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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Me and Kanha

I have been visiting Kanha NP a few times every year for last more than a decade. Its Sal and Bamboo mixed forests and beautiful maidans had fascinated me since I had seen them for the first time as a kid. My first visit was with my parents and sisters as a 9 years old child. It is one of the most memorable trips I had made on any holidays (the only other one being Kashmir). Although a very short trip of two days Kanha its Sal and Bamboo forests and Maidans enchanted me and it remains itched on my memory. Even today I remember seeing the King, in its entire splendor, chasing a deer (Chittal to be more specific). He pounced on the poor animal, caught it by its neck and waited for a couple of minutes before taking away its prized catch for dinner.

I fell in love with this charismatic animal, although a bit confused due to its reputation as Sher Khan – the beast, I found those black and orange strips, that royal walk, that agility, spurt of energy and speed most astounding. Tiger had secured a few bytes of space on my mind’s hard disk for ever. My next visit to this national park was to come after a long gap of more than a decade. In between we visited Corbett and Bandhavgarh, all in family trips and saw tigers, elephants and other denizens of the kings kingdom but that first memory always remains fresh as it happened just yesterday, it’s like first love which you never forget (ask my wife she will swear on this).

In ur entire holiday trips I used to be a porter for my father’s camera kit, who used to be a very enthusiastic photographer. In time I started learning tit bits of photography and was gifted an old box camera which, I used to take family photographs and this helped me in understanding lighting and exposure. Even today I remember those black and white photographs taken on 120 mm roll and pride of clicking them. Then came a time when I got busy in my studies and my faithful camera kept in the closet gathered dust.

It was only after my elder son was born that I purchased a SLR camera – Minolta 600si with 28 – 200mm and 100 – 400 mm lenses. Thus started a new era of photography where I concentrated on wildlife and nature. I used to visit Kanha NP and Keoladeo Bird sanctuary often and also started participating in contests. Soon I had a few acceptances in national and international photo contests and this stimulated the burning desire of mastering the art of photography. Now I am using a Canon kit with longest lens being a 50 – 500 mm zoom lens by Sigma Corporation. I haven’t mastered to prime lenses as spending money on them never seemed to be a good proposition, as I do not get more than a week or two in a year to do photography since my business keeps me tied.

With time I started understanding the nuances of forest, lifestyle of different animals their routine and most importantly their significance in our eco system. But, as I said earlier my business kept me bound, but, from somewhere within I was not happy, I always wanted to do something related with nature, something which could bring me near natural world. In meantime I handled Kids for Tigers – The Sanctuary Asia Tiger Campaign for couple of years as coordinator which further gave me insight into our natural heritage. I got to meet Mr. Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia and his most enthusiastic tem, Mr. Fateh Singh ji Rathore, Mr. Aditya Singh (Ranthambhore), Ms. Bilinda Wright, Mr. Raghu Singh Chundawat and his wife Joanna (who is a well known wildlife and natural history photographer), Mr. Kishor Rithe and so many of them who guided me and my understanding of nature and wildlife improved.

But, how do I get near nature, near Kanha, near Tiger? A question which always bothered me! Being in business of refractory manufacturing, farming and finance time was always a problem. I thought of starting a resort near Kanha NP but then – will I be able to do something on conservation front? A big question! Will I not alter the local landscape? Will I not become one within the lot for whom profits are everything and not conservation, and so on many questions started troubling me.

Finally I decided of starting an eco resort near Kanha and purchased a piece of land at Boda Chhapri, a village around 9 Kms from Khatia gate. I had in mind a plan to make resort by using locally available materials like clay, straw, wood and use of cement or non biodegradable material was to be kept to lowest possible. This way I could give employment to many local people in construction period and later I can employ some of them in my resort. To make something where local ecology is not disturbed but to present something having all modern amenities which people ask for in any top resort.

Idea started taking shape and today my resort Kanha Village – Eco resort is almost ready. I want to tell some interesting tales and facts on construction activities but next time.
See you’ll soon.

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