Archive for the 'Times of Yore' Category

07
Jan
17

न जाने क्यों?

ख्वाबों के दरिया में
अचनाक
ताबीर आया, और
ज़ंक़े-जंगों से सजे
मेरी यादों के ताबूत में
एक दरार
नई
पड़ गयी.

न जाने क्यों
आज तुम
बहुत याद आए?

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23
Sep
16

Those were the days! 4

We’ve seen over time that countries that have the best economic growth are those that have good governance, and good governance comes from freedom of communication. It comes from ending corruption. It comes from a populace that can go online and say, ‘This politician is corrupt, this administrator, or this public official is corrupt.’ – Ramez Naam

I can, of course, talk about the harrowing time I had as Director of The Corbett Foundation – not the work, but the way the Board (in particular Rina Khatau) behaved and treated people; of assurances and promises broken; the way sycophancy was encouraged and nurtured to unbelievable levels; the arrogance and subterfuge; the nauseating hold the Khataus had over their employees. Why most of them were so servile and willing to be treated worse than guttersnipes is something I could never comprehend. I always felt that the Khataus never ever learnt or appreciated the fact that the stature they achieved was by standing on somebody’s shoulders.

But I choose instead to share some of the most glorious, enriching and satisfying moments of my life, even when things were going awry.

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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.

*

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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24
Jul
16

Living with the Tiger

When I am dead, my dearest,

Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

Nor shady cypress tree:

Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet;

And if thou wilt, remember,

And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,

I shall not feel the rain;

I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on, as if in pain:

And dreaming through the twilight

That doth not rise nor set,

Haply I may remember,

And haply may forget.

– Christina Rossetti

Sixteen years ago, deep within the forests of Binsar, on a bitterly cold night, I had finally finished making notes in my diary and was ready to call it a day.

Slide1

The other members of the team were already asleep. I got-up and quietly went around the old dak bungalow checking doors and windows.

Slide2

Came back and stoked the fire. Seeking warmth from the crackling fireplace and snuggled inside the sleeping bag, a face with large eyes peeped out at me.

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27
Feb
16

Tendua, Baghera, Guldār aur Dipdo!

‘…the real facts are that the leopard is a very important unit in the general scheme of animal life in India…. May the day be far distant – as it undoubtedly will be – when the name of the leopard will have to be added to the long list of wild animals that have been exterminated by the hand of man.’– The Jungle in Sunlight and Shadow (1934) by F. W. Champion

Contrary to what people presuppose, I reflect about leopards, what with F. W. Champion’s words ringing true. In the vein of other wild species this creature too is now being hounded out of its haven.  I haven’t been fortunate enough to sight many. Tigers, yes…………a fair number – with my best being 5 within a span of four hours. A tigress with 3 grown cubs and later (different location within CTR), a solitary adult male.

Leopards? I have heard their rasping cough; noticed their pug-marks but seen only 2 in the wild. It is not that there aren’t any leopards in CTR and surrounding environs. I know reliable people, like my trackers, who have seen them on tree tops. I have heard them in the North Zone area of CTR and photographed their kills in Rathuadhab. Again evidence of their presence in Binsar – courtesy kills and warning coughs. I may even erroneously convince myself that I fleetingly saw one in Pithoragarh.

*

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20
Nov
11

The Ballad of Bakersgunj

“Can you hear the voices? Can you hear the cries? Do you know they’re here with me? Watching you through my eyes?” – Angel of your darkness

He was the smartest retarded person I ever met and for some obscure reason reminded me of the dog in ‘The Zoo Story’. He disgusted and fascinated me. His real name was Wilson but people called him Pagala!

I remember the day I met him. It was a cold winter morning, and I had huddled in the bus that groaned itself towards Bakersgunj – its last stop and my destination.

“What a name!” I had thought when I received the invitation from the Mission school. I was thrilled, as the residential school was well known. But to teach in a girls’ school run by nuns?

“Shit!” I said to myself, confirming my own realization that I would have to watch my language there.

The letter from the school had very politely informed me that my “name had been recommended by Fr. J____,” and would it be possible for me to “accept this short assignment”. The fee wasn’t much but everything else was provided for and as I was between projects, I sent in my acceptance looking forward to Bakersgunj – which incidentally, had nothing to do with bread, cakes and biscuits!

 *

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24
Aug
11

Breathing with the Chitals

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
– Chief Crowfoot

This incident happened 17 years ago, when Dhikala wasn’t the monkey-infested, jeep-cartel ridden, dirty, noisy place that it is now. It was always great to reach Dhikala after the long and exhilarating drive from Dhangarhi gate. Ignoring the tourism department’s restaurant we would head straight for Kaleji’s Dhabha; sit under the thatched roof waiting for aloo paranthas that would be washed down with steaming cups of tea and, checking what was being planned for dinner.

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