Friday, October 30, 2015

Kanha, Rediscover Your Own Self Here!

"When someone asked me what you got back from the forest? I replied; I got back myself"… Sanjay.

Rarely I use my own quotes as usually quotes are supposedly by the wise men & I don’t consider myself in that category; but forest is something very personal aspect for me so I used my quote rather to call it feelings will be more opt! The forest season started with my most favorite destination out of Maharashtra i.e. Kanha & what better start it could have been than to visit the land of Saals (saal tree forest)! While going to Kanha I was worried only about two things i.e. the infamous Kanha cold which fortunately wasn’t crawled in & another is last full year whenever I have visited any forest the rain god has followed me ruining the trip. But fortunately this time the cold wasn’t there & no rains rather not even clouds were there. As the travel from Nagpur towards Kanha begins, my eyes were absorbing the passing scene. The road which passes through for nearly fifty kilometers through a forest patch, has been recently given green signal for four laneing by the forest & environment ministry & immediately the efficient road minister has started the task & the first sight was not soothing to the eyes & chopping of thousands of trees along the road was in progress. But then it’s this patch which was causing maximum traffic jams is equally true & the road minister has assured ten times more new trees will be planted along the road in lieu of the trees which are being cut down.  This decision was long pending & no one was taking any action i.e. either slash the proposal of the road widening or start working on it, but that’s the difference in present rulers working is all I felt. Here the only concern is as this patch goes via thickset of the forest which in a way is corridor between Pench & Kanha, what will be its impact on animals who will need to cross the road. There has to be underpass at frequent intervals as well the entire patch of the road should be guarded on both sides of the road by proper fencing so as to avoid animals crossing/running in between the fast traffic. Already there had been deaths of many animals in this road patch & with four laneing the speed of the vehicles is bound to get increase so the threat of animals getting hit by the vehicles is more & also this can lead to human life loss too.

Apart from the four lanes & tree cutting along, one more thing caught my eyes as we crossed the border of Maharashtra & entered in Madhya Pradesh & that is clean villages. A rare sight in our State, with no open gutters, garbage heaps aligned along the road & pigs wandering through that mess are a common scene at our villages & on the top of it people sitting along the road for their daily morning rituals! This is worth adopting from MP that how they have achieved as when you travel to some tourist destination as popular as Kanha then you get tourists from all across the globe & it’s important that they reach to the destination with happy travel memories & full marks to MP State for taking the effects to make travel a nice one to Kanha. As it’s not just the destination but how you reach to that destination is equally important when you make some place as tourists place. And the scenes we see along the journey do lingers in our mind & then if those scenes are ugly then we carry that bad taste in our mind which spoils the actual destinations beauty too! Take example of any of the tourist place in our State, right from Tadoba tiger reserve to Melghat or even pilgrimage place like Shegaon, till we reach there, we have to pass through all the unwanted sights along the road & that does have its impact on tourism as well what image the tourist will be taking back from these places, this aspect also we need to consider.

When I reached at Kanha it was dark & clear star lit sky with near full moon welcomed me & here lies the start of the answer of the question i.e. what I got back from the forest? As in our city life first is how many times we actually look at the sky at night & when we look all we see is smoky, hazy sky & few of the stars, as in the brightness of our LEDs & Neon Signs we have forgotten the natural glow of moon & stars! And then there were fire flies, "jugnu", popularly called as in Hindi. Let’s ask our self when last we have seen a fire fly in Pune or the city you live in? What a wonderful sight it is bringing back my childhood memories of a boy living in small town where fire flies were still there. And at night that boy used to catch one or two in the garden of his small home & used to put it in an empty match box which he used to carry as his pride possession. Tell me the person who in his childhood has seen a fire fly & hasn’t wondered how it glows without getting hot! I think that’s the best thing we can learn from the creature that how to light up surrounding without getting hot! The air at Kanha was cool & crisp; our lungs are actually not used to such clean air anymore which has more of oxygen & lesser fumes of every possible fuel burning! And this was just start of one more forest trip.

Next day at five am I was gate, again something we have forgotten in our city life ( at least majority of us) as even if we manage to wake up early yet we can’t find out time to look at sunrise is equally true & nothing beats the rising sun view or even sun set view also. In forest the same sky is so different, pale blue & clear like a canvas made by god itself, which changes its colors constantly! Dhaniram our guide welcomed me with a warm smile & he himself as well many other guides wearing the sweaters (winter gears) which we have gifted them few months back during the last training, greeted me! It’s such a heartening sight that the guides carrying our tag line on the sweaters the wearing, a moment of pride & happiness too! As that way we all spend whatever we earn but not necessarily every spending gives happiness; the money which we spend to make others happy, I think that spending gives us maximum happiness; at least it’s my experience. And what better than any help in any form done for the keepers of the forest, could be there! I think this is one more aspect of visiting forest that we learn to give as forest always keeps us giving without expecting anything in return.
Speaking about the guides, I think it’s high time not only the Kanha guides but at every forest they should introspect themselves as on an average each guide gets some Rs 300 per day, which may sound a meager amount but its handsome one especially when most of the other people won’t get even Rs 100 per day here! So what they give back in this is an important question as very few guides are enthusiastic in giving information to the tourists. Rather they should understand that guides are like the translator for the tourists as not all can understand the language forest speaks; right from the alarm calls of various birds & animals to the fragrance of various flowers, forest speaks with us in many languages. And it’s the guide who can interpret that language for us & make us know what forest wants to tell us.  And even for some good tip they expect from the tourist is indeed an added income, which also is possible only if they give good service & information instead keeping mum or just focusing on the tigers, is what I tried to convey the guides which I met. And for this a continuous training is a must which forest department does try to do; provided the guides should take benefit of the same.

Then there were few guides who have started a home stay like initiative at their homes, especially the guides which are locals from the nearby villages to the forest. It’s a great way for tourists also to understand the life of people around the forests & if we can’t stay at such place then at least it’s worth visiting over lunch or dinner is all I will say. As knowing forest isn’t just tiger sighting but it means knowing everyone which is associated with the forest! This activity should be promoted not only by forest dept but by every guide as well the tourists also. When we come back from forest we post & share snaps of animals as well our selfies but along with we should share these initiatives also as there only lies survival of the forest.

A good thing which has been started at Kanha is now we can take a full day safari in the forest i.e. the tourist can now spend whole day in forest without coming out of the forest at noon & its most wonderful thing which has happened to wild life tourism. Agreed its bit costly affair with Rs 20,000 as chares for the safari & gypsy charges & guard charges added on, yet for three people it’s a worth trying thing. Here few things can be improved by the forest dept & that is there has to be a well trained guide than the forest guard who seldom is interested in giving any information. Rather a separate category of super skilled guides can be made & only they should be made available for full day safari. And another thing is booking of full day should be made available at gate only which at present can be done only by the order of Director of the park.

One more incidence happened, while I was standing at the gate a group of school kids came & they asked me to click their group snap at gate, I happily took the camera & instead of usual “say cheese”, I said “say Tiger” & they all united shouted ‘Tiger’! It was such a fun as well peaceful feel to see the joy & excitement on those small faces that I prayed to forest god, let these kids get to see a tiger! As then they will come again & again to the forests & somewhere in these hands only lays the fate of the tiger as well every smallest of the specie around! 

In all these things I never knew that how three days passed & I was on way back to my concrete jungle again! Yet so many things I was carrying along but most importantly it’s here where I discovered my own self back; in our city life & the commercial thought process it generates, we actually forget to live & in forest only we can get opportunity to gather our self back. So what better thing than your own self you can take back along from the forest, that too with a promise that you will be back here again & soon! I think that’s what forest gives us as a return gift, our own self & that makes us more responsible for the conservation of forest!

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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