Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Kanha For Ever!

 “Forests should not be walked on, they should be walked under and through.” … Courtney M. Privett.

"It was October last week, a typical Kanha start of winter morning & we were in mukki meadows (large grass land), the morning mist hanging on the grass land was melting by entry of rising sun in the sky. Visitors often complain about less tiger sighting at Kanha in this season but I feel forest is at its best in Kanha in late October. The air is cool & a wonderful green screen of Sal welcomes you, the huge spread of grass displays a multicolored canvas for the drama which is on all the time & you have to just park your gypsy on a road along the grass land & become part of the drama unfolding in front of your eyes! It was one such morning & were chasing an alarm call(what else?) which died off after sometimes & suddenly our eyes were on some movement in grass land ahead so we moved forward & a pack of wild dogs was relaxing in morning sun in the grass along the two small adjoining lakes at center of the grass land. Many people (read most) don’t understand importance of wild dogs & ignore their sighting but let me tell you something, there are nearly hundred plus tigers in Kanha but if I am right wild dogs are even lesser than this figure; now you can realize the importance of wild dogs in forest & rarity of their sighting! Well, first we saw just three/ four of them but as we came in full view it was biggest pack I have seen in recent with nearly twenty wild dogs in it. All of them were relaxing which actually they weren’t because that was the strategy to keep their prey unalarmed. On the far side of meadows where the Sal tree wall stood, a large pack of spotted deer' was grazing unaware of wild dogs but wild dogs were very much aware about them. There was discussion going on in the pack about the attack formation & slowly in calculated move one by one wild dogs started moving towards the deer pack surrounding them & suddenly in last leap they all sprang from three sides driving the deer herd towards the center of the grass land! There was silent stampede as no alarm call was made by the deer, just they started running wildly in all directions. And soon the canvas of the meadows was active like cinema screen with nearly hundred deer’ & twenty wild dogs running all around; it was race of life vs. death as deer’ were running for life & wild dogs running to kill, which in a way life for them actually! I have seen such scenes only on National Geography or Animal Planet channels but today I was experiencing it live & no camera was enough to cover this drama! Wild dogs were trying to separate one of the deer’ from the herd & kill it by trying to tire it which is their normal tactics. But even with full fledged effort that was deer's lucky day & wild dogs had to end their attack without success except a small fawn which wasn’t enough for eighteen of them. And then the wild dogs realized that there was a barsingha in one of the small lake, a treat so near! Immediately putting the spotted deer’ failed mission behind the pack started planning a new move & covered the small lake from all sides. The poor barsingha already sensed its death by looking at approaching pack & moved towards deeper waters instead running out of lake & watching it I could feel the wild dogs smiling between them by barsingha’s move because the barsingha has sealed its death by going deep in water as wild dogs are natural swimmers & in water the heavy barsingha has restrictions on its movements. Needless to say the outcome was it turned out as happy day finely for the wild dogs pack but not so, for the poor barsingha! Entire drama lasted for some thirty minutes leaving behind a dead barsingha caracas, feasting wild dogs & mesmerized faces of few human beings with cameras!! One more Kanha tour has started for me…"

Well by now you must have been understood the sharing is about Kanha & some things are like “Déjà woo” & for me Kanha is one such. The quote I used is of Courtney M. Privett who is the author of The Malora Octet, Huron, and The Bacra Chronicles. She spent her childhood in rural northeastern Michigan and graduated from the University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) in 2005 with a degree in ceramic engineering. In addition to being a writer, she is an accidental artist, a classical percussionist, a former analytical chemist, and a vivid dreamer, & who better than a dreamer can think of such words of understanding the forests! Actually in the quote of Courtney lays my frequent forest trip’s reason as once you understand the forests then it’s like visiting your own home, how many time you go there you like it more, that is true definition of the home & which I live in forests. And when the forest is Sal trees & vast meadows (grass lands) of Knaha then the affection is like addiction, though it said any addiction is hazardous to the health but I am sure addiction of forest, (read nature) is exception to this rule!Actually I had been to Kanha just five months back yet it seems like age long such is affection to visit the greens of Kanha. And when the Innova started racing out of Nagpur city & on road to Kanha, my mind has already reached there & my lungs can feel the fresh air with green fragrance it brings along!

One noticeable thing, good for Kanha visitors though not so good for die hard nature lovers is, the road widening work is on full speed especially between Nagpur & Seoni. Issue is this is Nation Highway & it passes through most of the forest which is in a way corridor also for many animals. Thousands of trees have been cut for this road widening & the sight was sickening yet our Hon Central Minister for roads has promised the new trees will be planted in proportion of ten trees per one cut tree, we all know how effective our engineering depts are when its planting new trees! I only wish the Hon Minister should give a keen eye for plantation as well survival of the trees, the very same way he is taking efforts to complete the road widening! When its matter of development (read infrastructure) Vs environment, most of the time development has won & most people will say what’s wrong with it? If the travel time is reduced, its saves crores of rupees in the form of fuel as well man hours, is not in a way saving? Indeed it is saving  but what about the loss in the form of cut trees as well knowing the way our drivers drive their cars & trucks on such type of wide & smooth roads, the danger of road kill of animals too increase ten times is a fact we can’t ignore! I think along with the planting of new trees equally important is leaving underpasses’ for the animals to cross the road as well have strong barricades on both sides of the road for entire stretch it goes from the woods! And here is where the wild life lovers should put their foot down united than just protesting for Avni’s death. I am not happy for killing (I personally take it as death) of Avni tigress but it’s the encroachment of we the humans on habitats of wild life is what made Avni man eater & this is the main cause we should fight for, which we are not doing in first place! But surely reduction of travel time from Nagpur to Kanha will be a boon for wild lifers is other side of the coin. As the hotel as well tourism dependant trades are not doing well in Knaha because no tourist will go to Kanha without having a safari permit & even if we say all 100 vehicles full yet it makes room (hotel accommodation) need of hardly some 300 odd rooms where as Kanha to my knowledge has some 2000 rooms accommodation in of all sorts or resorts t6o home stay! Outcome is many properties (read hotels) have been closed down or available for sale at Kanha but no buyer is the scene! Fault lies with hotel owners also as they can make many things possible with coordination of forest dept. For e.g. nature walk or nature trail which can easily keep tourist occupied for a day if not jungle safari & then you can always take them for a ride in nearing forest outside of the park as well visit to some villages to make the visitors know about the people around these forests & then most of the tourists are happy with two or three safaris! Forest dept also should take lead in such activities as this the only way to promote tourism which in the end will be helping local people to get some decent living as well making visitors aware of real nature & not just tiger! On the background of roads in MP sorry to say roads in Maharashtra are in pathetic stage as now I am visiting MP for nearly last ten years & earlier when the car used to hit bumpy road we used to say “we have entered in MP!”. But now its reverse as soon the car starts rolling on smooth road we say, “seems we have entered in MP”.  Also the sign boards as when we were on way to Kursapar i.e. Pench Maharashtra after Kanha, there wasn’t s single sign board of indicating the exit for Khursapar gate & relying on Google made us end up at a nearly dead end which only we had an SUV so could get us through to the gate! How we will be promoting tourism in our State if we neglect such basic things, I doubt our concerned ministers or sr. govt officers ever bother to travel as common tourists & look for such lacunas in the systems which are big distress for the common Man!

Though I left behind all these thoughts as soon the gypsy entered in to the forest! So many times I have visited Kanha yet every time I enter through the gate my heart beats faster as what lies ahead, this time! It’s like Harry Potter Movies while he get on the train to Hogwarts (sorry for those who are not fans of Harry Potter, it’s his school name) via a magical railway platform, access to which is via  a brick column, you just go through it & bang, you are in a magical world! Same is the feel when you cross the gate of Kanha Park, a whole new green world welcomes you where every color of green is displayed & even the air you inhale is also green! Here in this world you forget about problems of outer world, there is no week day or weekends, deadlines to follow, calls to made, nobody asks for work schedules; yet here in forest nothing is slow or fast but everything moves at its speed & in its own way! All one has to do is become part of these greens & just feel the flow of nature & this is why one should visit forests as here you don’t know what drama will unfold in front of you in next moment. Often while moving through those Sal or the grass lands sometimes you feel nothing is happening & what a boring ride this has been but then you haven’t understood the forest is what I will say! As I have shared earlier every time forest has given me something new whenever I have visited it & not necessary that the new means something I haven’t seen earlier! Confused? Well, same thing I learn to see newly after all it’s our vision which makes the difference & vision can be new at every moment not just day or week or month, how I would have understood it had I not visited forests!

Here the grass dances differently on the tune of wind every day, even in mornings & evenings too & the animals as well birds moving on this canvas make the dance more interesting. On one morning while the sun was yet to paint the sky full red, on very first turn after entering in forest we heard a weird sound (call), the guide said sir this is jackal calling, means “tiger kahi najdik hai”! In so many years of forests yet I have never heard a jackal giving alarm call, the sound was very sharp & loud, especially on the silent morning it echoed all around. And on the road a tiger emerged, while we were getting our cameras ready even the tiger seemed to be irritated with that sound & turned back, started walking away from us. That road was of Kisli zone while we had permit of Kanha zone so all we can do is watch helplessly tiger walking away from zone but then I have experienced the jackal call, which was my gain! Had it been earlier me I would have kept cursing my luck as well the zone system which deprived me the tiger sighting from closer range but now I feel happy even though I has just a glimpse of the tiger. As now I have understood to become part of the greens & live every moment around & I think this is what forest teaches us, off course if we are ready to learn!

On the earlier day while waiting for tiger by hearing a sambhar deer alarm call we were on a bridge & suddenly a male tiger emerged out of grass along the banks of the nallah , gave me a look & walked in the thickset on other side of the bank!My camera wasn’t ready so all I could do is click its back, indeed I knew one should be ever ready in forest but then does that mean just to capture the tiger in camera? No, it means be ever ready to capture every such moment in the camera of your eyes images of which gets ever stored in the hard disk of mind, is what I have learn now! This is the reason I go back to the forests again & again & again as each time I learn to live in new way! And this is why we must conserve the places like Kanha like our personal heritage & not just that try to cultivate them around ourselves when we get back to our concrete jungle i.e. in city we live in! As indeed that piece of green may be just a small patch of greens or a big neem tree which may not give me tiger sighting but whenever I look at it, there might be a bird chirping on that neem tree or a lizard waiting for a kill on its branch or just the changing color of the leafs waving on the tune of wind blowing, that will make me part of it & my day has made even in concrete jungle. This new vision is what Kanha has gifted me this time (oh yes, how I can forget the samosa the Kanha center serves) & I will be never enough thankful to the God for this wonderful priceless gift of green vision!  

On one morning at the Khatiya gate there were number of school kids who has come to see the tiger & the gate atmosphere was abuzz with their chatting, a sound as sweet & energetic like that of birds chirping. Looking at those kid’s exited faces, I realized my face was not different than theirs, as at once I have forgotten nearly fifty years I have put behind & was as happy & exited as those kids, that’s what Kanha does to you; well do you have any other idea of ageing, better than this? Adios with this note, till I visit forests again!

Check the total drama at link below...

One more thing, at Kanha the delightful sight was, seeing most of the guides wearing “Think Green” sweaters which we gave them as our little support to the people who are in way forest protectors & I think each of us who visits Kanha like places & go back with some take away, owes something to the forests, that's why shared here!
Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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