November 15, 2008

Fall of the last Bastion

The last bastion had almost fallen today. A tragedy if it had happened. My mother, for as long as I remember has been purchasing her grocery and vegetables from local vendors. As a kid, it used to be the best part of the month for us as we went to the town ( was Asansol a city then!!!) to purchase those groceries. Mummy would go to Basu bhai and give her order. There would be three to four more aunties there and occasionally one of the anglo-Indian teachers from school. I would be really scared of them and make all efforts to shrink away, though it was for certain that tomorrow that teacher would be there giving me homeworks. Never did I understand that fear but it was there neverthless. Well yes, the teacher might be there but usually not. My mummy would get into a conversation with basu, the owner who looked rich but always behaved with utmost humility. She would usually speak to the other aunties also and I would gaze at the girls from Loreto convent, who were the daughters of those aunties.

Mummy would give her orders that if I remember correctly, would bill to around 1000-1100 during those days and I speak of more than a decade or two ago.Given her order, I would have finished my gold spot by then and would have gone to the Roy book stall which was and is till is, if I look back at my visit some months ago, is a great place to purchase books. Didi and me would eat the eggrolls ( we still do it now). Oh I love Asansol more than any place on earth and I will love it forever. But this was not about the place that we are talking about now.

It is about my mother's journey into the organised retail world. Basu as we know him, was there till I reached class Xth. That was in 1997 and we were then as we are now, been field people, so Basu was a really good option. However, for the first time, my bade papa shifted into a flat and our weekly visits to their shifted from beautiful Pandeswar to still nice Gorai Road. And with it came a shift in mother's purchasing pattern. A person opened what was possibly the first departmental store of its kind at the basement and mummy started purchaisng stuff from him. It increased to levels taht now means most of her purchase is from him.

Basu bhai relegated to the background and if I ever see him now, he looks older too.
However, being field people, my mother's purchase weighs heavily in favour of local purchase and especially in matters of vegetables.

In the onslought of the orgnaised retail world, names of which we are all familiar with, my mother's purchasing pattern has been a blessing in disguise and I am particularly proud of her for her choice. I have nothing against those mega stores, infact I am not even opposing their business strategy but as a matter of principle, would buy from our local marwari than from some CEO who sits in distant Delhi and fattens his world with a successfull business model.

However, in light of their growing reach in small town India, one of these more famous stores has just opened some distance from our home and we still live in an extremely backward region. It is a shock and to kirana wallahs with their dhotis on and a salutary wave with which they accept their orders, the revolution has hit home now.

Mummy took a visit and almost converted to her new place of purchase but something prevailed inside her and she did not buy a thing from that glitzy store. Hail her and thank god for the kirana wallahs. The last bastion stood its ground.

November 7, 2008

Of Great Reviews of Dubare

One does not usually get to things written about his work on the web and I have been especialy honoured to have two writeups in a month. Two people have written about the Dubare Elephant camp that is is just so great.

I am attaching the links for both of them and hopefully - by visiting them, you could see the exciting lives they live.

Suresh and manisha had visited the camp some time back and had this to write.... Thanks a ton

Pramod and Payal had come visiting some time back and we had a rather great time with each other. Thaat was an exciting time we spend and hopefully will be doig so rather regularly.

Having fun once in a while..... Sitting some distance from family and friends........

November 6, 2008

Hump Nosed Pit Viper

As a hump nosed pit viper would testify, it is always a wise decision to wear some kind of a snake proof shoe while roaming around in the forest. And it augurs more for people like me who live virtually inside a moist deciduous wildnerness and are allergic to the thought of exploring a place sitting in a jeep. If I ever have my way in things, then it is by doing it by walk and nothing else. A jeep is more of a joy ride while walking enables you to listen, not just for birders but for the forest loving souls.

So we were walking one fine day in an elephant region and were constantly alert for the giant coming around. It was then that a kid who had come with a rather large group of class 9th students cooly said 'hey, a snake'. People surrounded the poor guy and it took me more than 10 seconds before I reached the place and it was a viper. At that time, I did not know that it was a hump nosed but surely it was a viper - that I could easily make out. And it was surprising to see the lack of fear in the minds of the kids who discussed amongst themselves of the snake lookinng like the one they saw in National geographic. This lack of fear could have been deadly, if not for my naturalist who had to shout the crackle of the kids and move them away from the snake. This comes as a revelation that kids are not scared, having been so accustomed to seeing these snakes on TV.

While I am not a snake type, we could feel that they guy was lethargic and not keen to get busy with us. So, we showed it around and with a small lecture about haemotoxics and nuertoxics, which they kinda knew through TV, we moved on. It took us more talking to demonstrate to the kids the virtue of walking in a single file in the forest and not straying over as in their homes. I have started trying out with more sturdy shoes and being even more sensitive with students who come over and people who are boisterous by attitude.

November 4, 2008


Kyra is a young girl who has a mind of her own. She gets it from her mother who is my sister and together they pack a punch. Nishi whom I always considered to be a highly motivated individual and one who likes taking her own decisions has passed on her genes to Kyra aptly and it will be fun to watch the kid grow up in the coming years.

She is only two and a half now and has a charm of her own. strong willed and with a well developed eye control, she has the potential to develop very well into her own.

It was fun.... these last few days having Nishi and Kyra and Pramod bhaiya, all of whom are individuals who have a strong head on top. Pramod bhaiya who is my brother in law works as the creative director at Mudra in Bombay and has a thought process which was enlightening to learn. Highly fertile, he has been an actor, a writer and many more things before making his mark as an ad guy conjuring up some serious high level stuff. Being with him and merely talking to him is a lesson in creativity, entirely because of his capacity to be constantly innovative - even in rather mundane normal affairs of what we call life. a lifelong friendship has developed and hopefully it will develop well into the future. Nishi is lucky and has a guaranteed life full of excitement being with him as he is not one to leave a moment unaccomplished. I wish to take in a few of his attributes, the very shining eyes that people say are indicative of the enthusiasm that one has.

It was great having them over and even better sharing those few days that I got to spend with them. When one is with kids of this age, you begun realizing the torture that they can entail upon you and it was so with me. She can be perfectly smooth one day and perfectly deadly the next moment. Wow... kids and I was one of the specimens some years back

November 3, 2008

In October

What a time it has been. The past fifteen days have been an excercise in balancing one's composure. The first time since I joined the place, we have been swamped by guests. More than 481 people stayed during the month of October and possibly another 5000 people visited the elephant camp. Swamped was the word, but a highly valuable experience in managing with meagre resources. People came from all corners of the world. From west to the north, from US and American Samaoa and most were pretty happy with their experience here.

There were some moments of crisis, times when some staffs were not in speaking terms with each other, or when a vehicle got damaged when it hit a tree. Another issue was the relatively less sighting of wild animals as a result of which we invested more than twenty four grand to clean up the weeds in half of our safari route.

There was also thhe issue of liasioning with various government agencies and this has possibly been the most unique experience by its own standards. It feels like I am unlearning what I was taught and reorienting myself to the way India works. Or the way bueracratic India works. With guests coming every day and also several high profile visitors making a visit, the staff was on the edge. However they responded admirably and hardly was there a murmur of protest from anyone, be it the guests or the staff having to perform under trying circumstances.

It has been a jump from my earlier work where I was willing to work freely but hindered by some circumstance or the other. Now, the spread is as wide as I want to make it happen. And the fun is real, walking alone on those forest paths with an occasional snake for company, I know I am walking freely.

So Ocotber being a busy month has also taugt me a few valuable things. I met several people who had various constructive things to offer and I realise the better I implemeent it, the better it suits the organisation. This is because their ideas are designed to suit their ineterests better and possibly we may miss a few things of matter. And customer is king... especially the ecoutourism oriented one....

Hampi Uninterrupted