Posted in Environment

Western standard is NOT gold standard.

It is not packaged milk fortified with artificial vitamins that is good. It is the cow’s milk or buffalo milk that directly reaches your home without pasteurization, still warm from the beast’s udder that is healthy and good. Indians/Hindus have access to the latter mostly. A peeled orange fruit can never be compared to chemical orange drink with added preservatives and colours.

It is not refrigerated vegetables that are good. Pre-cut veggies are worst. It is buying your groceries on everyday basis and NOT refrigerating them that is healthy. We Indians do the latter.

It is not the frozen meat that is hygienic. It is the fresh cut meat and poultry that Indians have access to that is healthy.

It is not packaged/pre-cooked/tinned/canned food with printed expiry date that you can reheat on oven that is good. It is the freshly prepared food in your own kitchen that is best. We Indians spend hours doing that everyday at home.

All our herbs and spices and nuts and millets make for wonderful feast. Bland pizzas are insipid and tasteless. Indian food makes for gourmet cuisines anywhere and everywhere.

It is not the toilet tissue paper you wipe your asses with that is ideal. It is the water wash with health faucet that is best and most hygienic practice and we Indians do just that. Not only are not we hurting the environment with printing tonnes and tonnes of tissue paper, we are also using water which is the best medium for cleaning any surface. Water is replenishable natural resource that gets topped up with the arrival of monsoon.

Soaking in bathtub may sound luxurious but it is rinsing under a running shower that is hygienic standard.

It is not bottled water that is bacteria free. It is the running water off the tap that is best.

Swimming pools and golf courses and grazing fields for beef cattle are the worst environmental hazards. Hindus are not consumers of beef the production of which drinks up most of the surface water and scrapes earth of its greenery.

It is not sedan that is comfort. It is walking or cycling that is good.

It is not the air-conditioner that is healthy, it is rather the room temperature.

It is not the makeup that is cool, it is the natural way you look that is uber cool.

Eating with forks and spoons are not marks of sophistication or that of a civilized society. It is eating with hands that speaks of the human-food holistic connection. Eating is a spiritual experience for Hindus.

You don’t have to hit the gym at all if you are a practitioner of Hatha Yoga. When you have nothing to call your own, gym will become your refuge.

We even have the Hindu martial arts. We don’t have to take up karate or taekwondo.

It is not brands that are great. It is the ethnic weaves and motifs that I wear as an Indian so proudly that are the best clothes to wear. Our clothes represent our culture, history, heritage. I am wearing my India on my sleeve for the whole world to see.

It is not the synthetic fibre that is fashion. It is natural yarn cotton and silk that I drape myself with that are most environment friendly.

If you are hooked on to western music or western soap as an Asian/African or anyone, it means you don’t have native/desi/local talent. There is a big void – you don’t have authentic pedigree culture. You have not enough of creativity.

If you are watching only the Hollywood pictures, then again your local talent pool sucks. You don’t have ingenuity to produce even quality entertainment.

If you do not have local classical music or dance or art or literature scene, it means you are rootless. You lack imagination. You are forced to appreciate the foreign stuff for you have no alternative.

Anglicization is not culture. It is wearing a bindi in crowded New York or in Arab soil that is culture. Now that is some identity. English language has given me its share of advantages but it shall never become my Thamizh or Sanskrit or Hindi. Thamizh and Sanskrit are older than Latin and are still around. That is the antiquity of my Hindu culture.

Westernization does not make you superior to anyone. In fact it renders the opposite. It makes you a worthless duplicate.

Duplicates galore: a smatter of English words, two or three short reels from western soaps and metal/hard rock do not make anyone cultured or civilized. In fact it looks pathetic on you. A cheap imitation.

If you are Asian/African but are always clothed in western trousers and shirts, it means you have nothing original. You are a copycat who has no sense of self respect or self esteem.

If you are following Christianity or Islam, it means even your Gods were imported or thrust upon you by your barbarian invaders who destroyed your roots and rendered you bastards. I am a Hindu, a pedigree, a non convert, an original. Don’t try to talk me down. A Hindu is a Hindu is a Hindu.

We in India know what we are doing. We Hindus know what we are made of. Wherever we go, we add value to that society. We don’t tear up our adopted homelands with violent terrorism. Hindu Dharma is not here as the one and only longest surviving civilization for over ten thousand years without a break for nothing.

We in India appreciate foreign culture but we never forget what we are made of. We know our value. We know of our authenticity and pedigree. Proud Hindu anyday. We never robbed nations. The muslims and chrisitians did that for survival. We nurture wildlife and rivers and flora and fauna. We worship nature. We have not survived to this day with the sword. We usher in peace and wisdom wherever we go. SANATHANA DHARMA (HINDUISM) is a way of life. Not a violent cult that sprang up with a self appointed nomadic ‘son of god’ or ‘prophet.’ We Hindus have no founders, no founding date. That must tell you something.

Proudly brown. Happily dusky. I am Indian. I am Hindu. I am my natural self. I don’t have to pander to your definitions of beauty or class. I have both, much more than you can ever dream of. I am me. I don’t become your definition of me. In fact you smack of intense jealousy if you are preoccupied with me. Because I couldn’t care less about you. As I tan walking around the vast ancient temples of ours, my heart swells with pride. I belong. I have roots, unshakable roots. I therefore am.

India shall live to eternity and shall remain eternally Hindu. Brook no nonsense fellow Hindus. Rub commonsense into the cowards. Tell them, show them what is genuine, what is fake. Throw their rubbish to where it belongs: in the garbage bin of their closed minds.

When someone looked at my cotton washable handkerchief with disbelief having been born out of the ’tissue’ culture, I could see what the world has come to. The fakes have taken over the world. The bottled water, the canned milk, the frozen food, the tinned fruit pulp, the tissue for wiping your bum, the disposable nappies rather than cloth nappies – now all these are more appreciated and thought of to be better and hygienic substitutes to the naturals. The way we convince ourselves that the fakes are the best is what is more troubling. For we can awaken a sleeping man but not someone who pretends to be asleep.


Why is India still under-developed, over populated and not anywhere near China.

You have to live in the Hindu society to learn why India is backward. It s never the bhogic life for us like the Americans. Our philosophy is Yogic, which means we spend hours in temples, puja, meditation etc – none of which the Chinese do whose only aspiration is materialistic.

This country has been lived on for tens of thousands of years as we are home to stunning range of flora and fauna, wildlife, rivers, mountains, plains, valleys, sea coasts etc., that India was one of the chief cradles of human civilization. The temples I visit each are over an acre easily, and some thousand, two thousand years old. That is our antiquity. Some streets are here for hundreds of years. Ideal geo climatic for centuries that has turned worse in recent years only thanks to global warming, the land of gold and diamonds, agrarian primarily where an array of arts and crafts were nourished by the kings, it is no wonder that India accounts for a sixth of world human population.

But then, are we asking anyone to feed us. We export rice, wheat, fruits, nuts, spices after FEEDING ONE POINT THREE BILLION MOUTHS here. Which is something. Critics of India must check whether they can just manage that simple feat.

Posted in Environment

Under Threat: Bitra: Floating Marine Reserve, India.

Ref: How the Bitra Floating Marine Reserve was born – by Rohan Arthur and T R Shankar Raman , from ‘At the feet of living things’ -edited by Aparajitta Datta

Always amazed by fish spawning frenzy spotlighted by underwater videos that we come across in Animal Planet etc. Never knew it had a scientific name: FSA (Fish Spawning aggregation). What is more surprising is learning that India has a Floating Marine Reserve (among a handful) at Bitra, Lakshadweep group of Islands falling under the Union Territory, off Kerala coast, in the Arabian sea.

Some of the books I have read on the wildlife in India were authored by wildlife research aspirants who were gathering material and evidence for their doctorate. The Bitra Reserve apparently was born thanks to the efforts of two such ambitious and enthusiastic PhD candidates of Fisheries who had chosen Bitra for their studies. I am blogging this from a series of essays on Indian wildlife conservation efforts in about a quarter century until the 1990s. Some articles lie outside the purview of the scope of the book obviously, because the Bitra scene is from very recent. One of the group of islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago, Bitra is an impoverished fishing island where naturally fishing continues to be the way of life. The two researchers Rohan Arthur and T S Shankar Raman venture into this sleepy fishing center and stumble upon the FSA off the reefs of Bitra sea. They discover in the year close to 2012 that there is the FSA (fish spawning aggregation) ritual happening under sea near the reef where the square tails aggregated in tens of thousands to spawn their litter. A rare event in Indian territory, the Fisheries guys congregate with the locals and take steps to preserve the FSA from damages of fishing.

Seriously I wish they hadn’t tabled their findings! In a bid to submit their papers for their diplomas, they have given away the precious info to the locals that they seem to exploit for commercial gains. The earliest boost for their venture was the kudos that came from the Fisheries department itself that went against their grain. The department seconding to save fish is anathema to their founding principles and motto. No wonder, the plans fell flat in their face as the local fishermen refused to comply with the restrictions and started fishing vigorously in the delicately balanced marine eco system with the mother boats that made a killing catch every season of spawning (around new moon day a particular time of the year). Thus in matter of ten years the FSA fish count has dropped by over 90% . Human greed knows no bounds. Educating the local fishermen, bringing the awareness is a slow process but can work in the long run. Hopefully by the time realization dawns, there are still square tails left out in the Arabian sea/Indian ocean to make it to the Bitra reef for their annual appointed FSA.

Will the center look in and do something decisive about the protection of the Bitra reef and FSA therein? #narendramodi

I am banking on our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji on saving the floating marine reserve at Bitra and the annual FSA, saving the square tail and other fish species from extinction in near future. FSA is way of nature. We shall be making or breaking the natural cycle in Bitra shortly as frenzied fishing activity near the reef can drive the fish away from the FSA pool which for some evolutionary/geographic/scientific reason has been natural selection for the fish species since ages.

Posted in Environment

India doubles her Tiger population.

India Tiger Count tops 3000. Now pegged at 3167 as per latest census .

As we celebrate 50 years of Project Tiger in India that was rolled into motion way back in 1973 for conservation of Tiger the national animal, it emerges that India has recorded a doubling of the Tiger population since 2010. The thirteen tiger countries of the world met at St Petersburg in Russia at an international tiger conservation forum, the Global Tiger Summit where it was decided to boost tiger breeding doubling their count in the next twelve years by 2022. India achieved the target well within time. India accounts for 70% of the tiger count in entire world. Bengal Tigers and tigers from across India have seen a surge in headcount in the various wildlife reserves and sanctuaries spread around the country. India is also home to the native (Gir) Lions, (Indian/Asian) Elephants and a stunning array of wildlife – both flora and fauna. To those who ask why is our population 1.3 billion, this is the reason. For millennia we had the ideal weather conditions that natured both human race and the wildlife that helped them breed and thrive healthy and happy in this part of the world. As man and beast jostle for space in this cramped peninsular subcontinent of ours in modern times, conservation efforts are proving to be an increasingly tougher job. A highly bio-diversified country, India boasts of both the snow peaks of the Himalayas as well as the Thar deserts; the serene beaches of the south; the mangroves; the biosphere of the Nilgiris or the western ghats that are home to widest range of avian population in their rainforests as well as exotic fauna such as the sandalwood trees; the eastern jungles recording highest rainfall in the world per year. The elephant corridors and the tiger corridors of this country have been here for thousands of years, from long before recorded human history. Only in recent times they have cut short or taken over by human greed. As our prime minister visited Bandipur sanctuary in Karnataka from where he drove into Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu right through the forests in recognition of the golden jubilee year of Project Tiger, the nation celebrates the big cats of the country with enthusiasm and vigour. Last year saw the re-introduction of Cheetah in India, brought in from Namibia. The native cheetahs of India were hunted down to extinction by the British (who are behind the extinction of many species of wild life) alongside the erstwhile royals of India.The nation mourning the loss of life of one precious fertile female cheetah was compensated with the arrival of four healthy cubs from a cheetah mom late last week.

adorable cheetah cubs born in India after a 70 year hiatus…

The Tiger countries of the world:  Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia (locally extinct), China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR (locally extinct), Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Viet Nam (locally extinct).

Rounding off with some adorable shots from the Tiger reserves of India. The disturbing image is that of the tourists, but then the tourists pay for the tiger conservation efforts.

Posted in Environment

What do the electric cars teach you.

Our family friend in south east Asia who is now a proud owner of an electric BMW revealed how the bonnet is EMPTY in the luxury sedan. Not a single mechanical fitting or oil tanks or exhaust. The bonnet doubles up as boot and there is enormous space saved. No smoke, no pollution. No noise. Just a 20 minute charge every night when you plug the charger into the power socket in your carpark. There are enough charging stations around the country for you to go on long drives without a headache. The electrical vehicles are here to stay.

The first time I saw an electric car was in Italy where every single two seater miniscule car (if you can call it that) was electric and there were charging points in every street. I could see quite a few of these automobiles plugged in for recharging. Entire Europe already seemed to have gone green with no pollution. Only the aviation industry functioned on fossil fuel. India too has signed the Climate change agreement and will be opting for green energy entirely by 2030. It will be a great cost cutter to the third world nation whose sizeable chunk of export bill is for oil and gas. Power shifts can take place after the phased smooth sailing into green energy when oil will lose steam in the world market. Middle eastern countries are already factoring in the inevitability and working on that. Aviation industry and shipping will be the last to exit fossil fuels. LPG or natural gas will continue to be in demand for a century or two before technology takes over.

But I would like to underscore here a different dimension that emerges with the electric cars. Tesla is not just a trend. Tesla is pathbreaking. What does the electric car teach you with the empty bonnet without the coils of tubes running around, with no radiator. Can you imagine your SUV without its fuel tank. When the extra fittings go, you save a lot on space and costs. It means, technology gets that much outpaced at a very short interval. The days of the petrol cars are almost over and we are in the last leg of fossil fuel use for automobiles in the world. This spells chaos if not disaster for the traditional automobile industry that has to gear up for a tectonic shift in the technology and industry. I can foresee the mechanical automobile sheds throughout India downing their shutters already. The electric vehicles will render the automobile engineers redundant. Electrical engineers will have their momentary spot under the sun. Electrical engineering will make a comeback, but core engineering never goes out of season. A good percentage of mechanical engineers will be out of job as well. World will adapt because we have grown out of VCRs, CDs, floppy discs etc., right in our own time. Autocad sent home the draftsmen packing. There will be a major upheaval of not just the Indian economy but of the whole global economy as the world will gradually make a conscious choice and move to green energy.

For me, the takeaway from electric cars is that, nothing is indispensable and none is too great. It takes not much for someone or something to replace you in no time and you go down the lane of the oblivion. I have been living in and out of India for a quarter century now. I have met dozens of nationalities in my life, i have been with every single race, language and culture people that you can imagine. Success no more impresses me as one after another our friends drive down in their BMW or Audi like the three wheeled auto that is popular in our Chennai roads. Success is multi faceted acquired in multiple hierarchies in diverse fields of occupation from banking to engineering to art and literature. I may not have rubbed shoulders with successful people but I am in their shadows all the time as I see how men and women excel in their accomplishments, each of which is a laurel and story worth writing about. I am in admiration of fellow Indians who have left no stoned unturned to make not only a successful life for themselves, but to contribute towards goodwill for India at the same time. Nothing nowadays impacts me: success, money, brands, glamour or glitz. You name it, I have seen it all. I am never part of that. I am in the sidelines watching and clapping hands. I have seen some greatest works of art and quite a few pieces of marvelous engineering. I guess I have traveled a bit and been exposed to all extremes. Just this week I was in -19, 09 and 9 c in mere three days. This is my life. There are the five star health centers and seven star hotels. There are these nubile nymphs and the tall brooding handsome men in all their sophistication who go about in chauffered limos. There are cruises that can take you to the high seas and there are shows and events where socializing and partying wild are the order of the day. But I know the superficiality of all that around me and where I must focus. What I do look for is that elusive strength of character that marks the real men and sets them apart. I am touched by humility in men in the face of huge success, I am drawn by elegancy and grace of someone’s persona. The aura of a good and successful man has the magnetic appeal that you know a decent man when you see one. Invariably these men know their vulnerability in the order of worldly things. They are aware that they are but a tiny speck, a spot in the galaxy of universes and nothing at all matters. Understatement always scores a quiet point.

The displacement of the fossil fuel and the ushering in of the green era is a reminder to humanity how change is inevitable and we are all helpless in the face of changing tides. Change brings with it growth as we outgrow some phases. I keep wondering whether India can live up to her word. But I guess we can, because the world wrote off India during the pandemic. We ended up mass producing the corona vaccine and supplying the poorer nations the life saving shots for free. India is thus an enigma that can surprise the onlookers. Hybrids are already in the Indian streets and I have been in hybrids in the US. I am looking forward to owning electric car in Chennai someday soon.

Posted in Environment

Welcome back Cheetah!

the fastest land animal Cheetah back in India after a 75 year hiatus.

On his birthday (today), PM Shri Narendra Modi ji presented India with a gift like none other: the fastest land animal CHEETAH, long lost to the country for over 75 years now. Driven to extinction thanks to relentless hunting by the British in team with the princely state Maharajahs of pre-independent India, the Cheetah’s exit has been lamented unanimously by the wildlife lovers across the nation.

the native Indian Cheetah hunted down to extinction in the Raj

Govt of India has reintroduced the African Cheetah back in India, as eight of them have been procured from Namibia after due quarantine and bureaucratic formalities. PM Modi released the radio-collared cheetahs this morning into the Kuna National Park, Madhya Pradash that will serve as the new home (range) of the felines. India is home to other big cats such as the (Gir) Lions, the Bengal tiger and the leopard. The cheetah has been sorely missed. India is also home to the Asian/Indian Elephant (Elepha Maximus) and other exotic wild(life) flora and fauna species. The world has very few bio-diversity spheres of staggering range like we have here in India. It is all the more our responsibility to see to that the wildlife are conserved well in our country so that we need not have to show our children tiger and elephant in science text books or zoos. May generations of Indians go on jeep safaris in our national parks to savour the natural sightings of our wildlife species. That’s an unparalleled life experience – an adrenaline rush that cannot be put into words. As someone who has sighted wild elephants although in the shoulder areas adjoining our wildlife sanctuaries rather than within the contours of our national parks, I can relate to what the cheetah means for India and our wildlife enthusiasts around the country. There are park aficionados among us and committed wildlife photographers devoted to their passionate hobby whose entire annual vacations are reserved for safaris in India and Africa. There are religious wildlife wardens who take their official duties rather seriously because of whose tremendous efforts, conservation is on track. And then there are those like me! Expressing my heartfelt gratitude to PM Modi for giving us Indians back the cheetahs, and sending him my birthday wishes. Our Forest department will take the best care of the cheetahs that have come home to us. Let us wait for them to settle down in their new natural environs where they will be sharing their range with lions and tigers and elephants and leopards of India. I wonder with their bullet train speed, how many states of India will they be setting their foot in through connecting wildlife corridors. Over 50 cheetahs to be introduced to Indian wildlife sanctuaries in phased manner the first leg of which was flagged off at Kuna this morning. Welcome back home CHEETAH!

Posted in Environment

Sonepur Elephant Fair.

The Haathi Bazaar

Sonepur Cattle Fair, the largest in Asia, attracts visitors and traders from all over Asia. But it is news to me that even elephants were once bought and sold in the fair. Normally the cattle fairs in India feature the bovines, the canines, the fowls with the rare camel thrown in to complete the scene. Believed to have originated in a Suryavanshi (forefathers to Lord Raam of Ayodhya) king’s time, the fair is referenced to have been held in Haripur during the reign of Lord Raam . The venue was shifted to present Sonepur at the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Ghandak presently in the state of Bihar, by the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb. Elephants were part of the fair even as early as the Chandragupta Maurya period when the world did not have Islam. Sonepur cattle fair is one more ancestral ethnic chainlink in India that has been passed on through generations without a break, having survived since the Ramayan days beating all odds. It endured the invaders from the Middle east, Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan. It was celebrated with a flourish in the British Raj when it became a highlight with the trophy hunters of the wildlife and the exotic species. The tradition of the mela continues to the present. The mela was held in the year 2018 with all the fanfare associated with it.

Haggling over prices in Indian village style hands clasped under a piece of cloth with the finger count, is some custom that has thrived over ages as well! This is how rural markets in India operate when it comes to dealings in livestock. The animals brought to the fair include dogs, Persian horses, donkeys, ponies, rabbits, cattle, sheep, goats, buffaloes, camels and elephants.

Elephants were traded in for the revenue resources they were to their owners, serviced by devoted mahouts. Captured from the wild and domesticated, they were leased to circuses and temples and festivals if not sold outright. Their tusks made for the coveted ivory, hardest over metals. A pair of ivories always made for a grand and matchless mantel piece in aristocratic homes be it the princely palace of our maharajahs or the well appointed English estate. No wonder the tuskers fetched an astronomical price. I just googled ‘ivory price today’ and there were entries screaming ‘ivory prices treble in China.’

Elephants are strictly prohibited from being bought and sold in the Sonepur mela which is a good move. The last year the elephants were traded in was 2004. During British era, hundreds of elephants were brought to the mela to be bought or sold. The numbers fell with the independence. Now the elephants mostly parade for the show. But the old clippings of newspapers reveal how highly prevalent was the elephant trade practice at Sonapur and how interesting that might have been. The pachyderms were the showstoppers of the Sonepur mela.

The Sonepur Cattle Fair may be held about once in five years. The last two were held in the years 2013 and 2018. The mela’s tenure may run upto one month during November-December.

Here are some interesting pictures from the Sonepur Elephant Fair that was an integral part of the Sonepur mela until twenty years back.

The Sonepur Mela is happening Nov-Dec right this year 2022! A grand affair, the festival now is officially government sanctioned and sponsored, generating transactions worth crores of rupees. A tourist delight, the mela is a huge crowdpuller lacking nothing by way of entertainment. However I am limiting the scope of this post to the elephants that were the highlight of the fair from time immemorial to the turn of the century. Ban on elephant trade points to conservation efforts for protecting the natural habitat of the Elephas Maximus, with a view to checking the man-elephant conflicts, preserve the elephant corridors and see to that the Indian elephant belongs in the wild and not in the temples or in festivals or circuses. All these factors can contribute to pushing up the elephant population in the country. And India without the ubiquitous elephant is hard to imagine.

Posted in Environment

Daag Achche Hai. Extinction is good!

Does a leopard change his spots? Or was it the cheetah or jaguar or tiger. Leave alone the panther and puma, they are a different cat family altogether where they belong with the lion. For that matter how many of us know the crocodile from alligator or the gharial. Whale from shark and dolphin and porpoise. Comodo dragon from the monitor lizard. Ant eater and the tapir? By the way, I never expected tapir to be sooo huge, and another surprise was that its natural habitat is Malaysia (or south east Asia). Up close with the tapir in Seattle zoo for the first time ever 😀 How different are the deer, antelope and the gazelle? Eagle, vulture, kite, buzzard, falcon? Can you tell between the turtle and the tortoise. Wolves and foxes? And oh, the (siberian) husky I believe is the closest domesticated living relative to the wolf. What about the gorilla, chimpanzee and orangutans. The monkey family trees are way too many. Similar are the rodents. Birds are myriad and the sky is the limit for the avian genre. Bewitched by the African pigeon that was fowl size! The animal world is truly fascinating. Even giraffe has okapi from the family although both have distinct identities. The zebras may somewhat come as closest second cousins but then they have the ass and the horse lineages to blame their genes on. Nature has worked wonders with living organisms creating a spectacular and divergent array of species, and some including us human sapiens may still be ‘work under progress’ really. Yeah, we may not be finished with as yet. One of the flipsides of the evolutionary process is that, as species may interbreed, mutations could pave way to infertility and bring to halt some bloodlines. Thus the mule is non reproductive, just as the tigon is. May be cloning is the way forward?

Zoos are not happy places, that much I know. Its pathetic to view a bored lioness tearing at nothing just as you gaze a dozen bored and soft listless Bengal tigers pacing up and down their airconditioned cells in Dubai dry heat for instance., where wildlife even makes for pets to the richest Arabs. The apes have nowhere to swing to. The winged beauties cannot flee their nettings. The otter has to keep swimming in loop just like the penguins within the glass aquarium. The rhino pair just have each other and the manmade pond to wallow in. Yet I know the value and importance of conservation when it comes to endangered species. Sometimes, zoological nurseries become the only way out to stop exotic species from going to extinction. Or on retrospect, are we doing it right. To borrow from the ‘Sapiens’, should we be allowing the rhinos to go extinct in the bush rather than save them to live a miserable life staring at space. What have we humans done to the poultry that progenerate many million times every single day. After visits to half a dozen zoos around the world, and coming from India, home to a stunning range of wildlife, I am for afforestation to increase green cover. A single lion or elephant in the wild in India may require a minimum living territory of 400 sq km for instance. This is not just the breathing space for a predator but also its prey zone. So when we shrink the wildlife habitat, the population count drops. The least we can do is NOT take over the elephant corridors for development and/or encroach upon our sanctuaries and wildlife reserves for industrial expansion or mining. Our green cover also serves as our country’s lungs. Shrinking the forests will directly dent the ozone layer over India depleting the oxygen in the atmosphere.

Heartening to learn of giraffe birthing healthy young calves in Mysore zoo and to watch the radio collared tiger mom in Panna with her newborn cubs on Mother’s day. While the former is an astonishing breeding in captivity, life in the wildlife reserve will be tough for the tigress and her brood. Managing the delicate balance between sustaining wildlife in their natural habitats and development and progress of human society is a Herculean task. Zoos may still be a last resort only. One of the unshakable memories for me is listening in alarm to the traffic noise outside the Mysore zoo even as I stood admiring the gait of the Bengal tiger almost six feet long restlessly growling and pacing down the enclosure.

Posted in Environment

Review: Tipu, Sultan of the Siwaliks – Amritaraj Christy Williams

As someone passionate about wildlife and especially about the (indian wild) elephants, I searched for such a book to read in Amazon and was happy to discover that it is a very recent publication. Delighted to note that the author is from Kerala although not surprised. I do share his affinity for the elephants so I can deeply feel his emotions for the gentle giants. However, the wild elephants of India, i have had opportunities to watch from a distance only. I have spotted wild elephants in the shoulder areas adjoining the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu. Second time was in Munnar. Lastly two years back spotted a group grazing the Vazhachchal forests high in the blue mountains (western ghats) in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. We were on our way to Valparai where we doublebacked to head to Thrissur wherefrom we had started the road trip. It was one super elephant corridor I must say, popular for elephant spotting. I did feel guilty for having stopped to take a good look at them an hour from Athirappalli, although the jumbos looked nonchalant and hardly took an interest in the human presence. A lot of passing sedans had parked roadside to take a peek into the tropical forests that flanked the highways, where the pachyderm families were partly hidden by overgrown grass and dense foliage. Plenty of fresh green fodder here for the elephants to feast on. My most cherished memories.

So the lucky job of being a wildlife biologist at Rajaji national park – how much ever offbeat that could have been and even if the research wouldn’t have paid well – still is an enviable position to me. I wish I was there.

This book comes close on heel to (reading) ‘the Elephant whisperer’ authored by Lawrence Anthony, the South African game reserve runner who is no more. He developed that unique bond to communicate with the tuskers that were under his custody and care within the park limits. But I feel more connected to Tipu’s real life story because it is based in India. The empirical evidence recorded by the wildlife biologist firsthand lends credibility, authenticity and scientific validation to any research or observation on elephant lifecycles and habitats (wrt the said period) in my opinion, in fast changing climes and environs.

I will have to agree with Christy that the Asian elephant population is massively hit and dwindling at an alarming rate. Their African cousins at least bask in global attention and could be doing better in spite of relentless poaching threats to wildlife in the Dark continent. The Asian elephants’ case is complicated by the dimension of domestication. In Thailand for instance, a vast majority of the jumbos could be domesticated with a very slim percentage of the elephants left to roam in the wild. The tragic saga of Indian temple elephants has not elicited the kind of attention or response that it merited.

The author is stationed in Dholkhand forest office station and carries on research on the Indian wild elephants in the foot of the Siwaliks in the late 1990s. Here he takes to personally radio collaring the elephants for the first time in Indian history for research purposes. Now that’s a stupendous job, hitherto unheard of, generating valuable data for processing and records that could go a long way in preserving the elephant territories and ancient corridors that are routinely taken over for urbanization by our government. The statistics probably later paved the way for resettling the Gujjar tribe from within the limits of the sanctuary to remote areas leaving the forests clear and free for the elephant population. The gujjars with their animal husbandry were competing with the pachyderms for the forest resources that were getting scarcer by the day.

The author’s familiarity with the elephants he collared with his team including Tipu, Shahrukh, Diana, Kiruba, Aishwarya, Topcut, Madhuri, Mallika, Malavika, Div T etc., is heartwarming. The wildlife expert records at least 23 elephants of one to two families in the Gangetic plains up to the foothills of the Siwalik, home range to certain lineages of India’s wild elephants. The immobilization of the mammoth elephants darting them with tranquilizers is one nerve wracking drama. Reviving the jumbos seems to be even more challenging and critical where and when things can seriously go wrong and defeat the purpose. This is so when an elephant goes down on its chest or stomach. The saving of the wild elephant’s life is an enormous responsibility and the researcher with the veterinarian team and assistants and forest officials seems to have executed his part to satisfaction. It is unnerving to learn that sometimes darting is done by teams on foot with the vet leading from forefront. Kudos to forest officers and wildlife biologists who are into this, foregoing material aspirations. Elephant Maximus is a matchless species and India, as per the author, is home to at least 50% of wild Asian elephant population.

Good one on Makhna, the male tuskless elephants although this piece of info is not news to me.

Kudos to wildlife biologist and senior to Christy, (Dr?) AJT Johnsingh who felt the need to move human-tribal settlements away from elephant corridors. This was apparently later implemented to good degree of success. AJT, the author avers, is India’s first mammal biologist. What a brilliant brainchild of AJT is this delinking of humanity from the wild elephant society! The man-elephant conflict can be resolved in a day if this works to perfection.

I virtually camped in Rajaji for a week turning page after page of the book where I was enchanted by a variety of flora and fauna, native to this particular park. Special mention: Sal tree. Others include Rohini trees, Khair (favourite of the elephants), Acacia, Ehretia, Mallotus, sharing space with the pied hornbill, chital deer, langurs, barking deer, rhesus macaques, gorals, leopard, tigers. The shrubs and bushes are the rau, the lantana and the colebrookia (biological term). How rich is my India!

One interesting fact about the Asian elephants viz-a-viz other domesticated species such as the canines (from wolves) is that, despite captivity of a record 4000 years (longest in human memory), (and unlike the African elephants that have miraculously escaped this cruel fate), the Asian elephants have not mutated into any sub species which is remarkable. The domesticated Asian elephants retain the exact DNA of their wild brethren.

Some cheer learning that in the elephant world, the males follow the lead of the females. Not news to me again, having grown up on a staple of Wilbur Smith. The elephant matriarchs always sounded to me like my own patti (grandma) hahaha. The author at the outset avers how it is entirely wrong lumping all elephants into one grey. Every single elephant is a different character, with a distinct personality. Christy seems to have a special something for Tipu, the sultan of the Siwaliks who is very mature and intelligent.

The musth season of the wild elephants is well detailed and covered in phases. Learning that the tuskers came to musth every year from one to two months or even five to six months in the case of mature bulls, I couldn’t help thinking about our temple elephants chained and tortured for life. No wonder they go on rampage through our towns and villages, confined to squatting space in musth season without company.

The man-elephant conflict is also dealt with neatly on first hand experience. Yet the author does not lose sight of the fact that IT IS THE ELEPHANTS THAT ARE FIGHTING THE LOSING BATTLE. The railway accidents and power lines are taking a heavy toll on the wild Indian population. Christy hopes the situation is improving with afforestation afoot, but I don’t share his optimism at all.

The author does a remarkable job of not merely doing math of the headcount of the wild Indian elephants in Rajaji in late ’90s, but also tracks and tags and studies the elephant families acquiring valuable research material and info. Particularly impressive is learning of the way the mother elephants guard the newborns, how the elephants trumpet, rumble, mock-charge for various emotions or communications and how even the erring among them get chastised by the senior matrons. The bull elephants almost always are on their own, parting from the group when they reach puberty from which time they are in the company of wise old bulls who show them the ways of the elephantine life.

I particularly loved reading about how the group of wild elephants fell asleep on their backs on top of the gorge and then woke up on clockwork precision only to turn on their sides and go back to sleep! So cute and so far unobserved fact I guess that even Lawrence Anthony did not get to discover about African elephants! Oh what a sight that must have been! I do guess this Tipu book is full of vital info specific to the wild Indian elephant. I like the geography with native trees and other wild species that find a mention. It is interesting to note how the ecology is maintained with the arrival of monsoons.

Christy who joins the newly established Wildlife Institute of India as a greenhorn biologist is also working on ‘Project elephant’ mooted by govt of India. He goes on to submit his research paper at Arizona state univ., in the US after which he joins WWF that takes him to Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia etc., to study the wild Asian elephants.

Shattered reading about the train accident that killed three female wild elephants. Moved to tears learning how the elephant mother sacrificed her own life throwing herself at the speeding engine to save her baby – so much humanlike.

Christy meets his future wife Kashmira in Rajaji National Park and shows ‘Tipu’ to her when she says she would like to marry Tipu! Well, Christy I would have loved to, as well! The author getting connected to ‘Tipu’ is too very understandable. As I said, I share his emotion.

The book ended with a first person (imagined) account of Tipu who seems to have lost hope for his progenies on Planet Earth. The future seems bleak from his point of view and I feel a sadness realizing the truth in his fears and doubts. I hope the book is read by leading industrialists and especially the self-certified gurus of India as well as our government and bureaucracy and planners and decision makers. Is India only for human Indian citizens? What about our wildlife. Can you imagine India without the elephant. Next time, do when you screech ‘Ganpati bappa moriya.’ The chants sound shrill to my ears when you dislodge the Elephant maxima from their natural environs, take over the elephant corridors for ashrams and factories, destroy forests and build in their places ugly cities. May be what is stated in the ‘Sapiens’ (Yuval Noah Harari) is perfect. The species that go extinct are the most fortunate as they do not profusely regenerate and populate to live a miserable life. Whoever went before us the homesapiens, went with grace having lived life well when it lasted.

Posted in Environment, Political History, Science Engineering Technology

The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022

Until the Antarctic Bill was passed in our parliament very recently, I wasn’t aware that India hadn’t even bothered to table it all these decades. India’s interests in the south polar region were until now circumscribed by international laws, not desi. Kudos to Modi government for keeping matters official, documenting and filing for reference, record and history. After all, this is some legacy we may be leaving for our future generations. The bill renders legal validity to India’s claims in the Antarctic. This streamlining discipline is something India has lacked culturally in my opinion.

Dakshin Gangotri and Maitri are India’s permanent stations in the Antarctic. Established in the Indira Gandhi era, the last troubling news from the Indian base in the Antarctic was that, the ice shelves had begun melting-disappearing with global warming at an alarming pace. Antarctica is nothing but glaciers galore.

Various Indian expeditions have made it successful to the south Pole over years keeping the tricolour flying high on the continent of penguins.

We have an impressive read here: This is very informative.

With the Bharti Research Station in the Antarctic, India belongs in the elite club of nations with research facilities in the south pole. The lab houses Indian scientists, botanists, geologists and others who carry on essential studies on environment, climate etc., for India making the nation proud.

With the introduction of the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, India legitimizes her jurisdiction over part of the Antarctic. The Bill validates forty years of Indian interest in the south pole.

Posted in Environment


The Doha Metro has given some of us women who are home birds who do not drive, an excellent opportunity to explore the cityscape like never before. The fares are too very modest. The metro stations are at strategic locations. From any point in the city, there are shuttle services operating that pick up and drop commuters at the metro stations for no extra charge. The metro network, just like in my hometown in Chennai, is part underground and part overhead. I guess, I have commuted more by Doha metro than by Chennai metro up until now, even if I live within a kilometer of my nearest underground CMRL station in Chennai. I have used Chennai metro for commuting to domestic airport with just my hand baggage. The connectivity is too good, saves time and energy and is economic. Some use the metro even for international terminal if they travel light. To put it in a capsule, the airport link and the city central bus terminal link and the central railway link are the highlights of the Chennai metro. However, I don’t think Doha metro plies to airport.

Although I love Doha Metro, I have been given tour of the Chennai metro when the project (phase 1) was underway. The men in my family witnessed the tunnel boring etc (for their interest in execution). In Chennai, we have the Coovum river flowing underground in some sections. In the junction at Central, Chennai Metro is operational at three levels – one is the MRTS from Velachery, the second is from the suburban from Tambaram with the third level being the Metro. We have to note that not all the three are metro. The first two are from the older railways networks of the city that have been conveniently merged with the Metro with options for interchangeability. The beauty is, at this point at Central and upto Egmore, the levels are above and under the Coovum river under terrain! The engineer in charge beautifully explained the technicality of this and the engineering precision to achieve this aspect! The course of the river stream is left untouched apparently! My only concern is, to make the route underground waterproof, how much moisture has been permanently sucked out of Chennai earth. How many downstream currents and water channels have been blocked. Some even blame the metro network (underground) for the city going under deluge in recent monsoons. Overhead metro is preferable for this reason. As Chennai metro is expanding nonstop adding more and more kilometers to serve far flung suburbs, the city is shrinking no doubt. The common man stands to benefit. Hopefully the new connections will be overhead. Mass transport is the only way ahead for metropolitan cities like Chennai.

Doha unlike Chennai need not have to be concerned with unprecedented monsoons or rivers and streams. It must have been that much easier to establish the network here.

Quality of service in both cities is impeccable. In Doha I noticed the ‘gold’ carriage for discerning commuters. I am delightfully the ‘aam aadmi’ but I do prefer traveling in the family coach.

Qatar national library is easily accessible with metro. And so are other landmarks. Shopping is far more convenient. Most of all, I am independent finally!

Interestingly, both Doha metro and Chennai metro were feared to be non viable commercially in the initial stages. However, they now register impressive gross breaking even since long.

The driverless metros that are automatic, are not merely engineering marvel, but are also pollution free. One good reason to expand the metro network.

Its not just about the connectivity. Metros are more about catering to the masses. World class facilities that are made affordable and accessible to the general janata of our nation finally. This can work wonders for economies.

I am seeing school kids and college goers and service staff and sales people and bosses rubbing shoulders here in Doha metro. Never do you feel on equal footing with everyone around you as you do when you ride the metro. A great equalizer. A big decongestant of city traffic. Life saver I must say!

Doha metro maintenance is par excellence. Would it be too much to expect the metro networks in India to maintain their standards sans dilution? Tolerance for vandalism must be zero.