19
Jun
16

Those were the days! 2

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As-far-as I am concerned; the notion of mind-tectonics is applicable to me. It is all about pressure points and the eventual triggering of the mental plates.

I have to keep an extremely wary eye on myself – relentlessly checking that nothing is set off. However, there is always the risk of the ‘wary eye’ eventually leading to its own pressure point! And you never really know when and what leads to that breaking point.

*

Recently, something snapped inside me. The trigger was released and I had to get out; run away from all the nonsense around; recharge my battery as-it-were, for a long time or at least till nothing could be ‘charged’ any more.

*

Circumstances forced me to inform people about my ‘escape’ (read travel). I was questioned, berated and indirectly discussed; word was spread that I was going; people wanted to know where and why?

What could I tell them; would they really believe or understand the reason why I hoped never to come back?

*

I was informed about a caretaker’s job in the hills. Some rich person’s cottage.

Reached only to be told that I was over-qualified for the position! I pointed out that I could drive, cook, sweep and clean, wash clothes and utensils, make tea and polite conversation when required; only the minimum of salary with lodging and boarding was expected and no vacations would be asked for.

I still remained over-qualified!

Bit of a travesty here. Over-qualified for a caretakers job and under-qualified for being their resident ‘naturalist’ because I have no degrees/specializations/research studies etc., even after years of practical experience in the field.

Would like to try again to find a way to move to the hills and forests. I don’t want to die in the cities and would like to be buried somewhere in the forests/hills, but considering my rapidly depleting energy levels I don’t seem have too many shots left.

Which somehow connects to my ‘wildlife journey’.

*

Long before the Indian Government woke-up to the fact that poaching of wildlife and in particular the tiger was rampant, some of us were traversing the tiger sanctuaries situated in the Northern part of the country and raising alarm bells about the disappearing tigers. Nobody was bothered or listening for we had no political, corporate or media backing. We were just a bunch of mavericks with nothing better to do! Not one of today’s ‘experts’ was willing to even read our reports. We used to pool-in our meagre finances (read stipends/borrowed money/petty donations) to cover our expenses. Travelled unreserved in trains; on top of buses; hitched lifts; walked; survived on chana and chai; and continued to study, document and hope the authorities would take action.

3

The lands of Uttarakhand (as it is known now) have for long been my main field areas and I have extensively criss-crossed its terrain over a period of time. The Corbett Tiger Reserve (as it is known now) has been a favourite and this is where the Living with the Tiger Project was initiated.

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This extraordinary project was active for over a decade and eventually died a slow death because I could no longer afford to sustain it financially. One of the most significant facets of the project was its team of volunteers from diverse backgrounds – doctors, journalists, economists, artists, university students……………all took time off from their personal and professional life to be part of this project. No one was paid; nobody ever asked for compensation; and we all shared the expenses, hardships, tears and unforgettable moments of joy, solitude, friendship and hope. Some of these volunteers became regulars. I am proud of all of them and no words can express my appreciation of their dedication and hard work.

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To be continued……….

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