Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tiru Uncle

Salim Ali
Salim Ali (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Before Dr. Brady Barr and Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin; before Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey; even before Jim Corbett and Salim Ali; long before we were old enough to spell 'conservation', we knew what it was all about. 
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In a small town like Bharuch, legendary status is tough to obtain. People meet each other all too frequently on the streets and know of each other's most embarrassing secrets all too well for that to happen. But the mind of kids is a different matter. A professional snake wrangler is pretty assured of super stardom.
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This is all I knew about Tiru Uncle and it was enough : he was a cowboy hat wearing individual, the one to call in case a snake showed up in your neighbourhood. Correspondingly, I also knew that it was wrong to kill a snake, no matter how poisonous and evil and slithery it looked. Because Tiru Uncle would swoop in and take it away to let it live in the snake enclosure of his Deer Park, the closest thing we had to a zoo in our little town in southern Gujarat.
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One day, a silvery snake came wandering about a construction site near our neighbourhood. Not being the best as far as eyesight goes, it thought it could camouflage itself in a dune of construction sand. Bad choice. The alarm was raised and the saviour was hailed. Tiru Uncle armed with only a gunny sack & a long rod solved the situation, saving lives, both human and snake. 
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Impressed as I was, I noted with some dismay, he wasn't wearing a cowboy hat the one time I saw him and he was balding. It did ruin just a little bit my Indiana Jones image-by-imagination of him.
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It is National Park Week in the US from the 19th of April to the 27th, a time for all nature (and history) lovers to rally behind all that is precious but has no price tag. Conserving nature in all its glory is a relatively new idea. Most of human history we have spent planning how to conquer it.
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As long as there are people like Tiru Uncle bustling about in every remote corner of the world, and there are such people, we stand a very good chance of preserving what we have left. We are lucky to have some wonderful roommates on this planet of ours and some wonderful human beings who fight for them. If there is one place where the wild & free have a permanent place, it is inside the child in us all. Once that flame of wonder is sparked, there's no shutting it down.
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