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Henry David Thoreau ~ on Walking

Reading some essays of Henry David Thoreau, I cant help but marvel at what a genius this man must’ve been. Genius not in the academic sense, but in the ‘life and the meaning of it all’ sense. His most famous work is Walden, a pond somewhere in New England where he decided to live by himself, farming, building, reading, walking and having only the woods for company. Company enough if you ask me.  The writing is a lil archaic, way too many sentences merged in one, but its what he says thats more striking. The book has many other essays, on winter, on wild animals, on economy, on solitude, on reading, on fire and on everything he learnt/observed during his 2 year stint close to nature. The book takes time to go through, partly because of the language and partly the structure of the novel. But its worth it.

Below is an excerpt from an essay titled “Walking“. (I’ve been saying the same thing all along ppl :D!). Nicely written piece, nothing much that I can add to it. Right from the begining where he says “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering;”. He talks of why we walk, why the general impulse is towards trees/the likes, and what it does to your character. He concludes with these lines, a lil more dramatic than the other stuff in the book, but nicely said nevertheless.

” We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold grey day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest brightest morning sun- light fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon, and on the leaves of the shrub-oaks on the hill-side, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.

The sun sets on some retired meadow, where no house is visible, with all the glory and splendor that it lavishes on cities, and perchance, as it has never set before,—where there is but a solitary marsh hawk to have his wings gilded by it, or only a musquash looks out from his cabin, and there is some little black-veined brook in the midst of the marsh, just beginning to meander, winding slowly round a decaying stump. We walked in so pure and bright a light, gilding the withered grass and leaves, so softly and serenely bright—I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of elysium, and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman, driving us home at evening.

 So we saunter toward the Holy Land; till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn.”



Ranthambhore is one of the largest national parks in India, located in the Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan. Wiki says Ranthambhore was established as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955 by the Government of India, and was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973. Ranthambhore became a national park in 1980. Its one of the very few places where the last wild tigers can be seen. It has roughly around 20+ tigers right now. Project Tiger was initiated in1972. It has become one of the most successful wildlife conservation ventures and aims at tiger conservation within tiger reserves representative of various biogeographical regions throughout India.

I first came to read about the park in a book by Valmik Thapar and Fateh Singh Rathore titled The wild tigers of Ranthambore. The book in itself was a description of the park and its tigers, accompanied by outstanding pictures. I consider that book nothing less than treasure. There are pictures of the ancient palace in ruins and a tiger sunbathing beside it, pictures of the park in summer, monsoons and the dry winter, tall chowkies made by a king long ago now hosting forest guards and one of a magnificent male tiger crossing a jungle path as a jeep with photographer Valmik Thapar stalls.. the photographs are simply fabulous. 

Tiger by Lesley Boast

Tiger by Lesley Boast

In July 06, I was to volunteer at the National Park for 15 days, being a part of the Project Tiger. 2006 was a good year because of a lot of things, but it was this one stint with Project Tiger in July that I can never forget. The park normally closes for the monsoons, during which time the forest rangers had to be busy with anti-grazing duties as well as their slow battle with poachers. We volunteers were to roam the parks and I specifically remember what was said to me in the mail: ” The living conditions are very basic. No bathrooms, no electricity, loads of insects etc etc.. Water can be a problem at times, specially for people who have weak stomachs or are not very careful.. Lots of walking on bad terrain everyday.Come prepared for a rough trip.” It seemed to good to be true :D. How can I explain the desire there was to imagine waking up within a forest, and watching the sun rise among some ancient ruins.. all the while in a noble quest to save these majestic animals. To be so close to unspoilt nature and live rugged.. to have to bother about the essentials of living in a beautiful and rustic environment. At that time, my excitement at the opportunity was purely personal and selfish. I’d not only convinced my parents to let me go but also my Dad and 2 good friends to volunteer themselves. (My dad would be the best companion ever for something like this. The friend who was to accompany us almost lost perm, when her mum spoke to my dad and dad cracked a very morose joke about being worthy meals to tigers). Of course I cared about the tigers too, but having never really participated in conservation I could not appreciate what this program truly meant.

I recently came across another program very like ours. However due to the loyalty and nostalgia with the original, I cant help but feel that this is more commercialisation than is needed. Ah, but as long as the end result will be an increased awareness about our tigers, its worth it. http://www.gapguru.com/GapProjects/OneOfAKind/TigerAndWildlifeConservation.aspx

In the end, we never really made it to the park. Our volunteer project had been called off 4 days before we were to leave. I got an email saying certain people in the government were not too happy seeing volunteers around the park without having proper policies in place.  I still dont remember how I got over it… I guess college, GRE and other priorities took its place. Apart from volunteering in a tree census in Bangalore (which had me painting serial no’s on the avenue trees in yellow paint) my tryst with conservation seemed to have ended. I occasionally scour the net for news of tigers and the developments in the park (to see if the policies finally came up or not). I still long to do something for wildlife conservation and sometimes I’m optimistic enough to believe that I shall end up there after all. But for now, I’m content thinking about the many forest guards and officials who love ranthambhore much more than me and are there right now amidst its changing seasons and eternal tigers.


Two links:

  1. http://ranthambhore.blogspot.com/, In its own words, “All about Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve – its residents, visitors, high and low points.” Blog by Aditya Singh who runs a lodge on the outskirts of the park and is involved with the tigers. Details the history and present of tiger conservation along with tips on nature photography and some very well narrated experiences.

Escape Velocity

What’s Escape Velocity? In physics, escape velocity is the speed where the kinetic energy of an object is equal in magnitude to its potential energy in a gravitational field. It is commonly described as the speed needed to “break free” from a gravitational field; however, this is not true for objects under their own power.

So says Wiki.

 For me, Escape Velocity means the spirit of adventure. How? Long before i had taken physics as my major, or had understand the basics of rocket science, I happened to read Brian N Ball’s Escape Velocity. It was an additional story in my sister’s english textbook. A book 6 yrs too early for me, as i was still in the 5th std. Being the bookworm that i was (that i still am) I’d read off all the stories in it. This particular story struck such a deep chord, that even now its the only story i remeber from that book.

Escape Velocity is a story of adventure. A science fiction that deals with a young man’s dream to live on the moon, to not be earthbound. Set in 2031 A.D , which’s not that far into the future now, it starts off in the premise that there is a well established observatory on moon where hundreds of astronomers live and gaze at the stars. The young man in question too wants to gaze at the galaxy from there, but is prevented from doing so by a faulty Mitral valve. He doesn’t overcome it, nearly kills himself and in the end is put in prison, the prison on the moon.  More on the story later.

Have you heard of Gattaca? The sci-fi movie where Jude Law ovecomes a 60%-probability-of-heart-disease disability to beat the space agancy and go to the moon? Its loosely based on this story. In that movie though, its a thriller… and of course a romance with Uma Thurman. But this story… well! The version i read am sure is abridged. Made simple and cut short for simple minded school-students. Its not a very well-known story ( which is really surprising). Even google couldnt throw up anything about it, except a mention in a listing of sci-fi books. Neither did a blog search turn up anything. Hell, Amazon didnt have the book listed! Its a pity really, the book was so wonderful… the prose, the thought, everything.