Monday, 5 September 2011

Habitat-Ye tera ghar, ye mera ghar!

This summer, my landlady managed to empty out the old caravan, which had been standing outside our door. It had remained there, stuffed with household goods, which the landlady's removal van at the time of her move, had not been able to accommodate.

She handed me the keys and said the kids could use it. My 10 year old promptly invited a friend for a sleepover in the caravan. Soon I was inspecting it for health and safety, and promptly the friend's mum was on the phone forcing me to tell her that actually it was not connected to any electric point and therefore was going to be dark, cold and that it was also difficult to bolt from the inside.

Needless to say that the catalyst, who had been encouraging this weird adventure was the "wanting to look cool" dad who then had to pitch in with ideas about mobiles,torches, quilts etc. Soon the two boys were in the caravan with their ipods, having bid us good night.

I didn't have to wait long while trying to calm myself with self talk about not being a spoilsport and trying to let go, when we heard the door banging. A quick rush down the stairs found the boys, mobiles, quilts and all frantically knocking. When we were all safely inside again, we listened to the story-"There are spiders in the caravan!"

Why didn't you kill them was my question, to which my son replied-"Spiders have rights too, I can't drive them away from their habitat." Caravan is OUR habitat I protested in vain. Anyway, never mind...I know nobody is scared of spiders, it is just pure concern for their habitats, naturally!

I wish we could all be a bit more scared. It is not nice to hear about sharks mistaking people for seals on busy beaches, polar bears killing teenagers on adventure camping trips and deer running amok on the motorways in the cities.

Back in Chhattisgarh, the local TV channel enabled us to watch in horror the drama which unfolded after a panther entered a village. The forest officials were informed as were the district magistrate and the police. All arrived on the scene one by one. The media was there to photograph all the jeeps and white ambassadors, while this panther was trapped in a house, looking terrified and agitated (not surprisingly). The drama carried on, filmed by media crews, as the authorities kept waiting for more senior input until the sun was about to set and then the villagers took their own decision. The world watched as the villagers got the panther in the courtyard, poured kerosene on him from the roof  and set him alight.

It wasn't unusual to hear about children being killed in villages close to the forests, by panthers in Chhattisgarh. It was awful when a little girl on her way to school was snatched by the "tendua". Here was the world talking about bringing down barriers to educating the girl child. Did anybody imagine that they can be killed on the  way to school by a wild animal?

In its defense, the panthers had been driven away from their habitats due to the forest cover being eroded by deforestation, illegal mining etc. No evidence of any development though! It was indeed heart rending to watch the poor animal being burnt alive as the forest ofiicials, district administration and others watched.

Money, I dont believe has ever been a problem for Government agencies, as the crores come tumbling out of the closets. Surely they should have ways to overpower such beasts or standard operating procedures for what was a commonplace occurence. Hungry tide by Amitava Ghosh is again a heart rending story about the havoc the tigers cause in the Sunderbans while for the rest of the world it remains a protected endangered species.

While we try to invade habitats by going on arctic cruises and treks into nowhere, there are humans in the more populated part of the world who find it difficult to find a safe habitat.

No comments: