I went to visit my sister in a beautiful deodar and pine forested area of Batot, Jammu. Taking a walk with her one morning in this exuberant beauty of nature which was supposedly unseen treat to my eyes, I realized I have mutated. My sister wanted me to absorb all those scenes and here I was trying to figure out what bird just flew over my head. She gave up and since then has never gone on dusk or dawn walk with me.
So I joined wildlife stream as a profession; more because of passion. Yes coming from a middle class family, found it difficult to make genuinely caring and also some of the whimsical folks of mine life understand why I am into this non-government and non-settled profession. Thanks to 3 Idiots I get some respite from this interrogation. Supplementary perks of this field includes uncertainty in career, low paid job, if you are a girl no woman wants a daughter in law who lives in jungle, if you are a guy no father gives his daughter to guy who lives in jungle…well these are small packages with which we survive in this profession. But then all profession has its pros and cons and grass is admixture of green and yellow.
The problem us wildlifer face is when we go to the normal world which in your words would be civilized world. This comprises of malls, shopping places, traveling, movies, well most of the things that Karan Johar movies talk about. For sure anything “inside” is claustrophobic to us so I guess that cuts out shopping malls. Lifts are unhealthy when we have two strong legs so mostly we prefer stairs, playing indoor games are boring when an open space is there for badminton, tennis etc. At stations we hardly utilize Coolies unless it is cameratrap trunks which we have to move. We stand out when travelling as our bags never consists of suitcases (huh what’s that?) ….its rucksacks, knapsacks as we are doted fans of Qechua, Cliff climber, Wildcraft, North face as well as apna armywaala shops. Where people love to travel with a bed sheet we take our sleeping bags which is, believe me, an object of entertainment when bundling it up in the mornings. And when we finally wrap those big beds of ours into 40×10 cm space we do get a round of applause, well in the eyes of onlooker atleast. Colors for us are mainly green, black, blue and grey. So when movie stars portray us wearing fluorescent colors jackets looking like a rhododendron tree scaring away animals, we don’t like it. Pink and red ostracizes you in our community (off course in everyday life I talk about). Once my Mom brought me vis-à-vis to glittering footwear and my question “for whom”? She never took me to her known shops everafter.
We live so many times out of connectivity that help us easily escape the “why didn’t you pick up my call?” complain. Our staying in and out of civilization depends entirely on study and indirectly on wildlife. So yes we cannot present ourselves for uncle’s aunt’s daughter’s brother-in law’s wedding….kindly refrain from such requests! Yaah in a way it’s like defense life minus the uniform. Television is obsolete. Whenever I visit any of my parent’s friends, they very generously start Discovery or National Geographic channels. We do not gather Animal information from these channels anymore so to be on the safe side switch to news channel atleast.
We do not live in caves or for that matter in tents all the time, but we can survive alternate situations. We do not always live in a room with guys and girls together but need arises we can adjust so stop asking irrelevent questions. We are not unclean but we can go without taking bath for few days and yes we do not always need to know the source of water (for drinking). Travelling by road if you get foul smell which makes you turn away makes us intrigued. First if we can see vultures near carcass we are happy. Your statement “something is dead” changes to “what is dead and more importantly who killed it” for us. Exotic cats and dogs are not exactly our definition of wildlife so do not expect us animal lovers to hoard them up in our house. When you bump into us outside a national park or sanctuary, do not ask “is it worth going inside? When and where can we see tiger?” We sure will direct you to Zoo in that case. Working in wildlife doesn’t mean only working on tigers, there are thousands of other aspects which forms our study. All of us do not work for WWF and are vegetarian because we support PETA.
When you ask “what you are doing?” then we deliberately say “studying” and what job you gonna get answer is “don’t know” because we are trying to end up the conversation not that we are unsure about our future. We do not always end up with a government job and so do software engineer and MBA lots too. So when we say we will work in NGO, stop staring us with disbelief. After PhD what? Relax….because PhD itself takes time to think about happily ever after.
Wildlife is not a cult but sure a passionate field. I guess the freedom of observing animals in kitchen garden, room, river to protected area makes us feel relaxed. We are explorer and adventurers but not sporadic ones. It is a sustainable passion this field makes us realize and keeps us intact to this wonderful profession.