Insects On My Mind

The air is crisp. There is a faint but shrill, pulsating but monotonous call of the Indian house cricket somewhere in the corner of my house. It is too cold for insects to be out and about. He is the only one singing. Since last few monsoons, tiny little insects are hibernating somewhere in folders carefully stored away. Every winter, as and when time permits, I set to bring a few out. The usual ritual in getting to know them is to be able to photograph them from all angles possible, cataloguing them so that you know where they were and what they were doing when you found them, and ultimately – this sometimes takes the longest – sitting down to getting to know them.

Some of these are quite a handful, and there is no shortage of them. They are either rare or they are so special in their habit – such as leading a highly secretive, parasitic life, tucked away under someone’s abdomen or in someone’s nest. I liken them to some of the secretive, nocturnal mammals, they are just so specific …

An Ode to the Mountain Fort

I spent most of the year exploring Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, more-so for the tigers than any other animal, and while the alarm calls of chital and sambar, and the occasional roars and growls of tiger still echo in my ears (thanks so much to my colleague’s ringtone), I witnessed a place that is much more than just about tigers. There are also ants here – yes, ants – I stumbled upon a trap-jaw ant (Anochetus cf madaraszi), a first for central India and a new record for Madhya Pradesh while I was contemplating a few seconds before deploying the last camera trap one summer evening, and observed one of the most adorable behaviour among the ant Brachyponera cf luteipes of tandem-carrying, where a fellow sister-worker carries her companion in her jaws to the site of food – a second for India after I saw it first in Valparai. Fascinating what all is hidden or happens beneath the feet of tigers. I lost count of how many tigers I saw on how-many-an-occasion – yes, tigers are more common here …

No Country For Wild Elephants

This long-form article covers roughly 500 years of history of wild Asian elephants in the central Indian highlands – a history that is still being written. It is an excerpt of a larger piece on central India I am working on. Given the recent happenings on wild elephants in India – and particularly central India – it is time we revisited our history to see how far we have come and where we’re headed. I have retained references because it is a work in progress. Views expressed are mine.

No Country For Wild Elephants
That is no country for old men. The young In one another's arms, birds in the trees – Those dying generations – at their song, The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect. -- Sailing to Byzantium (1928) by William Butler Yeats
In The Past
In the rolling hills of Chaiturgarh – about 50 km east of Achanakmar as the crow flies – …