I came across a post today, describing 6 ‘unusual’ places that are a must-visit. ‘Unusual’ referred to caves, kutiyas, jungle lodges, straw huts, etc etc. The beauty they were all ensconced in astounded me, but all that beauty got tarnished in my eyes when I came across the cost of staying and spending holidays in these ‘unusual’ dwelling places. I stumbled upon an irony in my mind at that moment. Lord Rama and Sita, along with Laxmana, went to the forests to live as forest-dwellers (vanvasis) after Queen Kaikeyi asked King Dashrath to  grant her two boons. It was considered a hardship to live a forest-dweller’s or an ascetic’s life. It still is, perhaps that’s the reason nobody wants to live in forests. But when it comes to spending a night or two inside a cave or a jungle kutiya (completely furnished, with all the luxuries), we leave no stone unturned to check it off our bucketlists, as though an impossible feat had been accomplished. I understand that these places are tourist attractions for foreigners, and the revenue generated adds to the development of the regions and the tribals (Maybe, maybe not. Maybe we should go and ask the tribals, and stay in their huts for a while). How many foreigners (or even Indians) would really shun the comforts of the luxurious huts and stay with tribals? All these natural dwelling places seem exotic to us simply because they are rare, both for us and for foreigners. The tribals seem exotic and ‘not-mainstream’ to us. I think it’s a false statement when we say that tribals need to be integrated into the ‘mainstream’, because we forget that it’s just a case of majority and minority. All our ancestors were members of some or the other tribe, in some long lost era.

I visited a very famous national park a few weeks ago, and I finally realised why jungles are attractive, and why they are not. Jungles are attractive because of obvious reasons. Our wonders know no bounds when we leap from our car or gypsy seats to shoot (with a camera) a majestic Bison or the lazy-yet-majestic Tiger/Tigress, or the supercute, sensitive, camera-shy Deer family. A Safari has also become a novelty of sorts, something that should be done atleast once in a lifetime. I admit it was something new for me, and even I told my friends happily, as if I had checked something off my rather-non-existent bucketlist. I realised that all us urban people are actually clueless, and not the other way round. We forget that life began in and with oceans and forests and other natural habitats. In my opinion, tribals are really lucky to be living the life they are. After all, do we really have a right to claim that we are educated when poaching, hunting, unethical wildlife photography, overfishing, etc are still taking place? This is what is called ‘education without values’, and it leads us back to where we started. Education without values is a waste of time. A person would rather be illiterate than be educated in sinister things. A baby deer looks like any other baby while suckling, the animals look like they are a part of one big family, they have similar fears and attachments (think about an angry, protective Tigress and her cubs)..I don’t know how some of us find the heart to remove their habitats and render them homeless. We consider it unattractive to deal with jungles because they are ‘boring’, and any job dealing with jungles is not ‘lucrative’ (unless you work in Discovery Channel or NatGeo of course). We are a selfish species. We don’t even think twice before clearing hectares and hectares of forests in order to make big, high-rise buildings (A bigger irony is, so many of us are homeless, and will never be able to afford those newly-built homes). We don’t think about the dwellers inside rivers, seas, ponds and oceans. In the Hindu mythology, it is believed that if one is born a human, he or she must have done good deeds in the previous incarnations; if one is born a member of any other species, he or she must have done very bad deeds. Assuming this is true, it implies that we form part of a species which has the duty to protect other species, because we are the most responsible and brainy of all species.

I often ponder as to the choice between human development versus environment. Most of us think that being ‘practical’ would imply that we choose the former, because we would be considered sentimental wimps if we considered the latter. The truth is, we are doomed if we do not care about our environment. Delhi is the most polluted metropolitan city, and it has made it to the list of cities that are ready-for-the-future. I might sound cynical again, but I do not know how it happened. It’s a city where people die of diseases spread by tiny, meant-to-be-ignored mosquitos; of course Malaria and Dengue are considered so normal that they do not raise alarms, but people are also dying of air pollution. It is appalling to just hear about it. In which generation has it really happened on a large scale that people have died because of air pollution? Let us not forget the condition of our ‘holy’ Yamuna, which cannot even shed tears on the apathy displayed by people because there is no clean water left. The Delhi stretch has practically been declared a ‘sewer’. If initiatives like Odd-Even do not show results, what exactly will be the future of the Delhiites, or should I say, NCR-ites?

Are we doomed? I am compelled to think. We are moving towards our death with condescending smiles on our faces. Ignorance is bliss, they say. But the point is, we are ignoring the species which are in some or the other way, our origin. Earth Day has to be celebrated every single day. Most of us do not care about the environment, but we do care about our offspring. I think that should be motivation enough—thinking about future generations. Do we really want to leave a dreadful environment to them, so they could fend for themselves? I know it seems illogical to not remove forests in order to use the land for our own purposes, because we cannot seem to find any practical, ‘commercial’ uses of jungles. It seems illogical to keep a packet of chips in our own hand when there’s a river (also considered as dumping ground) flowing in front of us. There are punishments for poaching, hunting, and subjecting wildlife to any form of torture, because these activities have been made illegal. But we also have to understand that absence of a law should not make us ‘animals’. It is morally unethical to render anyone homeless, or destroy their natural habitat. Since we are the most intelligent species, we should find some creative solutions in order to balance human development with protection of environment. Unless we find the will in ourselves, we won’t find the way. With power comes responsibility, and it is upto us humans to not abuse the power bestowed upon us by God.

 

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