Friday, December 26, 2008

Jungle Drive

Day: 21st December 2008
TIME: 4:15 AM
Place: Gundulpet "Coffee Day"
2 Cappuccino's and one Assam tea were "washed down" the throat by 4 KANS members to set the tone for the day. Saying bye-bye to sleep, we set off for a long and fruitful day. (what a "relief" this one gave!)

TIME: 10:15 AM
Place: Bandipura Check post (Karnataka border)
Officer Names:Prakash, Satish and Chandu-- Trainee KANS Awareness officers :) and Soumyajit (officer-in-charge)
Task: Stopping vehicles and educating people, while our almost Forest officer look alike Soumyajit doing the vehicle "census"

Typical Dialogues:
"Excuse me sir/Mam , please drive slow, do not stop anywhere, do not get down from the vehicle, and please do not honk, no music please"

TIME: 12:00 PM
(The Probation completed Officers...)
Prakash: "Do you know at what speed you are driving?"
Driver: "No sir, I think 20-30 (in fact he is drining at 50+)"
Prakash: "Do you know what is the speed you are supposed to drive?"
Driver: "No Sir!"
Prakash: "40, you should not cross it and no honking, no music .. go..
On the other end..Satish handling things for KL, TN (the registration numbers)-"There can be elephants in the forest, don't stop sir. "
Chandu: "Forest department rule says the maximum permitted speed is 40 kms, do not let anyone, especially kids to get down.. Switch off the music till you go out of the forest."

TIME: 4:00 PM
Prakash:(no more questions)... "Oye maximum speed should be 40.., no stopping , no getting down.. OK?? .. understood?? go..!"(annoyed with attitudes)

Satish: "There are elephants in the forest, be careful- this is for your safety, they might attack you if you try to get down or do something silly."

Chandu: "No honking & over speeding, there is a squad few kms down the road waiting to penalize, you better drive slow. "

Did you perceive the change in tone?? Blame not on the amnesia! It came out after witnessing the attitudes and lack of awareness in the people who drive through jungle. Just listing the rule won't help much, you have to show a bigger picture and we tried to sketch the same.

Let's switch over to few more things...

Some "situations" we were "put in":
1. One guy: "Sir, from where will the wild animals start ??" (you are in the wrong place moron..Do you think all animals in the jungle queue up for you to watch??)
2. Another fella:" Sir, is something happening in the jungle? Any wild life movement "(what to say?? it happens everyday if only we allow it to happen)
3. (3 drunken fellas in an a/c maruti car):
Prakash: "Sir, there might be elephants around, so don't stop,it's risky!!"
Feellas: "We can take care of elefant, no prrroblem, we will take rishk..."
(.... go get "crushed", wish the jumbos are around)

4. Few people carried their big egos along, and one impatient fella who had no time to listen had droven over my toes and another one was about to crash into Satish.
5. Some tourists: "..Oh we know it, we are from Coonoor!"- Another guy-"I know, I am from Ooty!!"....(does that make a difference??)
6. One cab Driver: "Sir, i have been driving on these road from past 6 years, but no body told me about these rules !!?” (no surprise, that's why we are here!)
7. A bunch of guys were stopping on the road in the mid of the forest- drinking and driving at 4 pm!! But when the forester checked their cars, they managed to hide all bottles!!

8. "Why should we switch off the music??? Where can we see animals??" (go to zoo man, there is no sighting-guaranteed scheme out there!!)
9. Few people are too generous to offer us money even before we start explaining things- assuming we are guards creating a "situation" there.(Corruption, tell me d place u haven't been..!) Couple others promptly came down with RC book and license!! :)

Few appreciations:
"You guys are doing a great job!!!... "
"I have a suggestion for you.... "
"Where are you based at? Can we have some details about KANS!?"
"Can we join KANS??"

Hope, that sums up quickly how we dealt with people and their attitudes during the weekend Road kill awareness program in Bandipur forest with "Kenneth Anderson Nature society". Overall, it's fun talking to so many people (count must be 500 vehicles). It's a good feeling to educate people. We had a great time- but we had our share of irritating moments as well. But witnessing the kind of ignorance people displayed was appalling.

Drunken driving, over speeding, stopping, honking...we witnessed everything that can be considered as "breaking the rule". But, What hurts me MORE is NOT the ignorance of people-but the impatience, in sensitiveness and attitude of the some of the so called educated class whom we interacted with. Somebody tell them that the ego-filled, closed minds are not going to help them !!

With the new year eve around, the drunken driving things is going to get even worse! God save the wild. I wish we can suggest the DFO to deploy few guards on the new year eve to check the drunken drivers. I am sure, a huge "penalty" money is awaiting the Forest department which can be used for other useful purposes(not sure where the money goes!)

Although we do not know how long the drivers and tourists remember the guidelines, but now they at least know that there are few "guidelines" while driving through the forest.

Kudos to our team -
Prakash- For driving most part of the journey with hardly one hour sleep and the officer kindda look (shades+khaki shirt with half- folded sleeves) that scared the hell out of few people out there!!(although unintentional)

Satish- For coming down all the way from Chennai and sleeping in advance on Friday evening to save energy for the program and handling Tamil and Malayalam and for sharing the driving time!!

Soumyajit- Our officer-in-charge of the operation and who never showed signs of fatigue and sleep despite of not sleeping the previous night and did the vehicle count without a break!!

Chandu- For writing this report & clicking pics !:P

As we pass on the baton to the next group of volunteers, let me tell you- Being a volunteer for this program is FUN with a little drama and "surprises"(like the sighting of elephant and a calf we had) and you can leave for home feeling better and few reasons to smile!

It's unforunate that many of us do not know the rules of driving through forest-I am listing them below:
1. Drive slow and enjoy the ride esp if your loved one's are next to you.... hey wait but don't make it a long drive ;)
2. Do not feed animals, they get used to it and stay on road inviting trouble for everyone. Yo are disturbing their natural diet.
3. If you spot an animal trying to cross the road, let it cross and then you proceed. After all, you are at their place.
4. Stay far from elephants, don't honk or annoy them, reverse the vehicle and wait for the animal to cross the road (no animal tries to attack you, unless you provoke or intrude it's privacy)
5. Don't honk or play loud music. Switch off the music while driving through jungle. Enjoy the silence and bird calls..!Yo have no right to disturb it's serenity.
6. Don't stop or try getting down from your vehicle unnecessarily
7. If you notice drunken driving or rash driving or smoking or animal killed on road or incident of people stopping in the forest-Report it to the nearest forest check post.

Share these with your friends and let us try to be "humans"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Random Update

Nothing much, just landed in office straight from a trip to hometown and bloody APSRTC buses always runs slow and I repeatedly trust them and ends up feeling cheated. Finally after some grueling 16 hours journey I went straight to office (barring the 2 hours break to fresh up) and half asleep as i was typing this post. (continuing it on Wednesday below.. )

Trip to home town was refreshing and urban birding was exciting. I started noticing things at home town which I never did before!I tried sharing the observations with our family and thankfully they think I am not insane!!Here is the strange perch of the White throated King Fisher that is commonly found across.
Must be waiting for it's mate to play see-saw!??It is not it's usual perch, once can find it usually near water bodies, wonder what is it up to?

I always felt that my hometown do not have those special or bright or colorful birds. But I was proved wrong. Just when I moved out for a haircut, there came the highlight of my whole trip.. the Eurasian Golden Oriole. What a beauty!!!I was very happy to see this one at my hometown! Not surprisingly my uncle never noticed it.,. I told you it's just a matter of "noticing" things that makes a difference..

These bright golden yellow birds leaves you at awe and this one is no exception. It is a winter migrant to South India and not a "resident". The Drongos are chasing it away from their territory. This made me resolve that I would explore more wooded areas around my hometown pretty soon.

Now I am sure all of us had seen this guy near our homes.

This is the DRONGO and look at it's beautiful tail, the big give-away. They are found very widely across India. A couple seems to have nested close to our home and they put up a great show.

Next came the black beauty - the male ASIAN KOEL with it's stunning RED eyes!
A generic note- All beautiful and colorful birds are male!! (although we have very few exceptions). So next time you see a beautiful bird with a bright colors or plumage, the chances that it is MALE is high.God is a Fair man!:)

Besides these, I noticed the Ants and their relationship with the ticks (another post) and few other birds. Finally the urge in me to find our the birding places around my home town is increasing!! This trip had given the right inspiration!!So donno where I end up...

Now if you are tired of watching and reading about birds... (you need to bear with this trend in my new blog for a while..) here is a Homo Sapien at work..

A naturographer at work!! or PAW- Photgprapher at work .. the way my friend Deepa called it.

The most exciting thing I am looking forward is the 15 day vacation that we are going to enjoy this year end starting 19 December and ending 4th Jan.. Thank god I am with this company!!! (aah I can smell some J factor)