29
Aug
16

Those were the days! 3

“If you look at great human civilizations, from the Roman Empire to the Sovit Union, you will see that most do not fail simply due to external threats but because of internal weakness, corruption, or a failure to manifest the values and ideals they espouse.” – Cory Booker

Sometimes it is difficult for me to differentiate between the 2001 earthquake and the 2002 Gujarat riots. The aftermath was catastrophic either ways. The events affected me in more ways that I can even describe.

I was as in Kachchh and survived, but had to leave as nothing was left of the Gujarat Nature Conservation Society’s field office.

*

I was part of ‘Sabrang’ for a long time. Realized I had been branded a pseudo-secularist only after I was roughed-up one night. How bad things were became clear when I realized that the phone was tapped and my children were being followed. Had to leave Gujarat.

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Very much like a wild animal whose corridor of movement is slowly but steadily being eradicated I lived in the shadows of my nightmares keeping an eye out for further transgressions. Nothing much has changed even today.

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This was a period of no involvement of any kind in any type of ‘wildlife work’. When I did return to Gujarat, I was jobless. Nothing came my way except comments like,

“Ab to tum bilkul foot-loose or fancy ho!”

“Thoda compromise karna seehko yaar! Give and take common hai”

“Sirji! System mein rahna chalu kar do. Zindagi sudhar jaayegi.”

“Hukum! System is like a marriage. Embrace it and everything will be all right.”

*

System! Marriage!!

Generally, there are these grandiloquent observations where you are told that the only way to change the system is by getting into the system! Nothing can be done from outside.  Twice in my lifetime I have swallowed all my pride, resolutions, faith, ethos and ethics; and become part of the ‘system’ in order to bring the necessary change – and on both occasions my ‘system’ has crashed and I have survived but emerged with a gratuity of wretchedness.

One of these ‘becoming part of the system’ momentous life happenings was when I accepted the offer of becoming the Director of The Corbett Foundation (TCF).

It looked promising, challenging and very encouraging! Sort of continuation and extension of the ‘Living with the Tiger’ project with the backing of an organization. I already had an information network that could be put into place and developed further. And the TCF had a research centre in Kachchh too!

I would be part of the system to change (a bit at least) the system! More fool me!!! This too was eroded.

*

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The Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) comprises of approximately 520 km2 areas of hills, dense forest, riverine belts, marshy depressions, grasslands, a large lake and some mighty rivers flowing through it. There are many Sots (seasonal streams) all over the place. Some of these are perennial and remain covered with thick and at times impenetrable vegetation providing an essential source of water for the wildlife during the lean and dry summer season.

To promote ‘eco-tourism’, the Reserve is divided into zones.

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There is also the Dhela Zone and the Buffer areas. The outskirts of all these areas are now sadly choked with hotels and resorts. I had my personal 1961 Willys jeep (no longer with me now) and sometimes a Maruti Gypsy.

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And, so here are images from those lingering, satisfying days of yore. I miss them tremendously.

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To be continued……

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