Sharing my piece ‘Confessions of a porch photographer’ which was published in the Hindu.

Deodar cones dispersing seeds in winter. Photo credit: Lalitha Krishnan

How did I manage to get published? I’m clueless. I only know that The Hindu-Open Page editor’s click of approval transported me to a new level of thrilled.  All those zillion rewrites, years of rejections and no replies from other publications finally paid off. This piece was way shorter, the timing was right perhaps–around Salim Ali’s birth anniversary–and I think my writing struck a chord with nature-loving folk who are missing the ‘wild’ connect. Reading their appreciative emails brought me as much joy as writing. There is no greater reward. Will I get published again? I can’t tell but you will know if I do.:) Why don’t you read the article (via The Hindu link below) and tell me what you think of it in the comments space?

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/confessions-of-a-porch-photographer/article20217923.ece

A Grey langur watches me watch him. Photo credit: Lalitha Krishnan
A Grey langur watches me watch him. Photo credit: Lalitha Krishnan”

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, or Life in the Woods

 

Wildlife conservation, for citizens. How a WII course is changing the way I think of conservationists.

A year ago I realized I want to spend the rest of life working for wildlife conservation. It wasn’t a midlife crisis moment. On the contrary, what should have been obvious all along dawned on me rather slowly.

Jackals in the wild
Jackals in the wild

How does one begin to live the dream?

My new wannabe goal lacks the prerequisite academic backing. I don’t know anyone influential enough to open doors for me. Nor am I a donor. Scientific papers are mostly beyond my realm of understanding. I don’t recognize every other bird or ungulate. What I do know is that it’s not too late.

I want to get up close and personal with wildlife. Go out on field trips. Be involved. Inspire. Document. Help a researcher. Assist a vet. Be better informed. Tell the world. Invest in serious skills. Attempt to bridge that gap between scientists and citizens. Do what needs to be done 101%. For the rest of my life!

Goral fawn
Goral fawn

A friend, also a WII alumnus, happened to mention Wildlife Institute of India’s IV course on Wildlife Conservation for Wildlife Enthusiasts. It’s exactly what I was looking for. They hadn’t put in an age limit, so I applied. I was selected and it was everything I hoped it to be. And more. The ten-day course was divided into lecture-style classes and a field trek/trip into a core forest area.

Indispensable. Mules make it all possible.
Indispensable. Mules make it all possible.

A second revelation

I hate stereotyping but in startling contrast to the ‘government babus’ in my head, WII staff were a breath of fresh air. I interacted with charismatic and enterprising individuals from various departments. Their passion is admirable, their involvement, inspiring and their generosity in sharing, genuine.

The path of an environmentalist, as you and I know, is not an easy one. A few of our mentors joined WII as students and chose never to leave. 15-20 years on, these research scientists continue to battle on at great personal cost. Graciously, they make time to motivate ordinary people like myself. It’s humbling.

An eagle keeping watch
An eagle keeping watch

“When someone has spent decades devoted to observing certain creatures, their observations are not to be taken lightly.”-Carl Safina 

I agree. If there’s one way to learn, it’s to walk with the experts. As a trekker, the highlight of the course for me was visiting core forest areas on foot. After a few days in the field with Dr. R Suresh Kumar and Dr. Lakshminarayana—both storehouses of information—my respect for conservationists has risen several-fold.

It’s one thing to learn in the classroom about how elephants communicate. It’s another, to be startled awake by trumpeting a few yards away from where you lie, trapped in a flimsy sleeping bag.

Fresh prints are evidence of high traffic in the forests.
Fresh prints are evidence of high traffic in the forests.

 

Spotted bill ducks at the WII campus.
Spotted bill ducks at the WII campus.

This course is undoubtedly a significant one. The WII campus, tucked away in a green haven, hosts a great number of wild inhabitants. I am honestly astounded by WII’s collective wealth of expertise and by the impact they’re making, unknown to the rest of the world. I’m sure my course mates echo my sentiments. We’re a mixed bunch of adults from diverse professional backgrounds, different states, and varying ages. We were a rather enthusiastic and animated bunch: absorbing, theorizing, questioning and arguing. I can now say with conviction that there are 14 more Indian citizens in this world, who are better informed, convinced, and committed to saving our natural wealth.

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Scope of conservation lectures
Biogeography of India/History of Indian Natural History/Achievements/Challenges and opportunities in wildlife conservation /Wildlife of Himalayas: conservation through science/ Large carnivore conservation in India/Saving Tigers in a human-dominated landscape/Science and management of tiger reintroduction/ Elephant conservation challenges/ Wetland conservation in India/Saving our sea turtles/ turtle trade/ Fish conservation in India/Dealing with wildlife crimes/A need for developing wildlife forensics/ Managing wild animals in distress/ Dealing with snakes, venomous and non-venomous in India/ Introduction to classic natural history books.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

If you’d like to read more of my blog posts:

http://bit.ly/reserveclosetohome

http://bit.ly/HimalayanWolves

http://bit.ly/8LifeSkillsFromABird

http://bit.ly/WildernessFirstAidMussoorie

Do visit me on Instagram @lalithainsta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enquire within upon everything

Way before the age of Goddess Google and looking within oneself for answers, I used to depend a great deal on my grandmother or ammamma as I called her. She’d make ink stains disappear just like that and resolve every query I ever had as a kid. Most of the time, she knew what to do or she’d pull out her one-stop book for everything and ask me to read. The book, Enquire Within Upon Everything, was her paperback version of our modern day browser.

I owe ammamma for nurturing my curiosity. She grand mothered us four siblings under one roof. Like most children, I felt she considered me more special. I loved her to death of course. So much so, after her passing, I promptly staked claim to her book by scrawling a crude signature on it long before I could truly sign.

Though Enquire Within Upon Everything holds an obscure place on my shelf, it’s still a valued possession. Books were a luxury then. We made it a point to cover them and keep them dust free as far as possible. The brown paper cover has since been silver-fished through. The pages have yellowed, as they should. It smells nice like all old books do.

p1190029

Intrinsic worth. Varied usefulness. And cheapness.

The publisher of Enquire Within Upon Everything, Herbert Jenkins Ltd., published PG Wodehouse novels. What I have is the 119th edition, reprinted in 1939. It sold nearly 2,000,000 copies. Not bad for a how-to book back in the day. In the Publisher’s preface, there’s special mention of how its “intrinsic worth, varied usefulness, and cheapness have won for it universal esteem.” Amusing use of words. Come to think of it, I’m subconsciously always looking for these very qualities in a mall.

“Life is too short for mean anxieties”.

Every page in this book—there are 545 pages in all—has a quote in the header. Quotes you and I could put to use on social media.img_20161105_112631-2I may never read Enquire Within Upon Everything from cover to cover. Nor will I give it away. The book connects me to my grandmother in far more poignant ways than an ouija board would. A lot has changed since the book has been published but there’s a lot more that hasn’t. It’s still a great reference source if I need old recipes. Household hints. Rules for card games. Remedies. The author is unknown. I looked on the net and was amazed to see the book is still available for next to nothing. If I were you, I’d grab it. This one is for keeps. Read it.

But “above all, read yourself”. Pg. 317