So why Wildlife Photography?
Is a question I get asked very frequently, so I thought I would share it with everyone.
Firstly why and how wildlife?
It all began at a tender age of 4, my love for wildlife that is but in a rather harsh and obverse way. I was residing in Chhattisgarh that time where my dad was the Collector of Raigarh (an Indian Administrative Post). My mom would always take my sister and I to Kolkata to meet my grandparents and other family members, whenever we got some time from school. We would visit at least 4-5 times a year and my Nana ji (maternal grand father) would take me to the Kolkata Zoo, one of the biggest zoos in Asia at that time (1999) and one that boasted of having the highest number of animals. A strong and caring man, he would tirelessly carry me on his shoulders the whole day so that I would get a better vantage point to see inside the enclosures and also so that I could fulfill my fantasies of being a king. We would do this everyday sometimes 4-5 days in a row. I used to enjoy going to the Zoos a lot. As the years passed by, he introduced me to channels like National Geographic, Animal Planet and Discovery. Slowly the innocent cartoon shows were replaced and at an age of mere 6 I would enjoy watching the gruesome feasting shots of Tigers, Hyenas and Lions, a scene that still sickens my mother and sends her running.
I remember standing in front of each enclosure for hours and my Nana ji would tell me all he could about that animal. But his unhappiness in observing them would clearly show in his eyes. I always wondered……. “Beta tumhe zoo men janwaron ko dekh kar maza ata hai?” (son, do you get happiness from seeing these animals) he asked on one of the trips. And an innocent me replied “Haan nana ji, bohot zada” (yes a lot). “Do you know that these animals are very unhappy?” he says and carries on “remember the shows you watch? These animals roam free, but here in these enclosures they are confined for a lifetime, imprisoned with nowhere to go, nothing to look up to, nothing wild to do and nowhere to wander. Imagine beta (son), imagine how one would feel if they are just confined for life, and for no good reason. Almost all of them are here just for human pleasure at the cost of their own.”
My heart sank at hearing this…… standing in front of a Tiger cage, an animal that fascinates me the most, I observed closely…..and I began to tear up imagining myself alone in that cage and then the plight of the imprisoned. We never went to that zoo again. The same road that led to the zoo and which made me happy now made me extremely distressed. I wanted them out of the enclosures and in the jungles…… but nothing could be done about it. They were kept their for no reason?
This event motivated me to learn as much as I can about wildlife and maybe make a change one day………
Secondly Wildlife ‘Photography’?
I lived in Chattisgarh for 9 years and Madhya Pradesh for 3, both states have beautiful landscapes and sublime forests with lots of animals in them. Having big government houses in remote areas with huge spans of forest within and around them, I was always close to nature. Further I followed my Dad whenever he would travel to nearby villages adjoining the forest areas. And slowly the passion grew more. I visited Amarkantak, Barnawapara, Sirpur, Bastar, Kanger Valley, Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Gariabandh in Chattisgarh and finally to Tiger Country – Kanha at the age of 12….. I enjoyed seeing each and every single thing and asking questions about them. I had not seen a Tiger yet, and only got my first glimpse of it in Ranthambore at the age of 14, a hefty Male, and I remember every single moment of it. On all these trips I would be taking shots with a point and shoot digicam.
As my travel increased I got more into observing photographs of different animals…… shots that I longed to take. And on my 15th birthday my Dad gifted me a camera…..this set the ball rolling……. and here I am 4 years later. Thank you so much Dad for the camera and for the extensive support, and thank you so much Nana ji, I wish you could see how far your grandson has come….. you’ll always be loved and forever be missed.