Friday, November 12, 2010

Celebrating Salim Ali's birth anniversary

I had just returned to Coimbatore day before yesterday. Was scrolling through mails when I saw someone from the birding community mentioning about Salim Ali's birthday on November 12. I was wanting to ask Dr. Pramod, the principal scientist who was heading nature education and outreach at Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) if something was happening in Coimbatore. I realised it was late to call him, just then saw him online and said hi to him. He told me to come for the celebrations today at Forest College.

Must tell about Dr. Pramod, he is the most wonderful and humble person and extremely friendly. I met him some five months back and the first day we met, we spent the whole day at SACON, talking about different things and life. He is a great teacher, no wonder kids love him. When I first met Dr. Pramod, he thought I was just another person with temporary instinct to work. Later, when I started reaching out and communicating and met him again, he said now I know you are serious Sharada. Good! I never expected to see you again! I said, sir, I love nature and yes want to work with you.

So, when he invited me, I jumped and went today. I met the IAS and IFS officers today who promised to do something for the wetland conservation in coimbatore. When I entered the hall, I went and sat there next to a lady, who looked at me and smiled. I smiled and she started a conversation with me. She was Dr. Maya, a Ph.D in forest ecology from SACON, working for Godrej in Bombay. We went into long conversations and she passed me her card inviting me to visit her in Bombay..

Soon talks began and Dr. Azeez, Director of SACON spoke. The topic of the day was Wetland conservation and ecology in Coimbatore. Coimbatore has about 12 wetland area where birds thrive, but sadly due to effluent discharge and dumping of waste, the wetlands are filled with plastic and rubbish, spoiling the ecology. So our discussion was on how to tackle with it and approach.

We had some eminent people like Rajesh from the NGO Siru Thuli (They have done phenomenal work in restoring wetland ecology), Sukumar from Sulur, a person who works for the tax dept, was a bird watcher by hobby and then penned a book on nesting habits of birds in coimbatore..His hobby became serious and now he is restoring birds from the shackles of ruthless was great to listen to his talk. Mr. Kalidasan from Osai (another NGO which does great work with wildlife and environment) gave a talk that was full of enthusiasm and energy. His talks are always like that. He is so passionate about environment. Says, when your mother is ailing, you can sit next to her, but do have to do something. That should be the approach. Rajesh spoke about how great theories came up from Rishis in the forest. Like the theory of infinity..says forests have the power to inspire, invoke thoughts..I can totally relate to it!!

Insightful session there. We took a small break for tea where I saw this school girl and started talking to her. So, what do you do I asked her and it triggered. Her name was Sriranjani, student of 10th at Air Force school. She was so dedicated to wildlife conservation. She said this is what she wanted to do in life.

Hey arent you a journalist, she asked me. I was surprised. Yes, I am I said.

I have seen you before at the screening of truth about tigers, shooting questions on mike at Shekar sir. I laughed, yeah it is me! I do wildlife journalism. Good memory girl, you remember me!!

She won the young scientist award from the competition conducted by Zoo Outreach programme. Wow, i said, at such a young age. Said, she wants to do a project on birds and I told her I would help. As I was engrossed, someone came and hit me. It was Dr. Pramod, come sharada, next session is beginning, bring everyone. I smiled. Quickly gathering people, I walked into the hall. Dr. Pramod came and sat next to me and was asking where I disappeared. After few minutes of talk, I went and spoke to Mr. Kalidasan. Told him Osai website content is not updated. Why dont you do it Sharada? Ok, sir, I will take the responsibility. I love working for committed people. Kalidasan sir was one of the most dedicated people, green leader in the country, well known among photographers and conservationists for his work. After the session, he came back to me and took my number again. Please come to office, he said. I gladly agreed. Meanwhile, I met a few more people and started talking.

By the end, Dr. Pramod came and said..Sharada, have a lot of work for you. Come to SACON..Sir, but when are you free? I am always busy you know, but you can come on 16th..I am off to Andamans after that. You better come. I have 5 appointments that day, but you can drop in at anytime, no need to ask. Its you right? I was really humbled. I will be there sir. I am supposed to be writing a book for him. Yes! I need to push him to write :)

Sriranjani's mom dropped me back home and we had this great conversation on how this girls grandfather did not want her to be a wildlife biologist. No one will marry her, he said. Aunty said, she did not care and will support her daughter. I felt the girl was lucky. Sri said, who wants to get married, anyway, all I want to be is to be with nature. This is what I felt since three years old. I smiled at her. Could see her passion for nature. There is no plastic in her house and she eats only in banana leaves everyday. I was amazed. You know, I am the only girl in the whole school who wants to get into wildlife. That's alrite, I said.

My task lists are huge ..but I feel nice meeting such wonderful souls in my life, people who understand my passion and give me an opportunity to work.

Dr. Azeez was leaving. Dr. Pramod introduced me to him. This is Sharada and I dont know what to tell about her. What should I tell sharada, he asked me and I burst out laughing. Well, she is a drop out journalist. LOL. She has a great website and blog on wildlife and she writes a great deal, he said with an element of seriouness. I smiled at Dr. Azeez.

I am now waiting to head to SACON now. Birds fluttering, singing, already dreaming!! To step into this protected biosphere reserve!!

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