Friday 20 November 2009

26/11 Mumbai Terror Attacks - One year has passed !

As we near 26/11 Anniversary, there are a lot of thoughts coming to mind…ofcourse not at all on the “Spirit of Mumbai” – That is a farce word to camouflage the looser in us. The so-called “Spirit of Mumbai” was back on track just after a few hours of attack in Mumbai last year. This “Spirit” evaporates when Raj Thackeray tries to divide Mumbai…this “Spirit” evaporates when its time for the citizen to setp up, vote and create their own future – only 40% people turn out to vote, rest 60% sleeping (I should call them traitors if I could). I guess those 60% don’t have rights to complain or cry foul when something happens to them. Actually, the so-called “Spirit of Mumbai” exists in the person or the family which is not a victim….ask the victims family or near and dear ones, where is their “Spirit of Mumbai’? A city like Mumbai which provides such great opportunities to people can not have a Ganpat absent at work for a day – He will not be able to pay the school fees of his child, if Rameshbhai bunks office, he will loose the trading deal and will be unable to fund his daughters wedding, if Pankaj does not attend an important meeting at 9, his counterpart Vijay would bag all the attention and will get the promotion, not just that – even being 30 mins late, Vilas will loose his half day Salary – will not this keep up the “so-called Spirit of Mumbai “? It’s a no brainer… And well, the citizen are practical – of something is destined t happen it will not happen – even if you are at home…so run..

Well, a year has passed and if you look at the impact on the Civil Liberties, there is much- even in the US post 9/11- the civil liberties were impacted – so even in India- the society is going through a lot of pains of being scanned, harassed but for good, the state is spending huge monies on security devices and the Metal detector companies multiplying their profits – all is fine…we all can take this pain, but what is the result - The result is Zero !

(*) Today, anyone can again attack Mumbai from the coast or the land as we are yet not adequate. The terrorist does not come through the metal detectors or the malls, they are masterminds, much smarter than our Intelligence agencies and they will find better and safer ways to come and attack…who knows in Mumbai, if your own neighbor is a terrorist?
(*) Judicial system forms a part of Civil liberties and here we are offering more liberties to the culprits than the civilians – Afzal Guru is still enjoying after attacking the parliament and Kasab dares to ask for a favourite dish and our system cries hue and cry if Manu Sharma is pubbing in parole…. Please for God sake get serious !
(*) We have freedom of speech, religion but still a representative of public gets slapped for using the National language in the parliament much against his civil liberties and we talk of Civil liberties for the citizen.

Net-net, as we near the Anniversary of the 26/11 Attacks

  1. Why was RR Patil asked to leave (erstwhile Home Minister for his remark of Terror attacks as in such big cities, such small things keep happening) and what has he done or what confidence has be build that he is again made the Home Minister ? It is a complete joke and ridiculing of the Civil liberties, but I don’t blame the politicians for this – it’s the 60% sleepers (non-voters) who have chosen this minster again – Congratulations and bear the heat now.
  2. Why are only Motor bikers and Tourist Taxis checked in Search operations by police (Naka bandis) ? I have never been stopped in my private car except just once immediately post the attacks. Does it mean that Terrorist will not come in normal cars or bus ? Or the police is smart to know who is an easy target to harras ?
  3. Why have the police and their search operations (naka bandis) totally disappeared post the recent elections in October ? Guess, Police have information that the Terrorists would not come post the elections or the farce visibility drive that the state is hard on security is over now post the elections and its time to mint money by catching drunken drivers – that’s where the money is.
  4. Why are people still avoiding Metal detectors at Railway stations and police seeing silently and waiting for another attack ?
  5. I just traveled a few days back and the security at the Airport is as strong as it should have been – why is the difference between the security seriousness of CSF and Mumbai Police. When I asked a police man – he ignored the fact and said, they are yet not equipped or trained for the same and when a Neta comes – they all become equipped and trained. He has a point – its frustrating to check each passerby knowing that you are not going to find anything.
  6. Supposedly Security boats were bought for patrolling on the coast and understand that the same is not having any fuel – where is mine and your tax money going ?
  7. Someone very rightly asked the MNS guys – where was Raj Thackeray during the attacks ? The same remains unanswered !
  8. Some famous politician (forgetting the name, was it Narayan Rane ? – see how short sighted a Mumbaikar is) made public claims that the Politicians of Mumbai

NDTV 24X7 triggered the thought of sharing my views on the Subject by asking the avid bloggers on the Social Issues share their Views and Questions with Barkha Dutt, who would represent us on a Talk show, but there are many more questions and Mumbaikars will keep on asking, that’s the best we do – but finding answers ? I guess not many are really interested !!

Thursday 19 November 2009

TADOBA NATIONAL PARK - The Historic Battle !

Tigers chasing Sambar – The Baap of Kruger Scene - LIVE !
2 Tigers on Land and 2 Crocodiles in water await to kill the Sambar
Met the Chief Forest Officer, Thane Zone, Shree Bhagwan, IFS (Indian Forest Service Officer, equivalent to an IAS) – a few months back with connection to business. Myself being a wild life enthusiast got into some long drawn conversations which resulted in live experiences and future of the Wild Life in India shared quite passionately by Shree Bhagwan. I shared my poor perception of wild-life in Maharashtra purely on my experiences at Melghat Tiger Reserve, Chikaldhara and on the under developed Sanjay Gandhi National Park which has immense potential but no-one doing much about it, and the way Madhya Pradesh has projected its sanctuaries like Bandahvgarh, Kanha and Pench.

Shree Bhagwan differed with me saying that one should go to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (625 Sq. km), which is just 150 kms from Nagpur. Shree Bhagwan had headed Tadoba around 2003-2006 and he was passionate enough to show me some brilliant pictures of tigers and other animals there and I parked his views in my mind. We had discussions on my experiences of Wild life across India and South Africa and what can turn around the same in Maharashtra and the same was taken in positive spirit by Bhagwan ji and each point was given a logical reasoning and view which a layman can not have. The discussion with such a wild life lover and a passionate IFS official was very enriching and remained in my mind and months passed by.

One fine day, had plans to visit Nagpur and the thought lying in the corner of my mind lighted up. I communicated with Shree Bhagwan and he was kind enough to meet me and spend some time guiding and mentoring me on Tadoba-Andhari.

And then, the History followed..... We saw a breath taking scene, though post a long patient wait of 4 hours and the scene can be termed as a Baap of Kruger (No.1 National Park of the world). Usually, the scene of Tiger chasing a prey and killing is quite common – all would have seen on Discovery, but a situation, where 2 Tigers chasing a Sambar and the Sambar survives by jumping into the water, but unfortunately 2 Crocodiles await their prey and the battle goes on for 24 hours and finally makes the Headlines of The Times of India – Front page on 16th November 2009. I witnessed the same and was able to capture a 35 minutes live video of the battle and Star News and Star Maza took my Interview and the same along with my video which was broadcasted on the National television at Prime time 9:30 PM on 16th November (Attached the News video)


The World class battle of Kruger
The famous Battle of Kruger, which took place in South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the most widely-watched vidoes, after being posted on YouTube in 2007, it depicts how a buffalo calf, which is separated from its herd, survives a tug-of-war between a pride of lions and a few crocodiles. Soon after, the buffalo herd, in a stunning display of courage, regroups to rescue their young one, with full-grown members chasing away the lions.

The Rare Battle of Tadoba-Andhari
It was Telia Lake of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve where the battle went on for 24 hours on 13-14 Nov 2009
13 Nov : 6:30 AM : The poor Sambar (The Bigger deer species with long horns) was there grazing on the banks and suddenly 2 tigers attacked, but the sambar was lucky enough to run down the water and save its life, but it never knew that 2 crocodiles were awaiting their dinner ! The tigers went back, but were hiding in the bushes for the Sambar to come out. The Sambar struggled from the crocodiles who finally gave up and the Sambar came on the banks and the injured Sambar, unable to walk came out.
13 Nov : 5:30 PM : We sat in our jeeps (only 4-5 in the whole park, unlike 50 in Kanha) from 2 PM and at 5:30 PM saw the female tiger slowly coming out of the bushes and strategizing her secret moves to attack. She took the way from water and then the bushes and finally attached but was unlucky again. I was able to capture the whole live incident on my Sony Handicam with 2000X Zoom. 14 Nov : 6:30 AM : When we entered the park, the brave Sambar had already lost its battle in the night and the Tiger was enjoying its breakfast and the 24 hours long battle thus ended.

A Background on TADOBA :
Tadoba is Dry Deciduous Forest of Central India with lots of leafy bushes, meadows and Bamboo trees. There are 3 ranges – Moharali, Tadoba and Kolasa. Main area is Moharali which is close to Chandrapur – just 25 kms and there are other gates like Kolara gates and Navegaon gates which are much closer to Nagpur, if one is coming from Nagpur – saves an hour. The Park is a Tiger Project and claims that there are 40 Tigers in the park. Other animals include panther, bison, sloth bear, hyaena, jackal, wild dog, blue bull, sambhar, cheetal, barking deer, four-horned antelope, chinkara, hare, porcupine, langur etc. There is a variety of Birds – around 140 and reptiles and insects. One should not miss the huge Cob webs and Spiders in the jungles of Kolasa.

How to reach : This National Park is in the Nagpur-Chandrapur district, easily accessible with good roads – takes 2-2.5 hrs from Nagpur (directly to Kolara or Navegaon gate) or through Chandrapur to Mohrali gate.
Jeep Safari : The only developed area is Mohrali (25 kms from Chandrapur) or one can say commercial – around 6-20 jeeps enter this gate while other gates hardly get 2-3. This gives you a place with less tourists like BG and Kanha and once can also have a little leniency in terms of timings. The park opens to Jeep Safaris (from 6AM to 11AM and 2PM to 6PM). We were there for just 3 safaris (1 Morning and 2 evenings). There are not much jeeps and hence no unions which has its own merits and demerits.
Places to stay : There were foreigners but not as much as in MP and may be this is what is lacking for the development – lack of awareness, hence lesser footfalls, hence lesser business opportunities, hence lesser commercialization (eg. Not many good hotels to stay except MTDC, Saras and moderate rates -1200-1400 for AC rooms and Tiger Trails – around 5000. There are not much private hotels and resorts either. Eating restaurants are also limited to 2-3. Chandrapur is also a decent option to stay (Hotels Sidhartha, Hotel Kundan Plaza)
The People, Guides, Forest Officials : The place gives you a real upcountry feel as not much developed or commercialized like Kanha and Bandhavgarh. There are still some villages in the park area and yet to rehabilitated, so you may find some adivasi – tribals cycling or walking around which is not so common in BG and Kanha. The Guides and Forest systems are good and well trained, they have exchange programmes and trainings at BG and Kanha. Overall, the people are war, co-operative and simple. The Animal tracking is a bit different here - No calls of Cheetal or Monkeys over movements of the Tiger or No common tracking of the Tigers movement like pug marks by guides or jeep guys who would identify an area where tigers are frequenting and all would try the luck there, which in most probability helps see the tigers.
Coverage of entire ranges – There are 3 ranges. Drivers of Mohrali Range prefer staying around Mohrali only and usually avoid going too far to other ranges like Tadoba or Kolasa giving fake excuses that there are not much sighting etc and the first timers get fooled. The reason of this is to save fuel and efforts driving (they charge Rs. 1300 for each safari and if they make you sit at one place waiting for the animal they save the whole cost). Believe me, the best forest so far I have seen is the Kolasa, which beats even Kanha in terms of the feel of forest. It was just one jeep and the roads are much less travelled with absolutely bushy roads with just two tyre lanes and huge long bushes even on the middle of the road and lot of greenery. It gives you that irky feeling of what if the jeep breaks down here as there are no other jeeps or connectivity – Kolasa drive is a must and there are some points where one can sight animals, though we didn’t like – Kakadghat, Ambewadi, Shravani Zari etc.
Some Useful Numbers : Jeep Owners : Sameer Maji – 9325770530, Anil Tewade – 9579010493, (They can organize the stay etc without any charges) –Jeep Fees – Rs 1300 per safari; Guide Fee – Rs 100, Entry – Per Jeep – Rs 50, per Person – Rs 20. Forest Office – TADOBA – 07172 251414; Forest Officer Chandrapur – 0712 2528953/2552518/2765

My Views on TADOBA and Wild Life Tourism in Maharashtra :

Most of us think of beaches or hills or pilgrimage when we think of holidaying near our home – Mumbai, somewhere close for 2-4 days or a weekend trips. Wild Life which is a very exotic and upcoming tourism (Africa’s leading revenue making industry) – the problem is

(a) Indians have not really taken this sort of a tourism so seriously, though there is a niche segment. –(My mother says, why do you have to go to such deep forests and for so many days just to see tigers – you can go to the zoo – The mentality of Indian tourism is primarily Beaches, Hills and Pilgrimage no matter however crowded they are !) In this age when space tourism or Horror tourism (you are taken to real haunted places where you “may” encounter ghosts or spirits) are evolving, India should look beyond the typical holidaying and wild life is such an area where more foreigners come as compared to Goa ! Many Young Indians are getting into Adventure Tourism and that’s a good sign. And believe me - seeing a Tiger in its wilderness is a great feeling ! The Animal is a majestic one and the feeling of finding one your self is the most exciting part of the whole thing !
(b) The experience or value for time and money - of Wild Life tourism has to be better than what one gets in the routine holidaying and that is what South Africa and many National Parks like Kanha or Bandhavgarh have achieved. Maharashtra is way behind.
eg. Melghat (Chikaldhara, near Badnera Rly Station) was the saddest experience in wild life in Maharashtra, where could not see a small mouse in the forest, no regrets, but regrets over the poor attitude of the forest officials – the babu culture where they ridiculed the far claimed tiger project names by just a 30 minute safari on some jungle roads, where you literally don’t find any single insect, bird or animal and the guide had to be forcefully picked from home as no one in the village was willing to come unlike other places where the forest department has evolved the lives of local adivasis (tribals) bu uplifting them rehabilitating them and creating multiple job opportunities for them (guides, trekers, helpers, drives, jeep safari owners, restauranters and even employees of forest departments etc) despite of their illiteracy and lack of communication skills. If I could, would want the park to be delisted from being a Sanctuary but am told maybe the landscape of Chikaldhara is such hilly and terraineous unlike Kanha, BG. But in that case the place should not be promoted for tourism but should be maintained as a Core Area only.

Tadoba was great experience but luck factor was also strong. But Tadoba speaks of the future of Wild Life in Maharashtra and the scene sighted above is a challenge to all the national parks where tourists could see such a scene at all !

Bandhav Garh, Kanha, Pench in Madhya Pradesh or Ranthambhore in Rajasthan or even Jim Corbett have created a brand of theirs that attract tourists. Not that they have assured or 100% probability of sighting (Have know many who have spend days in the park with futile efforts to sight a tiger), but the awareness is so strong (through media, word of mouth etc) and the commercialization is strong (Good lodging, boarding, infrastructure, roads, security etc), that people visit these parks. Besides being Commercial, they provide great hospitality and service as they know that their house runs on the same – Right from Hotels, government officials to locals and that is one more reason. The distance or reachability is also discounted. BG or Kanha are the most difficult to reach parks in terms of airport and rail connectivity (eg. To go to BG from Mumbai, one has to go by train to Katni or by flight to Jabalpur and travel by bad roads for 3-4 hours, but still lots of people come – lots of foreigners come as these places are becoming brands and the government plays a major role. The same happens if this Industry is taken seriously or the Department of Forest has some strong weight in the respective State. Or the last way is, if the Minister is a strong person with a vision and passion and a will to change things. The New Forest Minister, Maharshtra, Shri. Patangrao Kadam is known for his administrative skills and the way he has mould the education industry and I sincerely hope and appeal to the Hon. Minister to help evolve the Wild Life Industry in Maharashtra. And hope to have more IFS officers like Shree Bhagwan who have given their lives for forests and wildlife and on whose names there are villages (In Tadoba, people have renamed their village as Bhagwanpur as the IFS Officer had rehabilitated the tribals and had helped them evolve in lives and had helped the Forest evolve as a valuable park.

Maharashtra is usually known for Beaches, Hills and Pilgrimage, but Wild Life is also abundant here. Tadoba, Melghat and Pench (One portion is in MP and other in Maharashtra) and even Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai – these can be developed and promoted very well and can attract good tourists as well as revenue to the state. Hope the state looks beyond Electricity, Sugarcane and Commerce !

Tuesday 13 October 2009

INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES - Waste of Vote unless you have seen them work !

Just came back home post doing my duty of a responsible citizen – voting for the assembly elections. Was amazed to see some candidates with signs like “pressure cooker”, “diamond ring”, “car”, cricket bat” and “whistle” asking the citizen to punch on their symbols. Had heard about even symbols like gas cylinder, sewing machine, brush, cupboard, torch, table, cot, candle, iron, hat, ceiling fan, television, coat, electric pole and camera. We might ridicule these, but if a foreigner sees Lotus, Hand, Railway Engine, Cycle of an Elephant he will see it no differently than the gas cylinder, pressure cooker or a ceiling fan.

If you read todays Times of India (13 Oct 2009) you will find that more than 50% of the candidates (1820 out of 3559) are Independent candidates, which was just 14% in 2004.
Now the question is why is there such a steep rise in the Independent candidates ? The thought around the same is as below.

Had heard some senior corporatizens talking about increasing independent candidates which is good as they might be unbiased or uncorrupted and one should vote for them or give them a chance. There is a point, but take an example of Meera Sanyal of ABN Amro who stood and lost from South Mumbai seat in 2009 elections or for that matter an example of Mallika Sarabhai who stood against Advani or even stalwarts like IAS Chandrashekhar, Capt. Gopinath of Deccan taking their plunge as independents and loosing miserably, forget the unknown common man of India who stands as an independent candidate.

Well, let us agree to the fact that with 60% middle class and upper class sitting at home enjoying a holiday – watching movie, playing golf or having a pre-diwali get together one can never expect candidates like Meera Sanyals and other independants to win as it is the masses who go out to vote. Agree to ANOTHER SCHOOL of thought which says that why should I vote for a “Film Star” like Govinda or a Personal Secretary of a Politician ? and there it follows what happened in the corporation elections in Juhu in 2007 when Adolf D’souza with Candle as a voting symbol won from a prestigious Juhu constituency slapping the candidates of the leading parties hard on face. But these are exceptions and are valid in smaller elections like chosing the local corporators but definitely not the MP or MLA, where the constituency span is comparatively huge. One always looks at either the party or the personal record of serving the society or the area where the candidates are seeking votes.

Many politicians who are denied tickets by their home party and do not want to switch to the opposition often stand as independants and also win…. Can look at examples of Buta Singh or even George Fernandes, there are many. Many stalwarts entered Parliament unaffiliated to any party in India’s early years, including Minoo Masani, V.K. Krishna Menon, and J.B. Kripalani. Later, Purushottam Mavlankar was elected twice from Gujarat. Maneka Gandhi, too, has won as an independent. Well, if one studies these candidates they had some background and also had put in their efforts into serving the society or by participating in public life in their own way and not for just a short time but for a considerable time.

People object to independents for 4 reasons. (1) that they can’t win. (2) that they take away votes from a more winnable, but not necessarily more competent candidate, even if the best way to describe such candidates is that they represent “the lesser evil”. (3) independent members of Parliament (MPs) cannot be effective without party machinery. (4) they would be hostage to their constituents’ agenda. A recent news article dated May 20, 2009 14:59 IST (refer http://election.rediff.com/report/2009/may/20/loksabhapoll-most-independent-candidates-lost-polls.htm) clearly states that 99.75% independent candidates lost LS polls.

Well, if there is a consistency data then also why do independents stand is the only question I am sure you would be thinking of. Having some close links, the underlying answer which we as citizen might not aware could be as below :

No Ramlal who is a mere tailor earning Rs 800/- a month have political vision or an urge to change India. No Nandu, who is the secretary of the local Ganesh Mandal have the funds to campaign and gain support for himself and No Ganpat, the auto-rickshaw driver has his reach beyond his chawl that he can see any chance to win. Some have a reasoning that it is to get some fame, but why would one put his self respect at stake where he know he is going to loose and will not even manage to get more than 200 votes.

The reason is simple, if you see the Big 70mm Maharashtra Picture in a Silver Screen size. As per the political analysts, many argue that MNS is backed by Congress-NCP to break the Sena-BJP Vote bank. What stops Sena-BJP or NCP-Cong or any political party to promote some Ramlals, Nandu and Ganpats where they see the opposition strong- atleast they would break away some votes of the opposition, thus making way for the prospect, their candidates. It is no secret formula, even the common man at the chai stall is heard talking on these lines....The second school of thought is that look at the reality shows thesedays- why would a mother give away her baby to Rakhee Sawant to mishandle in the Reality Show – Pati, Patni aur Woh ? For Money or for Fame – there can be no other option. Why would a family come to the reality show- Sach ka Saamna and break their relationships by divulging the dark secrets where the wife has slept with the neighbour – that too on the National television – again 2 reasons – Money or Fame.

In the case of Independents also – there can be the same 2 reasons – Money or Fame. Fame is not that important but money is. Ganpat knows that in the rest of his life which is 10 years @ Rs 800/-pm, he is going to make Rs 9,60,000/- and if he is offered Rs 5,00,000/- he would stand for the elections as the short fame would help him earn Rs 1000/-pm instead of Rs 800/-pm. One also speculated that like in the Sales Structure of products, they too have Slab structure where 500-1000 Votes gets him Rs 1 Lac, 1000-2000 Votes gets him Rs 3 Lac, 2000-5000 Votes gets him Rs 5 lacs and so on and less than 500 votes NIL. And ofcourse some basic expenses and small amount of Deposit covered.

But, as I write this, many would still be voting for Independents who could be friends or for a so-called incumbency or need of change, but am sure the results would show. Am sure out of 1800 Independents, we may see some winners too, but am sure they would have put in a lot of efforts and hard work in their areas and the voters would know it. The only appeal was to alert fellow citizens not to vote just for voting and because you don’t like A and don’t want B to come to power. Just think, analyse and act. At the end of it the beneficiary is you and the sufferer too !

And for the Independent Candidates – please put in some years of social service in your area- create some visibility of your work – and then go asking for votes –and then I assure you that even if your Election symbol is “Chappal” (shoe) or “Lota” (tumbler-which people in rural India still carry for washing their shits) people would vote for you and you would win - else thesedays, the citizen be it the literate junta or an illeterate junta - are getting smarter - they will not even let Amitabh Bachchan as an Independent Candidate win !

Monday 5 October 2009

Prepaid Taxis at Mumbai Airport on a looting spree !

Yesterday (4th Oct), I arrived from Delhi to Mumbai at the Mumbai Airport - Chatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport and proceeded to the PRE-PAID TAXI Counter in the Departure section and got myself a Pre-Paid Taxi booked by paying the designated fare plus Rs 10 Service Charges. This is a good service initiated by “Domestic Airport Pre-paid Taxi Service” especially better for foreigners who were forced to pay exhorbitant monies for cabs – I remember a cabbie asking me for Rs. 500 for a distance of Rs 60/- some years back and I said “bahargaon ka nahin hoon…ch***** banata hai?” (I am not from outstation, I belong to here and don’t try to fool me) and then he came half price and I had to bargain further as no cab was willing to travel by meter. I saw foreigners paying Rs. 700 for Airport-Juhu ride instead of Rs 110 and there was no process or system to stop this money exhorting act of the taxi-drivers. Thanks that the Pre-paid taxi system was introduced in Mumbai that faulty metered taxis and arrogant taxi drivers charging exhorbitant prices finally ceased to exist, though some might yet argue that private taxi’s like Meru and Mega Cab (022-44224422) are better and professional than these Unionized yellow black Fiat taxis of Mumbai.

While booking the cab at the counter – I was asked – do you have any bags and since I had only strolleys (60 cms X 40 cms) which we carry for week long holidays, I said no and they guy cut a receipt of taxi fare and service charges and no luggage charges, which are Rs 10 per bag of 70 cmsX50 cms (Pls see the scanned copy of the Receipt - circled area). Many fellow passengers with small kids and families declared these similar strolleys as bags, when they were asked “kitna bag hain” (how many bags do you have?) and the pre-paid counter guys added Rs 10 to each and billed them, which they conveniently paid.

When I moved out, I was directed to a cab by the private security agency (GIC) person and the taxi driver post seeing the receipt refused to move as he said I had 3 strolleys/trolleys and the receipt should have 3 luggages – ie. Rs. 30 more. I argued that all the bags are much smaller than the HUGE – 70cmsX50cms bags and hence I do not have to pay the luggage charges. He asked me to come with him to the pre-paid counter and I refused and asked him to get the manager of the “Domestic Airport Pre-paid Taxi Service” – The officer who cut the receipt came and said I will have to pay luggage charges and when I asked him to get the measure-tape and measure the size and threw some big names, he was scared and asked his manager to intervene. Being a Sunday, I was free and fighting for human rights is a passion and hence waited for the manager. Till the time Cops came and were quite supportive and literally screwed the Cabbies for refusing to go. Let me acknowledge the support of the constable Mr. Nalawade and his Senior colleague who acknowledge the behaviors of cabbies asking for extra money from the customers and since customers are in hurry and Rs. 20-30 is not a big deal, they silently pay up. Time is more important than money, but if you see collectively, which I saw- almost every 7 out of 10 passengers, depending on their outlook were charged 2-3 luggage charges and these 20-30 ruppees does not matterhad it been a Monday morning, even I might have paid, to reach early to office rather than saving a few bucks.

The manager came and he also tried telling that I have to pay luggage charges and when the cops also saw on the receipt explaining the bag size (70cmsX50cms), they cornered the manager and the manager asked the taxi driver to go without the luggage charges.

The taxi drivers in frustration were trying to explain that they have to wait for 7-8 hours in queue and there is a nexus wherein the extra money for luggage is shared between the taxi drivers, the union and the service agency which is roughly – Rs 1 Crore as per rough estimate and back of the envelope calculations ( Rs 86 lacs as per the rough calculation- 1700 taxis X 70% = 1190 X Rs. 20= Rs 23800 per day X 365 days = Rs. 86,87000/=)

In this age of RTI and empowerment of knowledge the key, in my small way, I want to help all fellow passengers understand the concept of luggage, which no one bothers to look at as the quantum of amount is small – The rule (on the receipt) says that any BIG BAG of more that 70cmsX50cms size only. The taxi drivers can not charge for any bag smaller than this and not even for Big hand-bags – however bulky they are or even cartons which are small. Since there is no weight system in India, the taxi drivers and the private authorities – hand in gloves are trying to make bug bucks – and the concept remains subjective – but it is clearly written in black and white on your Pre-Paid vouchers that the Luggage charges are for Bags above 70 cms X50 cms– though small for each one of us individually, but imagine these 20-30 bucks can buy food for a poor family.

Hope this helps all understand and fight for their rights and was quite happy to see the Mumbai Airport Police supportive to the customers. One can look for the cops around the area as the GIC Private Security guys are useless as they also get tips for positioning the taxis ahead. One can call Airport Police Station on 26156315 /09 or even a toll free number 1800 2099 596. (I tried calling all these numbers before writing on this article and they pick up calls). Understand that these 20-30 bucks are no big deal but the attitude to give in to corruption is a big deal and all of us talk about changing India all the while, when it is in our own hands – in our own small ways ! And yes – let us stop such unionized cabbies and agencies spoiling the name of our Mumbai and India right from the first step one enters the land !

Friday 4 September 2009

RACISM - The Slow Poisoning !

Human Rights being a close topic to my heart, my cousin Rajvir gave me a DVD of “AMERICAN HISTORY X” which I just saw. This was based on our discussion a while back on one of my friends being mugged in the South Africa by some localites and the recent racist attacks in Australia. One of us commented on the blacks as the spoilers with a past family incident of a group of blacks looting my cousin brother’s departmental shop in the US some years back. This movie was a touching one, clarifying the actual situation in the US and the fundamentals of racism to an extent that triggered me to write this piece.

Before we get into Racism, a summary of this 1998 American film directed by Tony Kaye – The film tells the story of two brothers, Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) and Daniel "Danny" Vinyard (Edward Furlong) of Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California. Both are extremely bright and charismatic students, and Derek is drawn into the neo-Nazi movement after their father, a firefighter, is murdered by a black drug dealer while trying to put out a fire in a South Central neighborhood. There is one Doctor who promotes anti-black activities and entices young whites to join. The gang commits acts of intimidation, such as damaging a store owned by a Korean and challenging basketball games against groups of black players, in order to win the basketball court as turf. One night while Derek is with his girlfriend, he kills two black gang members trying to steal his truck, and is sentenced to three years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.

In prison Derek joins the Aryan Brotherhood – the White prisoners lobby, but has differences over the group's friendly dealings with a Mexican gang. When he voices these opinions, he is quickly shut down by the other white supremacists, so Derek chooses to not associate with them any more and is beaten and raped in the showers. It is while working in the prison laundry room that Derek gradually becomes friends with a black inmate named Lamont (Guy Torry).

The story shows how Danny is influenced by his older brother's actions and ideology and how Derek, now radically changed by his experience in confinement, tries to prevent his brother from going down the same path. The movie is a hard one and also violent at some points, but leaves one with a one liner well said in the movie – “Life is too short to get pissed.”

WHAT IS RACISM ?

Although the term Racism usually denotes race-based prejudice, violence, discrimination, or oppression, the term can also have varying and hotly contested definitions. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, racism is a belief or ideology that all members of each racial group possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group or racial groups. The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines racism as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular racial group, and that it is also the prejudice based on such a belief. The Macquarie Dictionary defines racism as: "the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others." One can find a good content around the fundamentals of racism on
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism but if I were to define Racism, here it would go – An activity or action or a reaction for the benefit of an individual, community or a group by demeaning any other individual, community or a group is Racism. Racism is an action as well a reaction to an action. What our Indian colleagues are facing in India might be a reaction of something wrong done with them, maybe a threat of loosing out to our people in terms of success in jobs and life. Many brand Muslims as Terrorists which is absolutely wrong and racist thought, but that might be a reaction of 9/11 or 11/26 any multiple such incidents creating top of the mind recall as we marketing strategists would call.

Its not just the US ten years back, but also India since centuries witnessing Racism and doing absolutely negligible
to curb it. Below is some analysis on the same and certain actionables which can help the society at large. Racism is like chicken and egg story in a little different perspective. You can not kill and egg because there are chickens around to lay more eggs and you can not kill a chicken as there are enough eggs to create these chickens. What one can do is reduce the eggs and chickens – on a lighter note somebody rightly said – Go vegetarian !!

RACISM IN INDIA

India perhaps is not the victim of Racism but to an extent mother of racism too, there are many mothers though. Its hypocrisy to crib about our Indian students being victims to the recent Racist attacks in Australia or Shilpa Shetty being a victim of racism in the UK’s Big Brother Show by Jade Goody or the latest being SRK being detained at the US Airport recently or Imran Hashmi being denied a flat in Mumbai because of being a Muslim. There are enough evidences on the first one, but there is a huge chance the rest three examples might be real cases or also publicity stunts or overhyped claims – Its hypocrisy to crib about the same when we ourselves call our North East brother and sisters as “Chinki’s” or “Nepali”- even the Mizoram Chief Minister recently shared the same feelings in an International conference in July 2009- damn it – they are equal Indians….and we are the ones who is building another Al-Qaida or an LTTE within India by such negligence, soon we would see a Kashmir like situation where our brothers would feel more comfortable of becoming Chinese.

Its is ridiculous when most of Indians even today classify any fellow Indian living below the Tropic of Cancer as “Madrasi” – Its just illiteracy or rather failure of the education system in India which taught me some illogical subject called “Trigonometry” in school which I have never used or will use in life, instead of teaching “Ethincity” which could have defined our fellow brothers below the Tropic of Cancer as “Malayali”, “Tamil”, “Kanadiga” and so on…. Instead of calling them “Madrasi”. Living in Mumbai for more than 10 years, I still don’t understand why Non-Marathis in their local lingo or slang call every Maharashtrian a “Ghati” !!! This is racism or a seed to it and this is purely a failure on part of the Education system in India.

Well, its not today, but since the time of Kings ruling India that we had Un-touchable as a species in India and they even exist today. We flush in a lot of money after so many causes right from Health, Education etc but when it comes to Equality, we do not hear much – sometimes it feels atleast Mayawati is doing some good for Dalits even if people say she has a personal agenda – who does not have these days!

If one reads the recent newspaper (Times of India –September 2, 2009, Pg1 and Pg13), it shows the shameless side of India wherein the Government in the state of Rajasthan has instructed the Bureaucrats – the highest strata of India Civil Citizens – Indian Administrative Services Officers to stand up when an MP or an MLA (Public elected representative) comes. This ridicules the whole system and the essence of Racism at the highest order.

RACIST VIEWS ABOUT OUR MUSLIM BROTHERS IN INDIA- COMPARISON WITH TERRORISTS

Ofcourse as a Marketing Strategist, I would agree that if you keep on hearing every day that praying to this deity results in this or drinking water empty stomach is good, you start believing in the same – its nothing but “belief” which comes from repeated triggers, data points and repeated trends – the “belief” becomes “belief” – how weak or strong is a factor of “personal feeling multiplied by number of triggers touched”. The same has happened for our Muslim fellow citizen – 9/11 in the US, 1993 Bombay Bomb Blasts, The Black Tuesday Train blasts, 11/26 Gate of India attack added with reports on the D-Gang and perception of Pakistan, Kashmir etc has created a wrong image of every Muslim being a terrorist. Here, some one would hold Media and Politicians responsible, politicians to an extent of our Independence fighters with basic disconnect of letting India divide on Religion, which itself is a debatable topic. But, net net, such repeated events create a perception which overshadows and outnumbers one of Hindu Terrorist attacks and who can change this – the Media, Politicians and us. Some one rightly quoted – that “All Terrorists are not Muslims- the assassinator of Mahatma Gandi was a Maharastrian, the killer of Indira Gandhi was a Sikh and the killer of Rajiv Gandhi were LTTE – so one can not brand Muslims as terrors, but data has to change to change the perception and it is a collective process. Imagine, to top on it, our own ministers claiming that India knew about the 11/26 Terror Attacks in Mumbai shows how things could be hand-in-glows, but such important statements are buried and what remains are such perceptions which are racist and harmful to the society as a whole.

RACISM IN MUMBAI

Mumbai, the financial capital of India, has been in headlines offlate for racist attacks on North Indians. This was not the first type of such a racist attack in Mumbai. South Indians and Gujarati community has been on the point long back. The reason for the North Indian attacks by Raj Thackerey’s MNS Party has been analysed by analyst as a political move. The reason is somewhat reasonable from Mr. Thackerey’s perspective where everyday 10000 people from UP & Bihar come into Mumbai. But naturally, they use the infrastructure and make a living also at times chipping into the livings of the local maharashtrians. There are job quotas already for localites and the jobs the so called “North Indians” do would never be doable as per the dignity of a Maharashtrian. Asked commonly, a maharashtrian would refuse to milk cows, drive a cab, launder the clothes. These jobs are largely done by the North Indians in Mumbai. Similarly, most waiters and cooks in Mumbai are from East India- Bengali and Oriyas. Well, it’s a matter of an eco system – who fits in fits in and who doesn’t doesn’t. But, any political party, especially a new one, would need an agenda and it was a successful agenda, but the same resulted in disharmony and racism at the ground levels. The strategy at the top is different and the repercussions on the grounds are different, which is a known fact and that creates the gap here. I always think of why no one thinks of the Illegal Bangladeshis immigrants in Mumbai who could cause terror too or the illegal local urban poor increasing the slums and encroaching lands in Mumbai – guess this segment might be sensitive from a votebank perspective versus the former which has its own niche.

RACISM ON INDIANS IN OTHER COUNTRIES

When there is so much of Racism within India, how much do we speak of the same outside. But the fact remains, the same is a huge concern with more than 14 attacks in a period of 30 days on Indian students in Australia.

We would have heard of racism against our fellow Indians in the US, Middle East, UK etc, but this time, the frequent series of racist attacks and the role of Media has somewhat helped us notice and feel the heat more.

Just guaranteeing the victims of racism in Australia some seats in colleges in India or the foreign minister wasting the tax payers money to go to Australia does not solve the purpose. Though there have been political acknowledgements and regrets on both sides – the same is not justified. Ofcourse, various students groups and associations have come out and protested and that is the way out to begin with. The Indian High commissioner should have been thrown out long back, but guess no one dares to or no one is really concerned.

It is not just Indians who are victims here. It’s the worldwide phenomenon where people are classified as BLACKS (Primarily from Africa), BROWNS (Asians), YELLOWS (Chinese) who are seen as lower strata as compared to the WHITES (British, Americans). My work has helped me visit many countries and have friends from various ethnicities and castes. They on a personal note have spoken about their insecurities from Asians, who are perceived to be aggressive, go-getters and smarter lots with cheaper cost, who can snatch their breads. Infact, racism is something, which exist almost everywhere – not just amongst foreigners but within their own people too – for eg. One of my friend had diverse views on Jews. Similarly, there were huge differences in the Christians – Roman Catholics and Protestants.

We need to agree that universally, the Eco system is something which can not be changed entirely or overnight (there always would be a higher and lower strata in the society), but definitely things can be better for all. Somehow, Australian attacks have given us a clue to look at racism in a different view

(1) by coming out in unity, without any political backdrop, but as citizen like in Australia.
(2) by creating more awareness on ethnicity and culture right at the ground levels. Here, media would play a big role.
(3) To remind the relevant authorities as citizens about their duties on Racism control and Human rights. Also working along with agencies and organizations (NGOs) by sparing some of our time and energy towards this cause.
(4) Treat a lower strata person with equal respect and dignity (servant, cab driver, beggar, urchins, call centre cold callers etc)
(5) The movie “American History X” left me with a single line learning which I would repeat – Life is too short to get pissed !

Friday 2 January 2009

Bandhavgarh – The best place on earth to encounter the Tiger !

January 28, 2009, Bandhavgarh, MP - It was the 5:00 AM in the morning and viz.a.viz a 35 Degrees of temperature, it was 8 Degrees in Bandhavgarh National Park (BG), Madhya Pradesh. We knew it would be cold, but not this cold. Our Thermals, Sweaters, Jackets, Monkey Caps were not at all enough and we had to take 2 blankets each from the Hotel as we left in our Open Gypsy for encountering the Pride of India – the Tiger !

Day 1- (Morning Safari (1)- As we reached the Park gate –4 of us -  Me, my wife Sheetal, my cousin Hetal and her hubby Abhishek-  we paid the park fees (Guess Rs 100/-) and fees for using Digital Cameras (Guess Rs 50/-) and Handycams (guess 200/-) and there were around 30 Jeeps in queue. All were being allotted a Guide (the tribals were trained to guide by the forest dept and this generated a livelihood for them and it was compulsory to have one, Cost, Rs 200/- guess). Here too, one has to sign an undertaking that the park or government will not be responsible for any accident/death etc. This made Sheetal a bit nervous !

Also allotted to each jeep were different routes - A,B,C,D within the park, so the park is not crowded in one area. The Rule was that the Zone Token has to be kept and abided till 8:00AM and then post all come to the centre (choice is yours) for some tea, refreshments (You get there and ideally hotel you stay pack it in a basket for you – toast, sandwich, paranthas, juice etc), one is free to roam anywhere in the park. How it works is that when all the Jeeps meet at the Centre point, all the drivers exchange their feedbacks and then all rush to the area/zone where the movement of tiger was seen in the early morning. Thanks to our government linkages, thanks to Dr. Nigam Uncle, dad of my colleague Gaurav Nigam, that our visit was radioed to the forest officials and local police and we were given VIP Entry where in we were free to get into whichever zone we wished to. The driver was smart and took us to the C Route where in the last safari the earlier evening a tiger was seen very closely.

As we moved in, it was still pitch dark and the headlines were on the first encounter was of a herd of deer – around 30-40 of them crossing our path. Their eyes hone in the lights of the headlight and so did their skins… We moved further. Well, actually the experience of the jungle early in the morning is so fascinating and beautiful that no blog, no photographer can express the same. Soon, the day broke and the forest became light orange post the violet blue shade as it Hussain was stroking his brush.
The driver, post watching all the deers, wild boars, sambhars and monkeys  directly took us to the area where the earlier evening the Tiger was seen. As soon as we reached there, the driver and the guide, started look down as they drove very slowly - they were looking for the fresh pug marks of the Big Cat – a tried and tested method of finding a tiger and tracking its movement. They found and showed us – and we were excited ! Another way to find the big cat movement was to follow the “Call” – the call means – when a deer or monkey sees a tiger walking – they would make a panic sound which would echo in the jungle – when the cat is sitting, they wont shout. The guide, driver would try to move towards the sound and then would wait somewhere to welcome the Tiger. We too did the same and the wait was becoming unending and we were becoming impatient. Post a long wait we went to the centre at 8 and to addon to our frustration, we met other tourists showing their photos and video clips of the tiger they encountered on Route A. Nothing could have been more frustrating in life than this ! But, one thing which we sighted that others did not and the same is not so easy sighting is a Jackal with a fawns head (baby dear killed) in its mouth whom we chased around for 5 minutes !


Post my SA Experience, this is my first Indian Wild Life Experience. Expectations were high and it was my India to prove that its no lesser than Africa ! We chose Bandhavgarh as the park is smaller as compared to other parks and the density is also not too much and thus probability of encountering His Highness of Her Highness of the Jungle was much higher ! So I was trying to play a short shot and my confidence shattered in my first safari from 6 to 10 AM as we did not see what we came for.  But, we had planned for a 3 Days/2 Nights in BG which means 5 Safaris – 3 Morning (6-10AM) and 2 Evening Safaris (2 to 5 PM).

We went to the Route A but as the Jungle rule goes the probability of the Tiger viewing is highest between 6-7:30 AM and between 5-6:00PM – nearing dark. When there is sun over the head, the big cat too rests in shady places ! So post our futile safari, we returned back to the Hotel. And to addon salt on wound was a board at the Safari Entrance/exit saying – “you may or may not see the tiger, but for sure, he is seeing you” ;(((

Day 1- Evening Safari (2): Recharged with our motivation, we hit back at the Park for the afternoon safari and somehow rather than exploring the beautiful jungle our solo objective of coming to BG was becoming too too evident – just give us the Tiger and maybe god heard of our greedy wish and as we went to route A – we finally saw the Majestic Cat – but was a 500 m away ! We were satisfied but not much ! After enjoying the scene, the driver &  the guide – a different one at each safari – told us that they would explore a water lake where the tigers come to drink water (but usually in summer – 110% chances of viewing remains, subject to you bearing 45 degrees heat !) and at a place called Sidh Baba temple area. We asked the guide how and we were told another Rule of the Jungle – Each tiger marks his/her own territory – by pissing on the trees and scratching on them with the sharp nails and no other tiger would dare to enter the others territories. So, it means that in a 10 sq km area, you would definitely have a tiger, a tigress or two and some cubs for sure – its then your luck – how and when do you spot them. But, seems lady luck still chose not to smile at us !

Day 2- Morning Safari (3) : Again an early morning safari with more excitement and hopes. We chose Route B as the forest officer wanted to oblige us by leaking the news of hearing the tigers roar there. We roamed and followed the same process to locate the Big Cat. In a day, we too were experts to identify the pug marks and listen to calls. An hour passed by and futile. Soon we passed the Sidh Baba Temple (with a Shiv Ling) and my wife and sis prayed to the god – give us a tiger… we still roamed and then came the best moment of our lives – as we re-passed the Sidh Baba temple once created by the local tribals – the driver screeched and stopped – and at a distance of 4 ft – a huge 8 ft big Tiger walked out of the meadows, stopped, stared us eye to eye, walked, stopped, changed poses and slowly moved up the hill. This was for 60 Seconds – but each second was orgasmic – our cameras and handycams would too swear ! You could have seen the shiver in each of our spines and the awestruck faces were like a kid being amazed to see a rabbit out of a magicians hat ! Thanks to Sidh Baba – we did gave the local guide Rs 51/- to offer a coconut and flowers to the Almighty for this obligation – and almighty only knew whether these reached him or not ;)

We were too satisfied and flaunted our experience and the Centre at 8:00 AM and the best part was we were the only Jeep who encountered this and no others. Well, now we were motivated enough to explore the rest of the jungle post getting what we came for.
Day 2- Evening Safari (4) : Being satisfied with what we saw in the morning, we explored the beautiful jungle in the 2nd half and then understood that well, tiger ofcourse was what one comes for, the real beauty of the jungle is what overrides everything else – the landscape, the trees, the mountains, the plains, the flowers, the other animals and the entire feel of the forest – the air, the scent and the energy, which pen can not explain neither a camera could !

Day 3- Morning Safari (5) : This was probably another lucky day. As we entered the park, the rumors were already around that there was a young tiger in the rocky area a few kilometers away. We directly rushed there and there were a few jeeps lined up for something unique called the elephant safari or the tiger show. The forest team on 2-3 elephants would leave early morning tracking the movement of the big cat and once traced would inform the jungle authorities, which would open limited bookings for the show. Rs 150 or Rs 200 per person. Soon 4 of us boarded the elephant which started climbing up the hillock. We never knew the elephant could climb almost vertically on a rocky terrain and every mover was a shaker filled with fear for us, thinking we may fall anytime as we weeded past the bushes brushing almost us and saving our heads and faces from tree branches and wild thorns. Soon, the mahout (rider) who guides the elephant in hindi shouts ‘ruk’, which means stop and we see a tiger walking on the rocks just 10 feets away. Soon the mahout takes us closer and the tiger climbs down and sits near a tree. What a scene, what a posture and the moment of his opening his mouth roaring as we almost wet our pants added by the fearful thought of what if we fall down the elephant as there are no safety belts or covered seats. And what if the elephant fearfully sits down in front of the tiger ? but the mahout told  us that both the elephants fear and respect each other and rarely a tiger attacks. We took closer looks and captured all the moments in our digicam and handicams. Soon the big cat started walking and the elephant too followed. There was another elephant from the otherside with other tourists and the tiger was just in between. It stopped, did a fashion show type of walk and climbed the cliff again. This was a superb and a very close experience. There are 3 elephants which does a 5 minutes show each on turn. Luck is a factor that the tiger has to stay closeby and the elephant takes one to the closest. On the positive side, this is a unique initiative of the forest department to ensure that no unlucky tourists go without seeing a tiger and on the negative, this is interference in the wild and maybe the tiger is too used to the elephant and tourists coming to see it daily, so then its not the wildest wild tiger, but all said and done, it is a great great experience to see the big cat so close with all the risks on the elephant back  !!



Soon we moved ahead and it was a double whammy for us… soon a tiger from no where emerged out of the bushes and started walking on the road. We followed it for 2 minutes and then it moved towards a tree and started scratching it and peeing on it to mark his territory – what a rare sight to see the cat almost climbing the tree to scratch it with its sharp nails. This rendezvous lasted for 10 long minutes and then the cat vanished into the forest. Soon the time to come out was coming closer and we moved ahead with the most satisfying wildlife day of our lives !

Day 3- Afternoon Safari (6) : As we saw in a BG documentary, there was a priest who stayed in the BG fort and temple 811 m above the sealevel and the tigers used to come and sit next to him since years. He had died, but the temple is still around. We hired a jeep and went up there to have a look at the beautiful fort. The route over the hill was superb and good for sighting vultures and tortoises near the temple. And if one is lucky, once can surely sight tigers here, but guess we had enough for our BG Trip, 5 Safaris and 4 tigers sightings – that too 3 of them from a 4-5 feet distance, what else could one ask for !

Location

Bandhavgarh National Park is one of the wild life sanctuaries in the Indian state Madhya Pradesh. The national park is situated at 197 km away north-east of Jabalpur. This wild life park derived its very name from an ancient fort in the area. Bandhavgarh National Park belongs to the Vindhyan mountain ranges of central India and it boasts to have the highest density of tiger population in the country. Now there are about 46 to 52 tigers one can spot here. Bandhavgarh National park is located in Umaria District on the extreme north eastern border of Madhya Pradesh.

The terrain is of great rocky hills rising sharply from the swampy and densely- forested valley bottoms. The finest of these hills is Bandhavgarh, sided with great cliffs and eroded rocks, and on its highest point stands Bandhavgarh fort, thought to be some 2,000 years old. Scattered throughout the park, and particularly around the fort, are numerous caves containing shrines and ancient Sanskrit inscriptions.

Covering 448 sq. km., Bandhavgarh is situated in Shahdol district among the outlying hills of the Vindhya range. At the centre of the park is Bandhavgarh hill, rising 811 mt above MSL. Surrounding it are a large number of smaller hills separated by gently sloping valleys. These valleys end in small, swampy meadows, locally known as 'Bohera'. The lowest point in the park is at Tala (440 mt above MSL). The vegetation is chiefly of Sal forest in the valleys and on the lower slopes, gradually changing to mixed deciduous forest on the hills and in the hotter, drier areas of the park in the south and west. Bamboo is found throughout.

Bandhavgarh National Park is spread at vindhya hills in Madhya Pradesh. Bandhavgarh National Park consists of a core area of 105 sq km and a buffer area of approximately 400 sq km of topography varies between steep ridges, undulating, forest and open meadows. Bandhavgarh National Park is known for the Royal Bengal Tigers. The density of the Tiger population at Bandhavgarh is the highest known in India.

History

Prior to becoming a National park, the forest around Bandhavgarh had long been maintained as a Shikargah, or game preserve, of the Maharajahs of Rewa. Hunting was carried out by the Maharajahs and their guests - otherwise the wildlife was relatively well-protected. It was considered a good omen for a Maharajah of Rewa to shoot 109 Tigers. His highness Maharajah Venkat Raman Singh shot 111 Tigers by 1914.

Bandhavgarh has a very deep-rooted importance of it's own in the history and mythology of India. Looming high over the entire park and located in the heart of it's core area, is a fort dating back to the mythological era of Rama and Hanuman from the Hindu epic Ramayana. It is said that the two monkeys who created the "setu", or bridge, between India and Lanka to enable Rama to cross over and vanquish the demon king, Rawana, were also the architects of the Bandhavgarh fort. This fort was used by Rama and Hanuman on their journey back to their kingdom from Lanka. This fort was later handed over by Rama to his brother Lakshmana who came to be known as the "Bandhavdhish", lord of the fort.
This title is still used by the Maharaja of Rewa, who even presently owns the fort. It is thus necessary to procure his permission before entering the fort. This permission can however be obtained locally. In the northern areas of the park is where you will come across the oldest indicators of bygone eras. These are caves dug into sandstone and carry "brahmi" inscriptions dating back to the 1st century BC. The Chandela kings of bundelkhand, who are famous for the Khajuraho Temples built by them, also ruled Bandhavgarh. The ancestors of the Maharaja of Rewa were the Baghela Kings who started their rule here in the 12th century. Bandavgarh was the capital of their dynasty till 1617 after which it moved to Rewa, which was 120 km to the North. Due to this moving of the capital, Bandhavgarh went through a period of neglect in the times to follow. This was in one way a boon for the present forest present there.

Once this area got taken over by forest cover, the animals in the area too began to multiply. The negative aspect to this was that the royal family and their guests started using it as a hunting reserve. This continued until the Maharaja decided to hand it over, minus the area inside the fort, to the government.

Flora And Fauna

The Bandhavgarh National Park is a jungle consisting mainly of bamboo and Sal trees. Only on higher sides the vegetation changes to Sali, Sage, Saja, Dhobin etc.

There are more than 22 species of mammals. Carnivores include Tiger, Leopard, the Asiatic jackal, Bengal Fox, Sloth Bear, Ratel, Gray Mongoose, Striped Hyena, Jungle Cat, Common Langurs and Rhesus Macaque represent the primate group. Around 250 species of birds like Little Grebe, Egret, Lesser Adjutant Saru Crane, Black Ibis, Lesser Whistling Teal, White- eyed Buzzard, Black Kite, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black Vulture etc.



The Famous Tigers of Bandhavgarh
Bandhavgarh has the highest density of Bengal tigers known in the world, and is home to some famous named individual tigers. Charger, an animal so named because of his habit of charging at elephants and tourists (whom he nonetheless did not harm), was the first healthy male known to be living in Bandhavgarh since the 1990s. A female known as Sita, who once appeared on the cover of National Geographic and is considered the most photographed tiger in the world,[citation needed] was also to be found in Bandhavgarh for many years. Most of the tigers of Bandhavgarh today are descendants of Sita and Charger.
Another female, known as Mohini, became prominent following Sita's death. She gave birth to three cubs: B1; B2; and B3, from whom she was separated in 2003 following a vehicle accident and an incident in which tourists separated her from the cubs. She later died of her wounds from the vehicle accident.
Charger died in 2002. Between 2003 and 2006 his family met with a series of unfortunate ends. B1 was electrocuted and B3 was killed by poachers. Sita was killed by poachers. Mohini died of serious wounds to her body. The fully grown B2 survived as the dominant male in the forest between 2004 and 2007, mating with a female in the Siddhubaba region of Bandhavgarh and fathering three cubs. One of them was a male. This new male was first sighted in 2008 and is now Bandhavgarh's dominant male; however, one of his daughters has been known to mate with another male tiger who is likely to challenge B2's son for the crown.

Structure
Tourists are restricted to an area of 105 km² of the park, known as the Tala range. However this area is richest in terms of biodiversity, mainly tigers. There are four more ranges in the reserve namely – Magdhi, Kallwah, Khitauli and Panpatha. Together, these five ranges comprise the 'Core' of the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve constituting a total area of 694 km². The buffer zone is spread over the forest divisions of Umaria and Katni and totals another 437 km². The legal status as a national park dates back to 1968, but was limited only to the present Tala range for a considerable length of time. In 1993 the present scheme of things was put in place.
Sight Seeing
  • Bandhavgarh Fort
  • Baghel Museum
  • Village Tala
  • Mahaman Pond
  • Climber's Point
  • Bari Gufa etc.


Activities Planned
Bird watching, Jungle Safari, Visit to Fort, Wildlife excursion in the National Park by Jeep and elephants

The Fort
No records remain to show when Bandhavgarh Fort was constructed. It is thought, however, to be some 2,000 years old, and there are references to it in the ancient books, the Narad-Panch Ratra and the Siva Purana. Various dynasties have ruled this fort: for example, the Maghas from the 1st century AD, the Vakatakas from the 3rd century; the Sengars from the 5th century and the Kalchuris from the 10th century. In the 13th century AD, the Baghels took over, ruling from Bandhavgarh until 1617, when Maharajah Vikramaditya Singh moved his capital to Rewa. The last inhabitants deserted the fort in 1935

Best Time To Visit
The ideal season for Tiger sighting is from October to June. The park is closed from July 1st to September 30th.

Weather
The temperature ranges from a maximum of 42 degrees in May and June to around 4 degrees in Winter. The mean annual rainfall is 1,1173 mm.

What To Wear
Light clothes preferably in beige or jungle greens in summers with the definite inclusion of cap and dark glasses. During winters, especially between the Month of November and February, carry warm clothing for chilly mornings and misty evenings.

How To Reach
By Air : The routes to Bandhavgrah are either by air to Khajuraho ( 210 kms) or Jabalpur ( 170) kms from the national park.

By Rail : The nearest railheads are Jabalpur ( 170 kms), Katni ( 102kms), And Satna ( 112kms) on the Central railway and Umaria ( 30 kms) on the South Eastern Railway.
Places to stay – We stayed at a superb property called Mapple Bundela. The best and the most luxurious property is Taj Mahua Kothi and there are properties for all budgets right from Rs 1500 per night to Rs 25000 per night available. Some of the good properties are :
Infinity Resort, Bagh Sarai Resorts, Nature Heritage Resort, Tiger Trails Resort, Baghela Resort, Salvan, Hotel Narmada Palace, Tiger Hut Resort, Nature Heritage Resort, Churhat Kothi,  Tiger Den Resort, Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge, Maharaja Royal Retreat,  Tiger Trails Resort