Sunday, March 22, 2009

Return of the E3

The last 6 weeks had been a nightmarish experience. Someone knocked my E3 and broke it's viewfinder glass. I sent it for repairs nearly two months ago and had been waiting ever since.

And what a wait it was. More than six weeks to replace a piece of glass!!

Meanwhile I had to woodcrawl through burning jungles with my old faithful Fuji S9500 & become witness to a nightmare in my own garden.

Now that my tough companion for all seasons is back, it's time to strap up my back pack and start woodcrawling again in the jungles I love so much.

I already missed one opportunity this weekend; my friends are in Bandipur today. I'll make it up the next time.

Watch this space.........................

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mystery of the Missing Chivas

My friend Anonymous (?!) asked me what happened to that confiscated bottle of Chivas.

Now, I dislike whiskey. Desi & Videsi. It tastes YUCK! Besides, after the binge, your family will smell you as get out of the car and exchange meaningful glances. I love my friends and wont give them away to my family!

My poison is vodka. With a "twist" of vanilla or orange. Give me an Absolut any day. (I'll settle for a Smirnoff too if absolutely essential!!) Vodka with a chilly floating in it, a sprinkle of salt on the edge of the glass and three ice cubes; you just can't beat that.

Besides, vodka is a clean drink. It's colourless, odourless & tasteless. Throw anything with it and it will blend invisibly. The best part of all; it "kicks" in slowly and gently. Giving you time to reach home and the comfort of your bed. Then it picks you up and takes you to heaven.

But, I'm digressing, as KA would say. We were solving a problem related to a bottle of Chivas. I'm no detective and best of all I hate whiskey. So you know it did not tickle my palate. I'll let you solve this yourself. Look at that picture, that Vasanth kindly consented to contribute.

Vasanth isn't there because he clicked the picture. From the left; I'm the one with the pink leaflets in my hand. Hidden by me is Mr.M, the official at the check post. To my right are Hari, Soumyajit in the background (and closest to the car incidentally) & Rakesh.

I heard Mr. M confiscated the bottle in dispute. I never saw it. I never went into the office. I never...............

Forget it. You solve it.

By the way, Anonymous isn't a name. Who are you? That's the next mystery!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Of Aching Ankles & Dodgy Drivers

Exactly a week ago, to the hour, I was nursing a pair of VERY aching ankles. For a health professional used to being confined to a chair all day the experience was physically draining but mentally rejuvenating. I must confess, I wasn't sure if my ankles would last the drive to Palakkad but Satish's company till Gudalur kept my mind off it at least part of the way.

21st February 2009. A day that will be marked in my life. Literally, because I have developed a nice tan standing in the sun all day. I had only been accepted as a member of KANS and I had an opportunity to do something I always wanted to do. Conservation activity at ground level.

I was part of a small team of volunteers from KANS conducting an awareness in Bandipur. The teams agenda was to educate drivers on safe driving in National Parks. Along with distributing leaflets on the primary objective the volunteers also emphasized the need to avoid smoking, honking, picnicking, drinking, feeding wildlife and playing loud music.

The team was lead by a firebrand Soumyajit & a sober Rakesh. As we left after breakfast, a kilometer in the park we encountered our first set of 'students', three carloads of 40 to 50 year olds. Some were answering nature's call while others were competeing to see who would make more smoke rings. Vasanth, Hari and me got off and requested them to stop smoking and move move on. Most were polite, some gave us queer looks and other told us we were doing a good job but then, they had to stop because someone wanted to pee. I wanted to tell that if a wild dog or an elephant took a fancy they would be peeing into a bed pan the next day. I restrained myself and we repeated our request and moved off as they piled into the cars and started on their journey to Ooty.

A little down the roadway, we met these two gentlemen from Kolakta, looking absolutely lost. They worked in Bangalore and thought a holiday in the wild would do their systems good. They got onto a car and drove off. The car reached Bandipur and when they stopped, NO ROOMS AVAILABLE!! So what does Babu Moshai do? Grab a stick and take a walk in the National Park. It was a good thing we found them before some carnivore decided to try HILSA!

At the check post we were hopping like rabbits. It was hot and dry. Water supply was disappearing fast but old men felt younger in the company of enthusiastic brothers. We stopped more than 800 vehicles at the Kekkenhalla check post. Most were very receptive. Some were downright rude and a one even stopped his car to enquire more about this programme. I felt sad for Soumya, some 30 minutes in the baking sun with two very enthusiastic guys left his nose looking a bit like Ruldoph the reindeer!!

Of course, 800 odd vehicles, you surely will have a chance encounter with "wildlife" of the two legged kind. We spied a car drive past the border and got ready to stop it. Imagine to our amazement when a plastic soft drink bottle flies out of the window barely 50 meters from us. As it is we were hot under the collar, now this got us all steaming, including the sober Rakesh. We stopped the car only to find a sour faced driver with the co-passenger reclining next to him. When we politely requested him to pick up his garbage the co-passenger, who till then was sleeping jumps up, brandishing a bottle of Chivas Regal in our faces and in a slurred voice says, "We have no plastic bottle. Only this". We tried reasoning politely, telling him about a fine stiffer than his drink. Somehow the word got to him, "I've already been fined on the other side" he said and for good measure added "B*****d".

Then things progressed fast, unfortunately for the driver. Mr. M, forest official manning the check post pulled out the ignition key and ordered the driver to pick up his garbage. After some initial reluctance he complied. By then then inebriated guy too was out of the car shouting more fiercely, but Mr.M was made of sterner stuff. He confiscated the remains of the premium scotch, got them to write an apology letter and also pay a fine, I think of Rs.500/-.

Of course the drunk was past the stage of reasoning so he had the last laugh. He threw out the bottle again, not 50 meters after crossing the check post!!

We wound up well past 7 PM, mainly because there was no electricity at the checkpost. The only solar lantern had a panel but no lamp or working battery. We thought we need to do something about it. We left Mr.M and his companiion swatting mosquitos in the dark for a well desreved dinner.

Bandipur burns - Part 3 : The Human Hand

Nature knows when things go of hand. It might just instinctively react to a situation and forest fires could be nature's way of regaining control. Perhaps, an attempt to preserve precious resources and to make way for a new generation to grow unhindered. The wild growth of lantana in our jungles are a nuisance to both the wildlife and small plants and saplings trying to push it's way towards the nourishing sun.

Maybe fires have a role in the cycle of life, but what if the fires are man made? It goes out of control destroys every bit of life in its path.

There is enough evidence to show that all fires in the Bandipur National Park and contiguous areas are not due to global warming as everyone is fond of saying.

As our team from KANS surveyed the destruction before us we saw a group of six individuals moving out of the forest along the exposed track. Three of them were smoking!!

Further evidence of revelry was seen in the burnt grass. Beer bottles and empty cigarette cartons thrown by callous tourists. Even a condom was present among all that ash!!

A carelessly thrown match or cigarette could be the cause of the fire.

Unless some sort of control in imposed on movement of humans, especially senseless tourists this sort of "accidents" are always a frequent possibility. As a matter of fact , the possibility of such fires becoming more frequent is a reality due to unrestricted promotion of tourism.