Nilgiri Tahrs live by Kurt Cobain’s theory that “just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you”. Endemic to the Western Ghats, they hang around by cliff-sides so that they can flee the jaws of dholes, leopards, and tigers. Dawn is when the Tahrs are the most active. They move around within short distances before retreating to deeper parts of the jungle by late afternoon.
I have spotted them many times, on twisting hill roads, at the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. No matter how much distance I tried to put between myself and them, it felt as though that I was being intrusive.
During a recent trip to the hills, I found a herd of Nilgiri Tahrs lounging by side of a hairpin bend. They went about their businesses, as I photographed them. They seemed familiar with the behavior of tourists. So, it did not worry them that a two-legged predator was in the vicinity. I would like to think that my behavior was acceptable; that it was alright for me to stand about 10 feet away from them.
But if it was not, it would not have been the first time I had put my selfish interests ahead of nature.
In 2013, at the peak of my interest in spotting wild animals, I had befriended a tiger trainer. I had wanted to seek his help in volunteering for wildlife censuses. But my heart was not in the right place. I may have wanted to do my bit to support animal conservation. But I also wanted to photograph wildcats. Participating in the census would present many opportunities to do. I felt guilty . Because I was unsure which was more important for me – animal conservation or personal glory. So, it took me a year before I could broach the subject with him.
When I did, he made no bones about what he had thought of it.
“Why do you want to volunteer, Christy?”
“Because I love animals”
“Oh. How much?”
“So, you want to help them?”
“Ok, then stay away from them”
Grinning, he saw that I was none too happy. He then went on to explain about how some of the most serious environmental offenders were nature lovers. Unable to gauge the difference between expressing a deep fondness for the environment and harming it, they cross the line. Whether entering restricted forest zones, trampling the undergrowth, scaring the animals or disrupting the nesting and predatory habits of birds, they become a part of the problem. He told me that such people are much worse because they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
It occurred to me that I am not very different from the people I lash out against. The litterers, the poachers, and the ugly citizens, who stay silent as their slave masters plunder everyone’s share of this weird blue planet. I cannot talk about nature conservation, without sounding like a hypocrite. I have been driving to a ‘how to save the planet’ workshop in a diesel car. Everything I owned had arrived at the cost of the environment in some shape or form.
I had mounted a high horse because I judged myself to be, comparatively, less of a screw-up than a bunch of other morons.
The bar had been set so low that I could easily roll under it, and get to the other side.
After all, what authority did I have to advise someone against using plastic items? The world has survived meteors showers, major climate changes, and Nickelback. Like a wise man once said, the planet isn’t going anywhere.
It does not need our help as much as we think it does.
I doubt if any of our Go Green initiatives will help in rectifying the damage already done. It may delay the inevitable by a few microseconds, but our fates have already been sealed. Going away will help, though. Human extinction is not Mother Nature’s last resort. It is her first and only line of defense.
Of course, nobody desires that. I certainly do not. I choose to be here – for better or worse. While I am still around, I should aspire to do more for the environment.
However, if you ever approach me about wanting to leave the city to settle for a peaceful life in the hills, I will ask you to reconsider it. You are probably just stressed out, and you feel unappreciated.
Relax. Take an aspirin. Go for a walk.
Get over it.
Let us not destroy nature with our love.
A beast of burden.
Deep in thought.