous settings. Several adivasi groups hunt honey and each have certain methods peculiar to them. The Aalu Kurumbas in the eastern and southern parts of the Nilgiris and in Attapady are renowned for scaling cliffs more than 500 feet in height while the Kasavas and Irulas are adept in harvesting large quantities from giant trees. The Kattunaicken is an expert hunter in and around Mudumalai and Muthanga forests just as the Jenu Kurubas are eminent in Nagarhole and Mysore regions. In addition, the Cholanaicken is renowned for his legendary skills in New Amarambalam using basic equipments to scale high trees and cliffs. (Keystone, 2006)

The close link of bees to adivasi people is synonymous to linking ecology with livelihoods. This study has thrown open several aspects of forests, people and governance. Issues related to declining bee populations, NTFPs, traders and the thin boundaries between `legal and illegal’, came to us in different forms – in different places. This book explores these issues and presents facts as were seen during the travels to these areas.

After a decade of work in the field of conservation and development with adivasi people of the Nilgiris, this programme gave our team an opportunity to explore the whole Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR). This has meant an exposure to different adivasi communities, different forest types and environs. This knowledge has made the team aware that their work is `still not over’ and there are several issues that need to be addressed. Our work and perspectives have since then grown and extended to different parts of the NBR, especially in parts of Sathyamangalam Taluk, Nilambur and Wyanad.

Working in the larger Nilgiri region for several years now, we realized that the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, though intensively studied, is largely not clearly understood. Aspects of the forest, of the people, of the degradations occurring in many parts and of the uniqueness of the region are hardly presented coherently.

With our experiences from the study, it was a keenly felt opinion of the team members that the project should move ahead and primed for visibility for larger sections of the society and interested readers. The natural progression was a publication that would in effect, comprise surveys undertaken during the programme, our travails and outputs into a single unit for a varied viewership. The book thus, is a study on a unique and ecologically fragile region of the nation and an examination of the lives of the indigenous people who live here, in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The book puts forward the interlaying complexities involving bees, forests and various stakeholders. Besides primary findings, this book integrates information from secondary sources and from discussions with different people of the region. The book introduces in detail, the whole region of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, encompassing the issues it faces and present state of affairs of its indigenous population, called `adivasis’ or ‘indigenous people’ throughout this publication.

The book is divided into two distinct sections. The first part describes the entire Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve with respect to the study. The second part of the book details out the regions within the large Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and focuses on their specific issues.

The importance of this region in terms of biodiversity is elaborated in the first chapter in section A of the book. The second and third chapters cover the diverse people and forests of this region. Honey collection in the NBR is a traditional activity of the adivasis. From pre-historic times to barter to its commercialization, honey plays an important role in the lives of people. A comprehensive perspective of honey collection, its different traditions, the methods, techniques & resource use and the contemporary issues of market, pricing and quality are covered in the fourth and fifth chapters. The sixth chapter presents Keystone’s experiences and summarises the issues related to honey, people, market, forests and trade in the overall context of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It also provides some ideas for the future from our perspective and addresses some crucial development and conservation concerns.

The main issues facing the region are covered in detail by a representative subregion. This also elaborates the forests and people of that subregion and its ecological history. Each subregion within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve therefore gets its focus. This method integrates the various aspects of the region and is like a `ready reckoner’ for issues related to people, biodiversity & related livelihoods, changes within the society and the surrounding environment.

The final chapter discusses all these issues in its broadest perspective, drawing from the intricate aspects of honey and related issues and suggesting efforts for the future. This will also act like a guide for idividuals and other organizations in the area to plan their work around the issues described. The perspective from the adivasi point of view is different vis-à-vis that of other populations and stakeholders in the region. A large extent of forest land and its implications for the ecology are some of the issues discussed in this concluding chapter. This also throws up policy implications for this ecologically sensitive area and calls for improved measures for management of the land and its people.

The book, in its present form strives to be informative, easy to read and thought provoking. It is aimed at policy makers, forest managers, adivasi organisations, NGOs and other role players of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It is also useful for students and researchers of environment and livelihood studies.

The Forests of Yore

When we speak of the ills plaguing nature today,
Reflect on the man and also on the animal.
Preserve all that they stand for,
Preserve the forest for it is the source,
Source of life, source of existence

June 5, 2007

In the Forest of the night

I stay awake and wonder hard. i think again and ponder what. Why do I think of something that comes so easily to me but is difficult to ponder for others.. why do they not understand the truth of life... that the world today is in a state of crisis. And you are ding pretty much too less about it.. Infact, you may just be doing nothing with respect to conserving nature...
I work in the forests, I have given up a lot of things to live a life such as this.. I do not regret my decision but sometimes wonder the futility of it all. Neither am I earning money nor am I able to sway the minds of those who need most to understand the wrongs done by their action or inaction.