Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Genesis of the Wander

I’m living my dream. Travelling through wild India, experiencing spectacular new forests, seeing species I had never seen before, rediscovering my love for all things tiger and last but certainly not the least, meeting some truly wonderful people in all these places. And while I am only a small way through this journey and seen only a fraction of what this country has on offer, it has been one of the most amazing few weeks of my life.

In turn, I’ve felt energized, delirious, humbled, awed and struck dumb, at times by glimpses of India’s amazing natural world and at other times by people who live around these forests; simple, regular folk who often lead difficult lives, but whose openness, charm, optimism and most of all, their sense of harmony and responsibility towards Mother Nature really made me feel very humble. And inspired by others from within India and visitors from far-away lands, whose company, experience and perspective are adding immeasurably to my own.

But the over-riding feeling was that of incredible, deep-rooted joy. A feeling that is impossible to explain in words. How can you describe what goes through your mind when you feel the wind blowing through your hair as you drive through the open desolateness of the Rann of Kutch, or watch 15 thousand Demoiselle cranes take off and blot out the sun, suddenly see a male lion less than 6 feet away, spend an hour lying outside a den watching fox cubs gamboling about 6 feet away from you, see a big male tiger affectionately nuzzle his little cub or a herd of blackbuck sprint across open grassland?

 Try as I might, via flowery prose or captured pose, I really cannot capture the real intensity of these feelings. Because I believe it has to be experienced and not described. Lived through and not merely heard or seen. Because you can never live it through my eyes, or even my lens. You have to be there.

And that is what I will try and do here. Talk about where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and who I enjoyed meeting. Try and bring these places closer to a few more people. Infect those who know me with this incredible virus. Try and get more people to visit these amazing places, meet the same wonderful people I met, see what India’s wild wonders really have to offer, test their luck with the sightings and hope that they too, in turn can infect several others.  Till it becomes a full blown epidemic.

And there’s a purely selfish interest in getting more people to the jungles. We have serious conservation challenges in this country and I believe we can’t save our wildernesses unless millions of people want it and will it. And we can’t conserve what what we don’t care for, and we can’t really care for something we don’t love and it’s tough to love something we’ve never experienced, right?

So please visit, experience, love, share, care and infect. And most importantly, respect!

Before I sign off, there is a lot I have to be thankful for, or else this dream would have remained exactly that. I want to dedicate this trip to my wife Surbhi, who pushed me to go while she manages everything by herself. Who believed in my dream and pushed me forward when I was going through the jitters, my little Navya for being such a star and letting me be away for so long, My brother Sridhar, my original wildlife ‘infector’, guru and and travel companion, some people who influenced me, helped me and made me love, admire and respect India’s incredible wildlife – Bittu Sahgal and Anish Andheria from Sanctuary, my friends Ramki and Swarna for all their help, Hemraj Meena, Naturalist Extraordinaire at Ranthambhore and all the amazing people I’ve met on my travels.