December 31, 2017

When the Music is over, turn off the lights.....

And when the storm whirls around, you be the dervish that is there.

When the clouds burst through the light, you be the darkness all around

December 28, 2017

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..........

December 13, 2017

Honey Trails in the Blue Mountains


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 summarizes 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 sub-region. This also elaborates the forests and people of that sub-region and its ecological history. Each sub-region 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 individuals and other organizations in the area to plan their work around the issues described. The perspective from the adivasi point of view is different via-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 Mines!!!

Before my father retired and our association with coal came to a silent pause, a time that began with my grandfather in 1946 to my father's elder brother and more relatives (people who had left Punjab in North India to come and work in the rather difficult climate of Eastern India), me and a friend of mine went to all our childhood mines and took as many photos as possible. That childhood was unique wherein though the pollution literally killed many of our kind and this is when we led privileged lives in forested colonies, unlike field workers who lived in more difficult conditions, it still was a childhood lived in eternal wilderness, a wilderness of the dangerous type, where dead bodies were common and strikes prevalent. The small reforested patches were loved by us kids and preferred by small time criminals. So, an exciting time it was.

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...