On despair…and hope (and the musings of a conservationist)

Many a time, despair strikes. Caring….doesn’t come easy, it carries with the potential for heartbreak. And in my line of work—though it is not strictly ‘work’, it’s a commitment, it’s dogged perusal, bitter battles, negotiation, persuasion, advocating, pleading, reasoning, standing up and speaking up for India’s wildlife.

And it’s not glamourous, as popular perception reckons. We don’t go in there, to the forest on incessant ‘safari’s’, brandishing AK-47’s against poachers.  There is nothing glamorous about taking up cudgels against the mines that will pillage elephant habitat, or coal that will destroy the land of the tiger…or a dam that will still the dolphin’s river, or the mall that make the wetland, concrete.  There is nothing glamorous about plodding through documents and files, rules, policies and laws that govern  the wilds.

Money talks (and animals don’t, though I believe they do. Only we cannot hear their voices)…and there is money in mining that jungle, or in slicing a road through it.

There is no glamour, when our-their- voices go unheard; there is only the despair of having failed. Of perhaps having not done enough. Of knowledge that soon…that particular piece of wilderness will be no more. But somehow, we shed the gloom, bury the despair, square our shoulders, and ready ourselves to take on the next crisis…or rather the multitude of crisis’.

There cannot be any letting up. There is not the luxury to mourn. And we can never, ever shed hope. For then, we have given up the battle. And there is always hope…till the death of the last tiger, till the elimination of the last wilderness.

We do it, because we care. Only, we dare not show we care, we cannot make an emotive appeal: Conservation derides emotion.  Our argument/reasoning to protect the wilds must be based on sound knowledge. On logic. On science. And they are. But even the most die-hard scientist will look at the hue of a sunrise, the eye of the tiger, the flight of the bird—not at the screen of her computer or the latest statistical tool, or facts and figures to gain inspiration.

We do it, because we cannot imagine a world where no lion stalks, no leaves unfurl, no bird sing…we cannot imagine the jungle silenced of the roar of the tiger.

We also do it, for we know (and science supports us), that there cannot be life,  if we finish all other life around us.

A world derived of nature will not only be deprived of soul, and spirit…it will simply cease to be.

So, what sustains us?

So much. Even as I was penning this, I could see the ‘seven sisters’ (as jungle babblers-gregarious, chatty birds, known to hang about in small groups-are also called) out in the garden. I imagine it was kitty party time, as they sat and fluttered, gossiped and pecked at their food (no dig this, just a straight comment, meant to be taken at face value). Some days back i chanced upon the nest of a sparrow-and the mother was feeding her raucous  young.  I remember the elephant family at Corbett. Calves, carefully hidden between and behind the massive bulk of mothers, aunts, older sisters and cousins-breaking free at the sight of water…rushing headlong, tumbling into the waters of the Ramganga. Soon they are all there-some 35 of them, at this joyous pool party. Squeaking, squirting, pushing, jostling. rolling…this was unadulterated joy!  I was in the forests of Dachigam recently. So exquisite, in its varied shades of green, lush and magical. And even if the heart lurches at the knowledge of  the troubles that besiege this paradise, or the mines just over the ridge, the fact that it exists…gives me hope.

The sky is gloomy and dull, and clouds hover…but there are still rainbows.

Yet, sometimes despair hits hard, and i feel all is lost. Then….I meet the tiger.

my tigress in Kanha_may 2013_for webLike this one. I met her in Kanha in May  this year.

We were sitting in the jeep. Quietly. Taking in the forest. Admiring the meadows, musing over the problem of weeds invading the said meadow, watching the cheetal, hearing the guttural rut of the barasingha.

It was very…peaceful. Almost meditative.

Suddenly, though, the mood changed.

A langur called. Two sharp barks.

And the denizens of the jungle erupted in a cacophony of alarm calls.

The tiger was here.

She was close,  by the side of the ‘road’, but hidden from view,  a flash of burning gold in the green, green grass. Then she stepped out…slowly, surely, padding softly on the path, so powerful…and so utterly beautiful. She took my breath away.

She padded on, uncaring of us-apparently unaware of our presence. Though the tautness of her muscles gave her away. I sensed she was alert. Tense? As she glided by, she made soft moaning calls.  She was calling to her cubs.  Telling them she was coming to them. Perhaps telling them not to come to her.

As I write this, I shake, remembering the intensity, the wonder of the moment. How can you describe how momentous the occasion was, how profound.

And irrationally, as she walked past, i wanted her to acknowledge me….i wanted her to know i cared.

She gave me that moment. before she disappeared from my life (but not my heart). She stopped. And she looked.

I like to think at me.

Foolish, i know. Even more foolish is the instinct that told me she knew…I was a friend.

Sometimes, it is ok to be foolish…to let your guard slip, to shed what we deem as ‘civilisation’, and let instinct take over.

This is something i shouldn’t admit, not in public-but i could not control the tears that rolled down my cheek, as I renewed my promise to protect her, and her kind, with all that is there in me.



8 Responses to “On despair…and hope (and the musings of a conservationist)

  • Oh Prerna you care and care deeply from the bottom of your heart and I am sure the tigress ‘knew’, just keep inspiring the rest of us, good luck and God bless

    • Jasvinder…your faith seems much to me. Thank you.

  • Oh Prerna, I have tears running down my face too; the last lines just were so much a call of my heart. I have often felt this and had never been able to say it out loud, feeling it so strongly and knowing no one hears me . Thanks you for being there, for putting your heart out there, sharing with us. Just last week, while walking my dogs inthe neighborhood I met a huge crowd of Oriental White Eyes, and I too felt they stopped and looked at me and connected with me, and while standing under the tree, looking at them, ‘talking with them’ in our silent way, I felt such immense joy and such a connect and the tears flowed…Thank you and power to you!

    • thanks Kiran..your words are very encouraging…and it s so good to know that you understand, if not share what i feel.

  • I love this story ….keep it up prerna ….your parents chose your name wisely 🙂

  • And what’s the problem with tears?

    • no problem. except don’t want it to eb interpreted as ‘weak’-not where wildlife is concerned…

  • Awe inspiring, strikingly moving and breathtakingly dazzling encounter. Wish it would dent an indelible mark on the whole spectrum of horizon of conservation.

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