July 31, 2009

Adieu Dubare

Dubare Jungle Lodges is perhaps one of the most unique places that I have been too in the last few years. Away from the crowd with the Cauvery river in its pristine best, it was my home for more than a year. A year that just went past, embedding rich memories into my conscious, likely perhaps to stay on till the body breathes hard.

Quaint as it is, the camp is full of surprises, for often the cobra comes into view and decides to strike up a conversation with a mortified guest. The wild elephants grazing peacefully might wish to spar with the jeep driver leaving the rest of us exhausted with its energetic charge. The kingfishers, of whom there are many, some residing next to the boat point, dive deep and pop up soon enough with usually not much in their beak and sing their rather pleasant song. There are also some very interesting painted storks, could be more than 20 individuals at the least, who stay faraway each day. But as dusk starts its advance,, these majestic birds come circling down the Cauvery and settle into that very favourite tree of theirs. ( Wish I could ever know why)

The occasional domestic elephants, especially Ekadanta has a habit of intruding unannounced into the camp with no specific interest, other than to damage some tree guards or bend the solar fence. Once, though, he did give me a whack when I went too near for comfort.

I have shifted recently to a new place and Dubare lingers on in my memory. It was a reminder of some very good times I had and some very good people that I met. Those very personal sittings on the river bank, almost each day of my life here was a memorable time. A time when I would not hear or see anything else and be lost in rather uncomplicated thoughts, maybe have a ginger tea also. It is always going to linger, this memory.

The safari was decent, especially when it rained a lot and the road became all slushy. The jeep would slide and skid and behave drunkenly. It would go on and on till the jeep stopped at the Amlakere temple and one would get down to pay obeisance to the devi and the lord. Driving in two feet of water is always a fun filled activity, perhaps.

The evenings, alone and silent, never dull for a moment, was what was looked forward too each day, day after day. Often, guests who would become friends would talk late into night and sometimes, it would be just me and nothing else, maybe a walk or two and some silence to fill the gaps.

One year is sufficient to build a relation with a place and long after times have passed, all that will remain of the place is th happy face of Harsha, Sattar, Srinivas, Shivanna, the frequent walks into the forest, the riverside, the unfinished buildings of N. Raju and the boat rides during the floods of July 10-18th 2009 when we rolled like a can in some turbulent sea.

July 24, 2009

In Kabini Now

So, I have after more than a year at Dubare, left for Kabini River Lodge, the best and the biggest of all our jungle lodges. Feels rather different comparing Dubare and Kabini at the same time... though differences are obvious and huge....

Hoping to have a good time and put up a series of experiences that Kabini is likely to throw at me....

To Dubare

July 17, 2009

The River's Voice

A thundery beat tugs hard,
It feels like million hearts beating fast,
When I look out, I see lava flow,
insistent, smooth and a beauty to behold,

This river of Joy, I sit a few feet away from,
has made me wonder the bounty the gods have bestowed,
No view ever has been better and smoother and as silky as now,
I truly know that I have frozen this moment and how.

The sound as I make it out,
is that of continuous roar, a majestic swishhhhhhhhh,
relentless through day and night, the river poetically shouts,
This is an honour, sitting today..... I salute thee o great nature again..

P.S. - The river rose by another feet during the night and we are still technically marooned. A majestic event, yet there is no abrupt flooding, as if nature mocks man by saying that if she let alone, she wouldn't cause misery as has been recently seen across the nation and the world.

This sound if ever I could document it is like some primeval dance on and on, day and night, probably lord Shiva is in his elements today - dancing across Kodagu....

July 16, 2009

We are Marooned

At Dubare, cut off from the world... a first..... The rain which arrived in torrents just continued to increase for the past few days and moreso in the past 72 hours. As a result, me, Samita and several of my staff are virtually cutoff from the rest of the world.

The Cauvery has risen by about 12-14 feet, an event locals say they have seen after many years....

I cannot even begin to write of the majestic Cauvery now, having received more than 1500 mm in the upper reaches, the waters see so poignant- so utterly romantic.... I cannot even attempt to write.

This flooding or rise of the water whatever it may be called means that we are officially cutoff till atleast Sunday... thankfully the net works a bit, but not the electricity so much....

Wish that the world freezes in this motion and the sound that I hear now - that smooth, silky flow of water never ends.

July 15, 2009

A Forest Conservation Perspectve

Karnataka is home to the diverse forests including the famed Western Ghats that cuts a swathe through more than nine districts while nurturing some of the most fascinating landscapes man has ever known. These forests harbour a bewildering wealth of flora and fauna: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fresh water fishes; much of which is endemic to the region. As early as 1988, people like Myers mentioned that the high level of diversity and endemism in Western Ghats has given it the status of one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. Forests in Karnataka are spread across landscapes ranging from Evergreen, Semi Evergreen, Moist, Dry and Shola forests resulting in a paradise for botanists, researchers, tourists and forest lovers in general. These forests are the source of several rivers, streams, swamps and marshes cumulatively bringing water to the parched land and ensuring a lifeline to millions across the state.

Often, forests mean many things to many people. It is a source for food for some, supply of medicinal plants for others and a valuable economic source of timber for many. All these are traditional demands that have been met by the forest since life began on earth. There would be infact few forests that do not provide benefits to either man or animal, in one way or the other. This role of the forest as a mutual agent of assistance is acknowledged by millions countrywide. For them, the forest is the omnipresent philanthropist, always ready to give.

However, even the most generous donor has a threshold and the wild is in a terminal decline today, leading to an ever increasing clamour to protect these fragile resources. Citizens, especially those who receive the benefits of forestry resources sitting in distant locations have grudgingly acknowledged that these resources need to be conserved, providing a significant urban based push for the environment movement over the past few years. There are a plethora of voices when it comes to focussing on reversing degradation of natural resources. Some advocates of conservation promote exclusion of forest dependent people from their homes in the so-called larger interest of the society, a concept that is opposed by groups who actively demand that indigenous people be allowed to stay in their ancestral lands and allowed to have rights over these lands.

This leads us to question whether forests are to be conserved for the benefit of urban conglomerations in commercial markets or is it to be conserved for people who live in adjacent areas and subsist on them, or is to be conserved to protect the invaluable wild flora and fauna that enrich the planets’ biodiversity.

These issues are related to the ownership, use and management of the forests. How will the resources be utilized and by whom, for whom? The State, representing many interests, including that of the demand of the distant consumer has larger concerns in mind to meet the larger objectives. Dams, logging, mining and large projects are undertaken to meet these goals and permanently alter these areas and their ecology. On the other hand, the forests are home to indigenous communities who have traditionally been dependent upon natural resources, utilizing and surviving on forest resources for a long period of time. These are some of the pulls and tugs that forest areas are now subject to.

This is a wide variety of choices people have made for themselves, forgetting that the forests inherently comprise three elements – flora or trees and shrubs, fauna or animals and man. These three are intrinsic to the very identity of the forests. But in the divide between many interest groups, it is easy to focus on the importance of any of these three components individually. Through an isolated window, focus on either one of the three is likely to lead to an imminent collapse of the forest ecosystem. Forests will then cease to exist as they do now and remain but a mere plantation or a forest village or a zoo or a research station, for the three complement each other and the alienation of one will inevitably alter the character of the forests as we know them. Just as it is necessary to provide a safe refuge to the diverse fauna, it is difficult to ignore the communities who have traditionally lived by the forests and accessed it for their livelihood. Can they be made partners in forest management and continue to protect its resources, undertaking the least damaging activity of NTFP collection, rather than large scale mutilation of forest regions. It is indeed difficult to imagine The Bilgiri Rangana Sancturay without the Solegas or parts of Uttar Kannada without the Siddhis. Of course, a need to provide inviolate spaces need to be provided in some national parks and people may be asked to relocate but these incidences are few and far between. Indigenous people should therefore be allowed to stay within their traditional domains and not shifted due to the misjudged perception of some, especially based on general sweep that categorises all of them as being inordinately exploitative in nature. The indigenous people, if made a modern day guardian, will result in being the pre-eminent defender of the forest, augmenting the efforts of the solitary forest guard, significantly.

July 13, 2009

Of the things there were deemed never to happen

An intense churning has been going on in the minds and hearts of those who live on this third rock from the sun - for the past few months. The signs were there, especially for those who could see through the maze.

Of the things that are assured great continuity of form are certain political events that were meant to be as long lasting as time itself is. And with the baggage, a Punjabi, bengali, tamil, kannada, english speaking person like me was certain that somethings would outlive me and the times ahead.

First on the list has to be the venerable communist government of West Bengal. Then would come the fight between LTTE and the Lanka government, then the communist occupation of Tibet and in the earlier times, the continued defiance of Veerapan. These events were considered to be perpetually in status quo, now, in this life and for a long time from now.

Now, since it has been more than a month that the CPM wallahs got thrashed in Bengal and subsequently in the municipal elections - the winds of change seems to blowing hard in the complex piece of land that is bengal. What was once thought to be an impossibility is now knocking on the doors of history and the bastion seems to be crumbling. Whether it will happen now or later is by itself a question that begets astonishment. Even a few months before was such a question never asked in that land and whether one likes it or not, the role of Mamata Benerjee and her now legendary struggle against the honchos of the CPM will make for interesting reading for times to come. So 2011 will be interesting.

Veerapan died after a long fight - almost suddenly, especially since nobody thought it would really happen and in this life. Though in a postscript, I always maintain that the day he died, vultures descended upon Sathyamangalam and adjoining forests and began the irreversible process of stripping away that magical piece of undisturbed forest. So with Veerapan gone, guess the forest is conducting its last rites now.

Then was the eternal war between Prabhakar on one side and various actors on the other. But it took a Rajapaksa to do the unattainable and do it through the process of concrete political action - I will always consider this 8 month offensive as a political war as opposed to a military offensive, as he ensured that no nut is loose and leakage occurred. What was considered impossible just unfolded before our eyes, down to seeing Prabhakaran down there, in the wetland.

Now it brings me to the eternal crisis of our modern times. Tibet and China. Will we in our lives see a free Tibet and more importantly will it happen during the venerable Dalai Lama's time. I wonder.

An Ecological Renaissance within us

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