NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE CAMP-2012
‘EVOLUTION OF MAN’ :A REPORT
We were totally occupied with the last minute arrangements at the camp, that I received a message from Vikrant informing that there were some rather difficult students in this particular group and their sole objective to come to the camp was to create ruckus and distract others. I immediately changed their tent and tribe and we awaited for the encounter. The first day with these brats was really tough but it seemed that their interest and involvement kept-on increasing with each DARE. During the Final touches, they were at the forefront of the others in cleaning their tents and scrubbing the toilets. Their Tribe Wiseman ( a very keen observer) shared her observations about her naughty classmates. She said that these very students who became thoroughly absorbed in the camp activities were least attentive about almost anything, but mischief.
Having devoted ourselves to this movement for environment conservation, I had nurtured a doubt whether we had at all succeed in making at least some kind of difference in the attitude of the participants. My soul is now at peace.
Despite the limitations, I daresay that National Environment Science Camp can be described as a success. I am positive that we shall overcome the hurdles with the support and good wishes of the schools, teachers and students from all parts of the country.
|At the National Environment Science Camp (NEVSC) 2012-13 at Dudhwa National Park, the participants re-lived and role-played a primitive man, an agriculturalist, an industrial man and finally what is called a geek to understand the fascinating story of the Evolution of Man through a set of ten activities referred to as DARES.
The Campers courageously explored the pristine jungles very much like our Hunter ancestors in Wildermania. They commemorated their arrival at Dudhwa with a ‘wild’ celebration in Jhinga La La. They went on a mission to track and trap a man-eating tiger in the dense Sal forests. An ‘Encounter’ with the wildlife raiding the agricultural fields at the edge of the forest provided insight about the dangerous Man-Animal Conflict. The Campers held a detailed interaction with the Tharu tribals of Dudhwa which enabled them understand the complexity of the life of an agriculturalist and also work out practical eco-friendly solutions
Equipped with binoculars and cameras, the campers went deep inside the jungles in jeeps to savor the awe-inspiring beauty of the Kaleidoscopic World of bugs and birds and beasts. The experience was amazing: insects in mating posture; 25 varieties of spiders; an advancing herd of Elephants; a Fishing Eagle diving to seize a fish in his talons and of course crazily trailing His Royal Majesty in Stripes for an unbelievable half an hour was perhaps the most momentous of all.
Right on the International border with Nepal, on the beach-like banks of River Mohana, the campers carved remarkable sand sculptures of Lord Ganesha, living mermaid, castles, temples and many other interesting things. They would then leap into the icy-cool waters frolicking and gamboling as never before.
The National Environment Science Camp made the participants realize that Human Evolution has also led Mother Earth into deep distress. And her SOS signals must be responded to immediately. All the Campers, thus, promised to do their bit to save Mother Earth by adopting eco-friendly practices in their daily routine.
|‘SPELLBOUND’ AT DUDHWA NATIONAL PARK
by Vikrant Nath (camp coordinator)
9thApril 2013. Bhulbhulaiyan Road. . Dudhwa National Park.
After years and years of hope, anticipation, expectation, prayers, ardent wishes and after of scanning the jungles on foot and jeeps atop machans and elephants and having been layered with dust, the conclusion I had reached was that seeking tigers in the jungle (especially if the jungle is in Terai) was a chimera. “Virtually Impossible” “Highly Improbable” “Unlikely” “I don’t think so” “ You got to have the luck of a KBC winner” was my repartee whenever I was asked by the Campers if they would be able to see the Tiger. I had presumed that only when highly competent guide who has been accompaing you for months at end, day in day out, can one get to see this majestic beast. Hoping to sight the tiger was a futile quest. And jungle safari are nothing but a time-pass joyride.
Well! We had just moved past the dense Sal Forest into a more open area near a grassland patch, when I heard Gurkirat and Seerat utter that word which I have heard so often that I have been convinced that people actually imagine seeing a tiger in the jungle. A kind of self hypnosis that their mind conjures. Had I been the jeep driver, I may not have even cared to halt awhile and check. Thankfully I was not handling the steering and our driver immediately applied the brakes. “Are u sure” I demanded from seerat who was now pale and quaking with excitement, fear and shock. “110% sure,” she said with the greatest conviction; she had had the eyeball to eyeball confrontation with the tiger when our jeep moved past, the tiger was lying lazily on the roadside grass. Any unobservant person, and I include myself, would simply have failed to notice. Not so with Gurkirat and Seerat, their observation was sharp, their concentration absolute. Even the guide in jeep leading us had failed to notice this magnificent creature altogether.
By now, Seerat was in a state of stupified trance. The jeep now stood still on the tracks. Gurkirat, Abhishek and Aneesh, occupying the back seat of the jeep were now standing right on top of the seats, unmindful of any risk, trying to photograph the beast in stripes. But neither Kashish nor me nor Amit Sir had seen him yet. The driver fidgeting around to catch a glimpse. And the others kept telling us “there it is. There it is” “Can’t you see” I thought at that instant that the tiger was probably some four or five hundred metre distance way; but when managed to actually see him just around 50 meters was, I was, I was, I was astonished, it was so unimaginably close. The distinct large white spots on the ear was the most striking aspect. And then the tiger arose in remarkable poise and slowly took a forest track. Now on every moment was a numbing cliff hanger.
And full marks to the deft handling of the driver. He carefully maneuvered the jeep in reverse gear and trailed the tiger. Amit Sir, apprehensively asked me if it was safe to follow the tiger. I said let’s just trust the wisdom of the driver. All The 8 of us, were now latching and hanging on the jeep anywhere, anyhow we could see him and avoid a touch down. We clutched at handle, bar, foot-rest trying to simply live the moment. Photography and videos made no sense. We wanted to simply watch him to our heart’s delight. Admire him in totality and he gave us that opportunity, to glimpse the greatest celebrity in the world.
He showered his urine, he defecated, he smelt the grass, he walked, he paused, he looked hither and thither. But never for once was he concerned about our presence. For him, we were invisible. He looked shaggy and lean and mean.He Didn’t appear muscular at all. And his movements were very leisurely. And all the while, the round white spot on the each ear was distinct.
In the meantime, the campers in the other jeep compelled the guide to retrace their movement and we signaled them to come and enjoy this fantastic sight. They joined us and we made way for them to move ahead. Their joy knew no bounds and they too flashed the V sign. It was a complete victory. Another SUV had also reached this spot. The tourists couldn’t contain their excitement and almost jumped out. Till they were sternly reprimanded by the guides.
The sensation of having seen the tiger with mortal eyes and that too in the dense wilderness, in its last natural habitat for half an hour was overwhelming. It was unbelievable. Everything else had now paled into insignificance. It was the acme of an experience. It was the greatest of adventure. All instructions of being quiet in the jungle were forgotten; we simply couldn’t stop talking about it. But the tribe members decided not to disclose the experience until the final presentation, where they’d be the last to present. I promised to let their secret be. “Mum’s the word”
On this day, I think, the journey and quest of my life is fulfilled. I cannot ask God Almighty for anything else. And it pained my heart to think that some people hunted this creature simply for fun as a sport. They deserve to have been in the lunatic asylum.
PAST THE INTERNATIONAL BORDER WITHOUT PASSPORT
We’d walk through the sheesham and the riverine forest to reach the pristine sandy beach of river Mohana which forms the international border between Nepal and India. The moment campers step here, they wish to jump into the crystal clear cool water of this Himalayan river.
This place have some charishma, the campers frolick in water, summersault at the beach, make sandsculptures, play kabaddi and what not. The nearby SSB post is the mute spectators of this riot of color and sounds at their border.
FACING NATURE’S FURY
The Traditional Holi dance of the Tharu tribals to the accompaniment of drum beats was in full swing. The campers watched intently the colors swirling in the air. Everyone was in a festive mood. Suddenly strong winds started blowing from the west; a short and sharp rainstorm followed. The trees above swayed dangerously, shooting twigs upon us. The sound of winds was deafening. We directed the campers to rush underneath the permanent shed.
For two hours the nature’s fury refused to subside. Luckily there was no damage to the tents. But the dinning area tent collapsed. The power supply could only be restored after the rains. In this meele, we somehow prepared steaming hot tea and maggi noodles.
Nature is so unpredictable that one really needs to gear up to face it at its best and at its as worst, as well.
JHINGA LA LA WITH JAVA MAN
“After having a delicious meal we got ready for the event of the day: the ‘Victory Dance’ dressing up at our best ranging from leaf skirts to tiaras we started the fire and had the time of our lives: singing and dancing boisterously around the fire”
KARAJ, Sela Qui International School, Dehradun
“In JHINGA LALA, we designed our own costumes and musical instruments and dance steps. We also had a chief guest for JHINGA LA LA: JAVA MAN. It was a fun dare. We danced and enjoyed and the surprise guest made us laugh a lot”
Evolution Discoverers, Tagore International School, VV, Delhi
We had spent a long day in the wilderness. We had a boisterous celebration in the style of the old stone age man. We all were dressed up like the Early Man. We had leaves, hay and small stems as our costume. We also put charcoal powder for our make-up.And then, we met the extinct ‘JAVA-MAN’. This was a horrifying experience; but we enjoyed it a lot. All and all it was a fun time in early man’s shoes.
Plants v/s Zombies, Centre Point School, Wardhaman Nagar, Nagpur
25 VARIETIES OF SPIDERS DOCUMENTED
When everyone else was hunting for the Tiger and the Rhino in the forest, Chestha and her tribe members from St. Agnes’ Loreto Day School, Lucknow were engrossed in filming Spiders. At the presentation in the evening, I was amazed to see their pics of 25 different varieties of spiders. In just 3 hours of their jungle journey, they had documented such a wide variety: yellow, white, red, brown. All sorts color and sizes.
Keep it up campers! You are our hope for our Environment.
AN EFFORT TO REVIVE THE THARU CULTURE
18 years back, when I visited Dudhwa for first time. The guide took me to Surma village (right in the core forest of Dudhwa). I was especially attracted to a mud house decorated with mirrors on the walls. Since then I have been visiting Dudhwa almost every year. I have explored several Tharu villages, but I could never espy a single house with mirrors. This art seems to have faded and only the old ladies knew about it.
So I decided to motivate Bhikni ji at Masankhamb to revive this tradition of mirror decoration. She readily agreed. We procured the mirrors from Lucknow and after tedious work of digging, fetching and preparing tons of mud and embedding it with mirrors, the final outcome was really eye catching. Every passerby, right from the locals to the tourists and even the foresters stop awhile and admire their laborious creation..
I feel very satisfied. It’s a novelty for the campers, no doubt; but for the Tharu kids and youth, it is a remarkable showcase of their unique culture.
ENCOUNTER with a herd of WILD ELEPHANTS
During the Jungle Journey, we are most fearful of the Wild Elephants. You never know when they might run amok and decide to topple and smash your jeep. Especially because I have escaped the fury of a charging giant tusker . At times, a herd elephants will appear from nowhere to noiselessly cross the road right in front of your eyes.
Campers from Chandrabala Modi Academy, Ankaleshwar Gujarat aboard two jeeps were following each other on the forest tracks. Suddenly an elephant herd of around 40 members, comprising of mothers, aunts and calves moved across their jeep just a yawning distance away . It sent a chill down the spine of the driver and the campers. Fortunately, the herd ignored them.
Similar herds were also sighted marching towards River Suhel for their terrific Water Sports. Indeed An Amazing Sight.