Save The Symmetry - CC#2

It was a hot summer night. The rumble of the diesel engine penetrated into the darkness. The passengers in the jeep were all silent.  If you were travelling with them, up ahead in the distance you could see the flickering fire line on the hills. You could smell the burnt wood and the smoke and feel the rustle on the warm air against your face. As the jeep took a U-turn, there was a quick movement on the road.  For a fleeting second or two, two burning eyes flashed across. Sensing danger, the driver slammed the brake and the vehicle came to a halt. There, in the middle of the road, standing in full glory, was a majestic, fully grown, Royal Bengal Tiger.

Now, the above were the words of my grandfather. I was fortunate to hear many such tiger tales. Yes, tigers are majestic animals. They are revered & respected, awed & admired and loved & loathed at the same time. They feature prominently in our mythology, folklore, movies and literature.

However, since the time of my grandfather, lot of water has flown under the bridge. Lots of forests have been cut down. Lots of tigers have been killed. The tiger is now reduced to pixels flashing on the screen. We see them only on the National Geographic or on forwarded face book posts.

Today, the reality of tigers is quite sad.

The global population of wild tigers at the start of the 20th century was more than 100,000. Today, it is less than 4000.  There are only 1500 adult tigers in the wild in India. World over, there were 9 existing sub-species of tigers at the beginning of 20th century.  But, over the last 50 years, 3 tiger sub-species have become extinct. The major cause of decimation of tigers is habitat destruction and poaching.  The situation is alarming. If we do not act now, very soon there will not be a single tiger left in the wild.

You may be wondering how it matters to you if the tiger continues to live or gets extinct. Let me remind you that the tiger is our national animal. It is our pride. This by itself is reason enough for us to save the tiger. But there is a scientific reason too. With tigers getting extinct, the populations of prey species would drastically increase. They would then ravage the jungles. End of jungles would mean the end of the biggest suppliers of oxygen and a significant drop in rainfall. As per ecologists a tiger is an umbrella species. By saving them, we rescue every species under their ecological umbrella. The presence of tigers in the forest is an indicator of the well being of the ecosystem. Its extinction is an indication that its ecosystem is not sufficiently protected, and neither would it exist for long thereafter; Break down of the eco-system would threaten our own existence.

You may be thinking what can I do here? Well each of us has a role to play. Please lend a hand for tiger conservation. You can influence those people that are a part of your lives. Educate them about this issue. Get them involved. Further, you can help financially to causes such as Project Tiger. You can help the cause in any way you can. It can be as small as liking their face book page or subscribing to the feeds on tiger conservation efforts and increasing the awareness.

My grandfather had a huge collection of books. Whenever I went to our village, I would rummage through the book shelves. A particular poem in an old dog-eared book of poetry had caught my attention.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright - In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye   - could frame thy fearful symmetry

Poet William Blake in those famous lines asked the tiger whose immortal hands created it. I do not know if the tiger could answer that back; but today if someone asks whose hand is responsible for the death of tigers, we all know it is ours – the humans. A stitch in time saves nine. The same hand can save the tiger as well. Let us join our hands and with our collective effort, try to save the tiger. Let us save the beautiful symmetry. 

The Road Not Travelled

My first love for books and stories started may be when I was 2 or 3 when my mother used to read me stories from Odia magazines - Manapabana and Shishu Raija.  Apparently, I used to memorize those stories and pretended to read them aloud while holding the magazine upside down. Slowly Janhamamu became a regular feature at our house.  Then came those hard bound Russian books for children that were available in India in late 70s early 80s. When I started reading myself, I discovered the joys of Chandamama and later, Champak, Tinkle and Target. At the same time I was introduced to the world inhabited by the superheroes of our time - My favorites were Phantom - The Ghost who walks (Indrajal comics) , followed by Superman (Dalton Comics) , Robin and the elusive Batman and Spiderman. Batman and Spiderman comics were not in much supply. Then there were Indian superheroes like Bahadur and Chacha Chowdhury. Moving on I devoured the Famous Five and Nancy Drew series and before I knew it, I was hooked on to proper books.  Our very own Ruskin Bond had a prime place. Later it was the Russians like Turgenev and Dostoevsky and Indian stalwarts like Mulk Raj Anand and RK Narayan that kept me awake at night.

Apart from novels and storybooks, when I was in school, I also loved poems. I enjoyed reading them; memorized them by heart and cherished them. I also liked writing - short stories, small articles on general interest, and even tried my hand at poems. I wanted to study Literature. I wanted to become a writer, a poet, an author. But I knew there was no job for a poet. There were many authors walking around with a jhola.  In my small circle of friends, no one really appreciated a poet. No one appreciated reading literature. No one appreciated the finer facets in life. Maths was considered macho and Science was supposed to be super cool. Arts was for the duds who could not stand up to the fury of science.

But my choice between Arts and Science was not based on those idiotic opinions. It was a pragmatic decision. If I studied Arts and pursued my passion, I felt it would be a lot tough to earn a living. So, when the time arrived to take a decision, I ditched my passion. I took up science after 10th. I just took the easy way out. In India in the early 90s, when the windows of liberalization were opening up, my outlook was limited to just 2 career choices for any science student pursuing +2.  Those were: Either Medical or Engineering. And, there were just 3 medical colleges in my state and 5 engineering colleges. You had to crack the Joint Entrance Exam to get through either. It was not like how it is now, that everyone who appears the exam gets a rank and can take admission in one of the hundreds of engineering colleges in each state. Back then, cracking the entrance was a make or break turning point in life for most of us. There again, competition for Medical was even tougher than that for engineering. Getting into Medical college was real difficult. So, I made my choice. I choose the path of least resistance and took the easy way out. I went for Engineering, the easier between the 2 difficult choices.

Have you ever thought why you choose what you chose? What were the considerations and how has life been different because of those choices? Though life has not been bad because of the choices that I made, I sometimes wonder how life would have been if I would have taken the road less traveled. What struggles would I have faced and how I would have been molded because of them. I am sure, even after 25 years, most of the things remains the same. Most of us just take the easy way out. We do not go after what really interests us. We just go with the herd mentality and do what others do. Going after passion is difficult. Going after passion is the hard way. Going after passion is fulfilling. But foregoing our passions and taking the easy way out is what most of us do, inadvertently. And that becomes the road not traveled. Given a choice, where would you go?

Elan Toastmasters Meeting # 152

Meeting # 152: Elan Toastmasters was special in many ways. The meeting was a heady cocktail of masterful emceeing, sterling speeches and dazzling evaluations.
SAA TM Braja opened the meeting and President TM Sudha welcomed the guests. Then, DTM Alfred, the Toastmaster of the day, had the ball rolling with the theme as Football World cup. We were treated to interesting tidbits about football, how a football team can be compared with a toastmaster club and how important team work is in both cases.
Then TM Manish spoke about the 10 heads - The five that criticize him and the 5 that enthuse him in all his endeavors. Vocal variety was at its best display. Each of the heads was represented by a character that spoke in its own style. I would say, TM Manish really hit the nail in the head by telling us that we should silence all our critics and just get it done.
The TM Padma told a priceless story about a salesman. He completely engaged the audience by painting a picture of the scene and with the right mix of emotions, gestures and flawless delivery, he mesmerized us. We understood what the basic ingredients are to become a successful sales man.
We then had some interesting games organized by Alfred which was quite innovative and had the audience rolling on the floor laughing.
This was followed with a good table topics session led by TM Pranay.
The evaluation were as superb as the speeches. Both the evaluators TM Naqi and TM Shashank were spot on with their analysis and provided specific and helpful suggestions. Thanks to the GE TM Vijay and all other role players TM Sharath, TM Sreekanth, TM Braja, TM Aravind and TM Veera for taking up the roles.
We also witnessed a change of guard, wherein the ex President conducted the installation ceremony for the new EC.The new president TM Sudha gave the presidential address and all members took oath to serve and support the club and its members.
This meeting was unique in at least 3 ways:

  • This was a meeting where in one TM won 3 ribbons. TM Naqi won the Best Table Topics Speaker, Best Evaluator and Best Listener award.
  • In this meeting there were 4 speakers who did not have a single filler word: TM Naqi, TM Manish, TM Padma and TM Sudha.
  • The meeting CLOSED with Samosa and colddrinks!
 Hope you all enjoyed this.