A Summer Reverie


A hint of light first dapples my window
Then slowly a golden streak creeps in
From a gap in the door
Spilling light on the floor

I remain unperturbed for as long as I can
Before a persistent Coppersmith Barbet
From a giant Fig in the distance
Begins to recite his concordance

A warm breeze careens across the yard
Not the most pleasant of its kind, but more earthy
Making Saja and Lendia wean
Draping Kosum and Sal in crimson and green

Then suddenly a symphony picks pace
A Brown-headed Barbet contests with a Coppersmith
The latter ringing a copper bell
The former beating a talking drum

As if on cue the Common Hawk Cuckoo begins his concert
For whom only three syllables make do
A wayward country singer at a fair
Singing pa-pi-ha in the summer air

And as the shadows shrink in the hard of the heat
A Crested Serpent Eagle whistles at another in the sky
Standing in the blazing grassland I happen to overhear
This most melodious of eagles, saying hey-come-here

There’s magic in this summer-stricken land
In its hushed and feral thrum of the loo
There’s fragrance in its dusty earth
Music in its sullen mirth

In this unforgiving weather I sit by Nanāgar river
Listening to the slumber-induced cur-cooing of the Spotted Dove
One on this side of the river
Calling one on the other closer

I watch the shadows lengthen by the edge of the water
There’s a blue blaze of an Indian Roller whirling over the trees
Chuckling out loud at his own joke
Or perhaps at the world spinning upside down

And when the bleached rays of the sun turn a soft golden
Amidst a row – or contention – of the Jungle Babblers I hear
An exasperated call of the Jungle Owlet
Fretting over the discovery of his little tree-hamlet

Of the fort-hills of Bandhavgarh I am but a nomad
Listening to the birds whisper sweet nothings to one another
And as others go quiet the Indian Nightjar comes into his own
Like a stone skipping on the surface of the water, he sings alone

A summer night has its own story to tell
Sometimes I close my eyes only to listen and translate
And catch the faintest of the sound
Amidst a chorus of crickets whinning all around

At times an eerie call captures my attention
Down in the valley, I feel there’s someone calling for me
Singing his own tune of enchantment that sounds like a howl
Resonating deep in the Sal, casting spells sits the Mottled Wood Owl

And as I immerse myself into the language of the birds
I am snapped out by a sudden honk of the Chital
There in that blinding darkness lies in wait
Something that only an alarm call can communicate

The call of the Chital freezes every sound in that moment
And as I pierce into this timeless stillness
I shiver, catching the hint of rushed footsteps
And a sudden roar of the tiger.

Bear Necessities - Reimagining Baloo of Central India


A sow takes her stance as her sub-adult cubs scamper behind her for protection in Pench Tiger Reserve
"What I portray here is a picture of a sloth bear that is not different than Baloo – a wild Baloo – the last to be free to come and go as he pleases; who relishes nuts and roots and honey; whose necessities are indeed bare; who does not wish to cross paths with humans. Who – and I say this picturing a dark cloud looming over his brooding face – wishes humans would be a little more considerate with his jungle. Equipped with the right intentions and actions — both social and ecological – an era of coexistence is comprehensible."

--
I studied the parameters of human-sloth bear interactions in the Kanha-Pench corridor between 2016 and 2017, here are some publications of that study:

Cover story in Sanctuary Asia's 2018 issue: http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/magazines/cover-story/10766-bear-necessities-reimagining-baloo-of-central-india

Full-length scientific paper discussing trends in human-sloth bear interactions in the Kanha-Pench corridor: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176612

Detailed project report on the dynamics of human-sloth bear interactions in the Kanha-Pench corridor: http://www.corbettfoundation.org/admin/images/HSBC_Project_Report.pdf

We also published a pictorial handbook depicting ways of avoiding conflict, geared towards local communities. The English version can be found here: http://www.conservingcentralindia.org/uploads/1/8/1/8/18187127/sloth_bear_booklet_singlepageformat.pdf