August 9, 2019

The Gap

In the gap between knowing and doing,
There are several layers in between.

In the gap between learning and working,
There are several bridges to cross.

For what may seem a tough road tonight,
Might just be another fist fight.

And yet we stand confused and stare hard,
And then we realise that as suddenly as it started, it has now already passed...

August 3, 2019

Figuring by Maria popova

Kepler knew what we habitually forget - that THE LOCUS OF POSSIBILITIES EXPANDS WHEN THE UNIMAGINABLE IS IMAGINED AND THEN MADE REAL THROUGH SYSTEMATIC EFFORTS. Centuries later, in a conversation with Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke about eh future of space exploration, science fiction patron saint would capture this transmutation process perfectly, " IT PART OF THE NATURE OF MAN TO START WITH ROMANCE AND BUILD TO A REALITY".

August 1, 2019

Nagzira and Navegaon Tiger Reserve - Where Deception is the key

Tucked away in a remote corner of the state of Maharashtra, far away from the gold rush of tiger sightings, trophy photography and pushy tourists, lies a national park which thrives on being relatively neglected on the side-lines of mainstream conservation discourse of Central India.

Its very remoteness deceives to flatter as Navegaon and Nagzira Tiger Reserves has somehow managed to cling on to rich remnants of the vast ancient forest that had once adorned large landscapes of Central India, despite enormous pressures. However, this remoteness is a double-edged sword for the national park may not always receive all the benefits from conventional schemes that could help alleviate the conditions of the border villages and in turn reduce pressure on the forest. Swaying between modernity and ancient customs, from negligible mobile network to an overdose of motorbikes, from traditional fuelwood collection to gas connections spreading fast, this is a park in flux. Strangely, its very name might be a deception as Nagzira ostensibly refers to a land where snakes thrived near water. However, even older legends claim antecedents from the old Sanskrit word Neg which referred to elephants and the etymology referred might have referred to elephants that lived near water.

Nagzira and Navegaon forms part of the Gaikhuri range and was part of the old Dandakaranaya where forests thrived and tribals ruled for hundreds of years. Connected in the north to Pench and Kanha in a perfect triangle and in the south to Tadoba and Gadchiroli forests, these forests have provided breathing space to animals migrating within these forests. But what sets Nagzira-Navegaon apart from other parks in Maharashtra is a high percentage of migratory bird species, with more than 3600 small and big lakes spread throughout Gondia providing a safe refuge to birds that make their temporary home in the region. About 60 percent of all birds found in Maharashtra are found only within the Navegaon park and even Sarus Crane was also known to be earlier found in large numbers and is still found further north of Gondia town. Interestingly, the forest has a much higher rainfall as opposed to other parks in the Vidarbha. As a result, specie and ecosystem diversity is high. King cobras, slender loris, mouse deer, banded krait are some vulnerable species known to have bene found at various times in these forests. The remoteness has provided refuge to wildlife since time millennia.

Consequently, its very remoteness is a cause for hope and despair. Hope, as development pressures on the region is comparatively less and despair as a huge population pressure keeps the park under threat always. Despair also because big developmental schemes such as India’s third largest power plant run by the Adanis at Tirora that can produce more than 3300 MW of power can come up without relatively much opposition within a few km from the park boundary. Despair, as ignorant villages may soon begin to suffer from the untold health related miseries of being neighbours with a giant power plant. Civil society protests are still not strong enough to ensure that the polluter pays to the villagers as well as to the forest over which the plant’s giant chimneys looms like twin angels of death.

Another modern threat that is increasing is the remoteness of most border villages that remain largely disconnected from mainstream government support. Consequently, these villages tend to take extreme measures to protect their crop lands. Large number of wild boars, spotted deer and even Nilgai have been known to die from electrocution because of rigging overhead power lines for fencing croplands. As the practice continues unabated, wildlife density in these border regions is reducing fast and, in many ways, getting pushed back deeper into the forest.

But Navegaon-Nagzira is not all about despair. The wildlife in this region has an interesting ecological aspect as there are several cases of young tiger sub-adults who have used the existing corridors to migrate to nearby parks, possibility due to conflict situations or a paucity of space in the current landscape. Currently, there are about 8 adults and 7 cubs in Nagzira and 2 males and 2 cubs in Navegaon. Though stressed, these forests have contributed to the successful dispersal of the local tiger genepool through the many corridors that connects this region to the Central Indian landscape.

Another aberration that sets this park apart is the low impact tourism currently being practised and in it lies an opportunity to develop scientifically valid ecotourism that can serve as a model for other parks in India. This is the rare example where nature trails are given prominence and facilities exist for tourists interested in bird-watching. The number of gates is spread apart and number of vehicles currently entering the forest is comparatively less intrusive. A concerted effort to develop Pitezari, Chorkhamba and Mangezari gates in Nagzira and Jhambdi gate in Navegaon with nature trail and trekking options should bring much needed revenue to these regions. Even a sustained focus on developing homestays instead of high end resorts could bring in some revenue to the local population.

With more than 100 villages surrounding both the parks, a railway line between Gondia to Chandrapur with 50 km of railway tracks within forest areas, a national highway NH 6 from Mumbai to Calcutta which cuts through the forest for more than 40 km from Sakoli to Deori, a huge power plant, grazing pressures from villages, stray incidents of poaching and fuel wood collection, the park has to undergo a daily fight in order to survive. Additionally, locals fear that schemes like the Samrudhhi Mahamarg might be initiated to connect Jabalpur to Hyderabad and may cut large swathes of the reserve.

However, these forests which are critical offshoots of large forest landscapes needs to overcome these obstacles. The best hope for the 653 Sq Km large Nazgira-Navegaon perhaps remains in its obscurity and the fact that it remains relatively unknown to most of the developed world, tucked away in a corner of the earth and without significant mineral wealth. Sometimes, the best solution for forests is to let them remain and basic protection be provided, for in the long run, nature knows her duty well and any landscape that is accorded protection tends to bounce back. Perhaps Navegaon-Nagzira will do the same.

July 31, 2019

We are together, We were together

We are together, We were together,
Yet we are not

We were meant to fly,
Yet see how we rot!!!

Walk, I must

And Walk I Must

For the Path Never ends

AND WALK





AS THE END IS THE PATH WHERE IT BENDS

One Flyover is all that the animals needs

More than ever, flyovers are treated with contempt as many have failed to serve the purpose for which they were created. Bottlenecks at the point of convergence and dispersal and the sheer pressure of increasing vehicle numbers have caused a severe dent to the credibility of these mammoth concrete structures.

Yet, no city has escaped unscathed from the delirious fever to build flyovers and increasingly these constructions are becoming the norm even in rural regions. What we see when driving through national highways are necessities of the modern world that make our journey smooth, but one that effectively draws a curtain over much of the rural landscape. Derided, yet a favourite of planners, flyovers act like an amoeba that seems to have a mind of their own except of course where they are needed the most.
And a long flyover is needed desperately along the Dehradun-Haridwar national highway where the under siege Rajaji National Park fights a battle to survive each day. Located adjacent to the towns of Dehradun and Haridwar and surrounded by small villages, Rajaji National Park was the inspiration for several of Ruskin Bond’s stories. In the earlier days, the giant forests made Haridwar feel like a distant outpost, far removed from the idyllic charm of Dehra Dun. Infact, India’s forestry department acquired its modern avatar in the Dun Valley with countless generations of Indian Forest Service officers walking through the impenetrable layers of the luxuriant Sal forest to learn the art and science of protecting India’s forests.

But when development hit like a hammer, Dehra Dun exploded and spread in all directions. The first casualties were the silent ones, the trees. The airport expanded and the forests were cut. Roads were required and old litchi and mango trees were cut. The result is that the city and its suburbs now entangle the Rajaji National Park and other reserve forests and the traditional elephant migratory paths are all but choked.

Faced with a choice of increasing wildlife deaths along the many highways that now cut through the national park, coupled with an increasing number of devotees who throng the region during the Maha Kumbhs and annual Kawariya festivals, the ecological stability of the already stressed national park was under question. With a steady fragmentation of the animal corridors, a killer railway track that cut through the park and the planned expansion of the two lane highway into a four lane speedway, the die was cast.

Foresters and activists realised the gravity of the situation and various ideas were discussed. One suggestion was to build a flyover for the animals to walk over the road and railway track. Though a novel concept, it was not accepted by all stakeholders and the idea was shelved. However, the strength of the idea still stands today as wildlife-centric flyovers are now commonly constructed in several countries and could be used in Indian conditions as well.

It was in this light that the proposal to construct an elephant flyover was approved. The 721 metres long and six-metre high flyover was to be a critical link between the Motichur and Chilla ranges of the national park and provide safety to the stressed animals besides saving up a large area from fragmentation. A tender was floated and given to Era Infrastructure Pvt limited but the company soon defaulted and the work came to a painful stop.

Rather than providing protection, for the past several years, the unfinished flyover stands out like a scar on the development priorities of our nation. In most places, the road has been widened and construction material lay unattended for years. What is worse is that the width of the road made it a favourite halt for truckers who prefer to rest under the shade of the giant trees still not cut and inadvertently disturb animal movement. This unfinished visage of the flyover was what every citizen of Dehradun and Haridwar saw for the past ten years. With traffic almost doubling, the effects on the unfortunate wildlife were heart-wrenching as several species become locally extinct along this road.

After years of struggle from pressure groups, there is now a sliver of hope as the dilapidated pillars of the flyover that once acted as evidence of red-tapism and callousness are suddenly brimming with activity. The construction crew and new machinery have arrived and the word on the ground is that the government is seriously attempting to complete the flyover by the end of the year.
This was not because of a sudden renewal of National Highways Authority of India’s interest but because of a warning by the National Green Tribunal to complete the work expeditiously as well as a forced deposit of rupees 2 crores to the environment ministry to ensure that the flyover is built in time.

When finally built, the biggest respite will be for the animals who have died in unknown numbers over the years. It will also be a successful culmination of the years-long campaign that may provide a new direction to saving India’s remaining wildlife. There is considerable data now available with us that suggests that properly designed overpasses and underpasses can trigger a significant reduction in wildlife fatalities. These flyovers not only provide a corridor for wildlife to migrate but also significantly reduces human-wildlife interaction ultimately resulting in the reduction of conflicts.

In India, the approach is still in its infancy stage with few successful examples. However, increasingly we see the National Highways Authority of India willing to absorb the higher cost associated with building flyovers. Courts too have stepped in to nudge the authorities into placing the highest priority for wildlife conservation. There is positive news trickling in from the Pench National Park where there are signs of animals crossing under the newly constructed flyovers.

However, this is not a one-step blanket solution as the recent controversy in Bandipur Tiger Reserve underlined. Aggressively pushed by the Central and Kerala government, the project highlighted the futility of constructing a series of flyovers in a landscape which already has a traffic ban from 9 pm to 6 am. The opportunity cost of constructing flyovers would have had a significant detrimental effect to the health of the forest that is currently free of traffic for at least 9 hours in a day and as a result, the project has been currently shelved. The case points to the fact that as long as it is possible, there should be no intervention in the forest. Options such as flyovers can only be a last gasp effort to save the critical habitat when all alternative measures of mitigation fail in their purpose of protecting the forest resource.

Unfortunately, flyovers could also be used as a political instrument. If planned for any purpose, other than saving wildlife such as the Telangana government’s Strategic Road Development Plan which envisages cutting a large number of trees for constructing a flyover over the Kasu Brahmananda Reddy National Park, these concrete structures could become an easy tool for policymakers to sidesteps local issues of conservation. A concerted citizen movement is currently underway in Hyderabad to protect the park while also highlighting the futility of constructing more flyovers in the largest lung space of Hyderabad.

It is a period of learning for India as results from the Pench and Haridwar-Dehradun flyovers are yet to be analysed. While NHAI which earlier fiercely resisted adding to the cost of building roads seems to have also realised the urgent need to build such structures, policymakers and environmentalists are not averse to using them as a mitigation measure to reduce wildlife conflicts. It remains to be seen whether the model of using flyovers through Indian forests may yet become a useful instrument of governance after all.

Try Something that can't be done

Try Something that can't be done,

Just Fly now,

Tomorrow never comes

July 30, 2019

July 26, 2019

To write a book

To write a book...
one must dream,
& one must sing
& one must sleep
& one must sigh

To finish a book...
one must dream
& one must fly
& one must work
& one must cry

To dream a book
one must know
& one must sweat
& one must divide
his time to write and thread his thoughts to make all ideas unite

Sunset or sunrise, in the no man's land - they call Masinagudi

 
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July 18, 2019

Good times, Bad times

Good times, bad times...
Figment of thy memory
Times last life like...
Not for the beauty of thy life,
Nor its sorrows.
Time beholds, listen ya carefully

Times behold

Good times, bad times,
last not so ever,
teaches one, not much,
teaches one to respect it.
For it passeth soon... for it stands never.

Times behold, time must go on.
Leaving in its wake,
not much but a dirty mud rake
Time beholds - for it moveth fast..

GOOD TIMES, BAD TIMES

July 11, 2019

What is wrong with Haryana and Punjab

On a train journey today, from Chandigarh to Delhi and two things strike out... Again and again, relentlessly - like a hammer.

The sheer spread of waste and the sheer expanse of rice guzzling fields for kilometres upon kilometres.

We are in a dry zone, we live in a water scarce region and we hardly get rainfall. Even the Himalayas which supplies water to Punjab is not really a water-rich region. So this view is astonishing. Wide swathes of land covered under pools and pools of water. And this is Haryana that I am passing through now.

What has come over us. Where is the common sense. As a society, it has become a free for all and the winner gets all scenario. Obviously, the incentive provided by the Minimum Support Price matters a lot and the farmer is not only desperate but also thouroughly convinced that crops like rice is the solution, ecology be damned.

Ecology be damned becuase no one seems to care about the land and about water. Where is this water coming from. Atleast, the land adjoining this train track does not look to be dependent upon canals or irrigation. They look like they are totally dependent upon bore-wells and rain water. Rain is zilch here, so bore water it must be.

One does feel in awe of nature that she can provide us so much water in such arid lands, enough to irrigate lakhs of acres but one does feel that nature is being short-changed and this bounty will get exhausted. And if one digs deeper, surely the vailability of ground water has considerably reduced over the years.

Why should I even blame them, planners encourage such behaviour and almost comically cry when these same farmers burn their crop residues in November causing Delhi to cry. It is a round round circle and no one seems interested to break the chain. Everything is so wrong. Trees non-existent, food corporation of India depots in a decrepit condition and then as you enter Karnal, the rice fields give way and a new story starts - that of a sheer absence of a proper waste management system. I try so hard but am not able to get a grip on waht is wrong with us.

July 8, 2019

How Biodiversity Heritage Sites can turn out to be a lifeline for India’s conservation movement

Sacred groves, industrial complexes, national and state level institutes, village ponds, universities, defence lands, temple premises, parks in urban settings - distinct and mutually independent land uses spread across the country have but one thread in common. They are repositories of unique biodiversity and hold remnants of the ancient landscape that had once thrived in India. These small islands of biodiversity also face a continual threat as they have no protected status under the country’s forest or wildlife regime.

While most of these sites are more threatened and in a greater risk of extinction as compared to protected forest regions, some are being protected as a result of social and physical fencing. And while these small patches are often side-lined from popular discourse, the time is right to recognise them.

The concept of Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS), conceived under Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was one of the most imaginative steps taken to protect these vanishing biodiversity-rich regions. The idea has the potential of transforming the conservation landscape from a single-track protected area network into a multi-dimensional canvas of innumerable opportunities to conserve India’s biodiversity.

In its most basic interpretation, sites that are known to be unique, ecologically fragile ecosystems with rich biodiversity, whether wild or domesticated and have significant cultural, ethical or aesthetic values can be declared as BHS. These sites are considered to be important for the maintenance of cultural diversity and may or may not have had a history of human association and are preferably not under the already existing protected area network of India. Subsequently, the National Biodiversity Authority issued guidelines in the year 2008 and listed out management prescriptions for declaring and managing such sites thus paving the way to implement the concept of Biodiversity Heritage sites in India.

The Act thus opens a new window of opportunity for the several thousand sacred groves which have suffered twice over from a lack of recognition as protected areas and the threat of avaricious land conversion in the past decades. It also introduces a possibility of “Creative Conservation” that can help in protecting a site vis-a-vis the cost of introducing another land use. For instance, it will now be possible for a village panchayat or a Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) to conserve a high-altitude grove when they strongly convey its water retention capacities by invoking provisions of the Biological Diversity Act as opposed to a traditional agitation to protect their land. Thus, with a legal provision such as BHS, these lands can be preserved for eternity even though they may not be currently protected by any other law.

A unique biosphere, Majuli island is regarded as the cultural capital of the Assamese consciousness. The entire 875 sq km island is ecologically fragile and significant interventions are underway to protect the island from further degradation. Considering its uniqueness, a proposal to declare the river island as a world heritage site was sent to UNESCO in the year 2004. With worldwide limelight on this fragile island, the Assam State Government in 2017 declared the entire island as a BHS site in order to highlight the biodiversity heritage of the island. With a robust BHS notification guiding the BMC in implementing the management plan, it is expected that this recognition will provide environmental, social as well as economic benefit in the long run. The case can also provide a roadmap on the possible long-term implications of declaring BHS sites.

As Majuli continues to be in the limelight, conserving an obscure sacred grove in the remote village of Chilkigarh in West Bengal becomes an equally important task. Considered to the largest sacred grove in the state, the Kanak Durga grove is spread over 60 acres and is regarded as a prime example of the relic climax forests that had once thrived in the region. Under sustained human-induced stress, concerns were raised by researchers that conserving this land use is necessary not just for ecological reasons but also to recognise the important role played by sacred groves in the social and religious milieu of the state of West Bengal. As a result of intense advocacy, the grove was declared as a BHS site in the year 2018.

While religion can be capitalized upon to protect isolated groves, ecological sustainability can also play a big role in protecting landscapes. The Covenant Centre for Development, an NGO in Tamil Nadu that has conserved more than 48 acres of degraded land at Sevaiyur near Madurai is currently grappling with a unique challenge in the vast forest that it helped create. The boundary is peppered with bore wells that provide a rare source of fresh water for the drought-prone farmers who have over the course of the past three decades come to recognise the importance of conserving the Sevaiyur forest. This man-made creation deserves the tag of protection and is an ideal case to be considered as a BHS site. Even natural forests that may be threatened by land use changes in similar landscapes such as Sevaiyur can be conserved under BHS provisions.

The Kaiga nuclear power plant lies in the midst of the Western Ghats and has considerably changed the face of the Kali river valley system. However, a grudging acknowledgement has emerged that the valley is a haven for wildlife and especially birdlife (with four native species of hornbills found in large numbers). The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited under its Environment Stewardship Program now organises an annual bird race and proudly talks about conservation. A Biodiversity Site here can not only put the spotlight on the vulnerable wildlife but also put the onus on the authorities to preserve large parts of the township under its jurisdiction.

Not only Kaiga but thousands of national and state level institutions have by design or inadvertently preserved large areas and significantly helped re-establish erstwhile remnants of biodiversity in these regions. These government institutions could help provide a much-needed push to actively protect biodiversity while at the same time put significant restrictions to prevent damage to these fragile regions.

It is not a pipe dream for already the Gandhi Krishi Vignyan Kendra campus (GKVK) spread over 167 hectares in Bangalore was declared as a BHS site after a proposal was received from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore. If more such institutions come forward, the snowball effect can provide legal protection to thousands of hectares of public land in India. It also provides an opportunity for industries to leverage their responsibility toward environmental sustainability. An intensive publicity campaign by the National and State Biodiversity Boards, state forest departments, support groups and NGOs can expedite the information sharing process.

The very nature of the regulations concerning BHS sites spells out hope for the long-term sustenance of the initiative. At its core, the voluntary nature of the entire process implies an intricate need to preserve the site. It also does not put any restrictions on the prevailing practices of the local community, other than those voluntarily adopted. Biodiversity Heritage Sites when institutionalized through a management plan can be utilized for a variety of purpose - to highlight the ecosystem services provided by the land, to reinforce traditional religious identities, as a source of revenue in the form of tourism and sustainable forestry, as a conservation initiative in the absence of applicability of forest laws and as a species centric protection measure.

July 6, 2019

Total Useless Quotes That Someone Quoted after we Paid Her 10000 an Hour

So, I was trying hard not to sleep and yet listening to her exasperating farrago of verbal diarrhoea that she was unleashing upon my colleagues and me and yet at the same time, had to keep a straight face. For many moments and more moments than one, I felt that she was having a very troubled life currently and was unleashing all her energies into curing us.

As far as her pearls wisdom goes, here is a taste. Some are good -

- Growth Mindset is the foundation for learning.
And I am already 6 feet four inches. I don't want to grow any more.

- Worst failure comes in after the best success
You are fucked either ways, when best success will come after worst failure and vice versa

- When I percive others, will I be useful of what they perceive
What the hell was she even thinking when she said this. Are we mind readers hmm???

- Identity versus reputation
Half our lives we spent in building relationships and we invariably see it crumbling in a snap. Faster than Thanos could snap

- Our perception is often incomplete
Yes, true - I agree to what she says here

- Others experience is the best teacher
And so is others money, wife, food, land and his beard, hair, eyes and everything else

July 4, 2019

June 26, 2019

My ideas

My ideas about life were vague, my thoughts and acts were frayed.
There is nothing I could do, except fall in love with you.

Seen life, but learnt nothing yet.
Felt it, but missed the queue. I am truly on a wild road now.

June 19, 2019

Ode to GKW

I stood at the edge
Waiting to be engulfed
I waited for the moment to come,
When I could be nothing and yet be all done.

I felt the clouds pass by,
I felt the air rush.
I heard strangers all around me,
and heard God whisper by.

I heard the power of music,
I saw her laughing loud.
The Jogin was all there for me,
To touch my destiny.......

I waited, waited for a chance,
A chance today to die.
But suddenly the winds died,
ANd said, Lead a New Life.....

June 14, 2019

Forest Parks for Fighting Pollution

Cities in India need to shift to a paradigm shift in maintaining parks in neighbourhoods.

Most parks in big and small cities have tonnes of green spaces left in the form of parks. But these parks are insensitive and water guzzling in nature. The cost of maintaining a green cover by artificial watering is immense. I had conducted an experiment myself once when we tried greening a park of 3 acres for the entire summer using tap water. A quantum comparable to two tankers were required to keep the park green. Nevertheless, I learnt my lesson.

But most of our countrymen and women have not learnt any lesson. Year after year, we spend hundreds of millions of water for an artificial aesthetic sense of human fulfilment. These dead green zones are an opportunity in plain sight to recover the climate in our cities.

Already, some small cities across the world are emphasising the need to have forest parks. These parks are meant to provide a sense of the wild inside a city, in the lines of Cubbon Park in Bangalore and Central Park in New York.

However, in the Indian context, these parks must have immediate legislation passed to cover at least 50% of the park as soon as possible. Within a few years, the pollution levels in the vicinity will come down, within a few more years, the entire landscape will become comparatively more attractive as its immediate neighbouring areas and within a decade, these forest parks will be acknowledged as the Ultimate Warriors against Pollution. Question is, our planners refuse to adopt a landscape approach while working in cities and it will require supreme patience to convince them to act accordingly.

Utter Chaos All around

June 13, 2019

Without numbers for sometime

With my cell phone blacked out and me having lost all the assorted numbers, some of which had needlessly occupied space in my phone anyways, it sure is special.

The experiment, if it were to be called so, confirms that one does not need too many numbers and I have got along well since that day, more than three weeks ago.

Neither is the absence of membership to an assorted list of organisations and social networking sites done any harm to my breathing pattern and best of all, the removal of the number of visitors tab from the blog is a social walking past the tense moments one would have upon clicking on that tab.

June 11, 2019

Forests for whom?

Forests mean many things to many people. It is a source for food for some, a 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 were infact few forests that did not usher benefits to either man or animal. This role of the forest as a mutual agent of assistance is acknowledged by millions. For them, forests are the omnipresent philanthropist.

However, over the past decades, the importance of the forests has been acknowledged by people who receive remote benefits from them. The person sitting in a large urban town is now forced to pay higher amounts for that piece of furniture that was a fraction of the price some years back as compared to the present. He, now realises that forests need to be conserved, for whom is the question. Is it to be conserved for the benfit of him and many like him in distant markets or is it to be conserved for the people who live adjacent and subsist on them, or is to be conserved to protect the invaluable wild flora and fauna that are critical for the health of the ecosystem.

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 and often brings about changes in forest to meet its goal. Dams, logging, mining and large projects are undertaken to meet larger goals, goals that permenantly alter these areas and their ecology. However, 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.

Recent advocates of conservation promote exclusion of forest dependent people from their homes for the large interest of the society as opposed to groups who actively promote encroachment of displaced groups claiming that these forests are their own.

There is a mind numbing variety of choices, people have made to themselves, forgetting that the forest inherently comprises of three elements – flora or trees and shrubs, fauna or animals and man. These three are intrinsic to the very identity of the forest. But in the ideological divide between so many interest groups, it is always easy to focus on the importance of either these three components, though always in conjunction with the needs of the consumer dependent upon the forest for its timber. Lost in the noise is the increasingly less importance being paid to the original concept of the forest that comprise flora, fauna and people. Through an isolated window, focus on either of the three is likely to lead to an immediate collapse of the forest ecosystem, forest will then cease to exist as it does now and remain but a mere plantation or a forest village or a zoo or a research station.

June 10, 2019

A Cat and Monkey story

Azam was a silent kind, the one who never took to heart - emotions that would tear apart others into a gobbledygook of mental frenzy. He was also an observer - so much so that his friends always called him Mr. sponge, for his capacity to observe everything around him.

He was witness to a strange incident today and that is what he told me to tell all today.

It was late in the noon when the cat he had been feeding milk to started meowing madly and he had to come out of his house to put an end to all the hullabaloo.... Whoa! he saw a troop of monkeys anxiously staring at the cat and the cat staring at them equally anxiously. Now, he being the observant kind settled down to what he anticipated would be an hour long drama of the animal kingdom.

The monkeys vastly outnumbered the cat - atleast 80 to 1 and besides it was just a house cat and not a tiger in the wild. But it seemed that a wave of silence had engulfed the usually boisterous simians. They were all on the roof and the cat was on an alley close to the neighbors tea field. The saw the cat before she could see them and they hushed into silence when all of a sudden, a rather excitable monkey jumped in front of the cat and startled her. She jumped and landed right back where she stood. Then she took guard and the all the monkeys followed the youthful simian to protect him from a possible war. As they trooped to assist their comrade, the cat began to realise that she was outnumbered and she started shirking back, a step at a time. The monkeys saw this and started hissing at her and she hissed back. Outnumbered, she did a dramatic thing - she began to stalk them, already having scared a few of them. They saw this and this created a general sense of crisis and the monkeys in their effort to escape jumped over one other and a few of them fell on the ground. But in a minute, all but a few brave ones had scampered under the the tea bushes. The cat saw this and stalked even more threateningly, making the rest also run for their lives. She went under the bushes and chased the monkeys and all one could hear was yelling monkey sounds and the sharp hisses that a angry cat shrieks.....

Over in some time, but does it really happen. Will cats always fight back or will they seek to escape especially when there is an entire troop in front of them.... Can't say but Azam claims to have seen this happen and I happen to believe him.

May 31, 2019

An early morning in the Nilgiris...

An early morning in Kotagiri,
And the sun shining hard and bright.
I see fluttering butterflies and I see raving sights,
The roads are empty, the chill of the weather bites.
And I walk on, alone watching nobody go by.
Maybe, it is the magic of the past rains,
that makes this sun seem so conscientious this morning,

I wander more and reach the hill and see my house down alone,
It seems so separated and full of life, and yet so forlorn.
The road I walk this morning has a vehicle broken down,
I wonder at the ingenuity of man, who to reach home swerves around.
There are a few birds, this morning and I wonder why,
Maybe the rains had given them a fright,

I walk and think aloud,
So many trees are being cut down,
No one cares and no one knows.
So I thought I should write it down.
The road has cracked with the drumming rain,
I see again anarchy prevail,
It takes time to start work,
and you may need some wondrous luck.
The roads may yet get repaired and with luck soon too,

But I walk on and reach my purpose and sit down and click hard,
The sights I saw were like the stationary tram,
It may move or may not, trees may get cut or may not, but I pass by watching on.

(Originally written on 10th November, 2007)

May 24, 2019

The 50 Most Inspiring Travel Quotes Of All Time

1.“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

2.“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”–St. Augustine

3.“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”–Robert Louis Stevenson

4. “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” –Samuel Johnson

5. “All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.” –Paul Fussell

6. “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” –Jack Kerouac

7. “He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb

8. “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

9. “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” –John Steinbeck

10. “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” –Lin Yutang

11. “Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.” –Aldous Huxley

12. “All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” –Samuel Johnson

13. “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

14. “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” –Cesare Pavese

15. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” –Miller

16″A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” –Moslih Eddin Saadi

17. “When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” – D. H. Lawrence

18. “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark

19. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Twain

20. “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

[19] 21. “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber

22. “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – [20] Jawaharial Nehru

23. “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – [21] Paul Theroux

24. “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – [22] Bill Bryson

25. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – [23] Ralph Waldo Emerson

26. “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – [24] Robert Frost

27. “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – [25] Lao Tzu

28. “There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – [26] Charles Dudley Warner

29. “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – [25] Lao Tzu

30. “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – [27] James Michener

31. “The journey not the arrival matters.” – [28] T. S. Eliot

32. “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – [29] Tim Cahill

33. “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain

34. “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – [31] Pat Conroy

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
35. “Not all those who wander are lost.” – [32] J. R. R. Tolkien

36. “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – [33] Benjamin Disraeli

37. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – [34] Maya Angelou

38. “Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.” – [35] Elizabeth Drew

39. “Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe”……[36] Anatole France

40. “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – [37] Seneca

41. “What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – [38] William Least Heat Moon

42. “I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – [39] Lillian Smith

43. “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – [10] Aldous Huxley

44. “Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – [40] Freya Stark

45. “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” – [41] Rudyard Kipling

46. “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” – [21] Paul Theroux

47. “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – [42] G. K. Chesterton

48. “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – [43] Clifton Fadiman

49. “A wise traveler never despises his own country.” – [44] Carlo Goldoni

50. “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins

May 22, 2019

May 14, 2019

Flight of Stairs

Moved up the flight of stairs,
and missed the sight down below...

Need to return home now,
for the car never stopped waiting

May 13, 2019

The Plight of Nature

India with its vast diversity is home to unique bounties of nature, few other nations can match. When one starts reeling off statistics, the listener can merely shake his head in amazement. India is also home to a large proportion of the world's population - rapidly growing and turning increasingly western in its outlook. Western in their consumption pattern, western in their outlook and definitely western in their relationships with each other.

Yet, we are pretty unwestern and unmodern when it concerns our present day relationships with nature in the nation. Unmodern because we have ceased to see ourselves as a part of the Earth we live in, it is rather preferable to visualize oneself as that modern looking car we all drive nowadays - the feel remains that of a flaky body while we rest under the vast shade of the Peepul tree, blabbering over our mobiles to god knows which interested folk in this world.

India or rather, we Indian were not so long ago, the perfect example of an ecosystem people. Now all our claims are humbug, to say the least. Just as we harp about our culture, similarly we harp about our forests. Yes, it may be true that a lot of the urban drivers of the society were ecosystem people, not very long ago - when knowing how to milk a cow, smelling the rain in placid winds, respecting the earth as our mother and so on were the norm and not exceptions. We had innumerable sacred groves where we worshipped and inadvertently encouraged life in its wild form. We would all know what gardening was all about, if not agriculture and strangely we would keep away from the dark, foreboding masses of trees and forests. Forests were considered eerie yet holy place. Our hermits lived there, wrote the Aranakayas and put forth mystical theologies. A person who had no relation to any forest would still be aware that the wood used to fire his hearth was sourced from the forest. Venerated they were, respected and always kept away from. Tribals, living closest to these regions developed an animistic relation towards trees and animals of the forest and looked up to them for benevolence and protection.

but as it happens with a change of diet from vegan to meat - wherein our focus gets blurred, the same happened with forests. And as it is with communities seeking more pleasure and comfort... our sights shifted. The focus has now shifted from a symbiotic interface to a more direct relation with forest and the so called forestry resources.. And this is best embodied by the respected proponents of scientific forestry who in their born-again attitude contributed much towards alienation and mass scale exploitation of these holy places.

Ruthless it has been. This wanton destruction, this unwarranted misery that has been piled upon these invaluable living objects. And for me the greatest fear is the apathy of the vast masses of India, who are no longer interested in being termed as worshippers and religious. The friends in cities, the relatives in villages, the scholars in universities - all are interested in the pursuit of their individual happiness, marked out by the reluctance to hand out space to anybody else. In this scenario, as I see it...... and I work in forests..... That there are but very very few, who gather their wits to understand the consequences of their actions on the environment.... happily as they race as rats...................

The Gap

In the gap between knowing and doing, There are several layers in between. In the gap between learning and working, There are several bri...