Friday, June 6, 2014

The wild side of Nature.

Updated: June 5, 2014 18:58 IST
The girls and their mentors at Gir National Park.
  • Special Arrangement The girls and their mentors at Gir National Park.

Two Madurai girls share some amazing moments they experienced in the company of Asiatic lions at the Gir National Park

Thirteen-year-old Nethra Aravind and 12-year-old Saro Jayashree Badri show a picture of a lion, with his blood-stained mouth gaping wide revealing his teeth. You may expect them to comment on the fearful experience of encountering the wild beast, instead Nethra and Saro comment on the lighting and the composition of the photo. “The lion had just had his breakfast,” explains Saro. A few photography workshops and a recent trip to the Gir National Park have taught them the value of nature and wildlife. “This was my first trip to a forest and I absolutely enjoyed it,” says a thrilled Nethra. “I never thought I would fall so much in love with the lions. I miss them,” says Saro.
The kids were accompanied by journalist-cum-wildlife photographer Kamal Sahai from Delhi who runs an informal children’s group in Delhi called ‘Teens for Tigers’. He held a couple of photography workshops in Madurai. Wildlife enthusiast from Madurai, Nandini Murali also accompanied them. “The week-long trip has transformed the children completely. They have started to love the forest, the trees, the animals and the birds,” says Nandini.
Speaking of the Teens for Tiger group, Nandini says she wants to replicate the same in Madurai. “The workshop was an eye-opener. The children learnt basic techniques and also developed a sense of the art,” says Nandini. The ‘Teens for Tiger’ group has been going into the tiger reserve of Ranthambore and shooting picture of tigers for the past four years. “They also come up with table-top calendars with the photos. It’s a great way to sensitise the younger generation towards our forest wealth. We have started a children’s group called ‘Voices of the wild’, that will take up similar activities,” says Nandini. Their next trip has been planned to the Yala National Park in Sri Lanka in December.
Both Saro and Nethra are grateful they were allowed to go on the safari to Gir. “The first day, we couldn’t spot a lion and we were disappointed,” says Saro. “But the second safari threw a surprise as this full-grown lion came walking towards our jeep and passing close to the vehicle. We held our breath in fright and excitement.” Saro’s dad lent her his prized camera for the trip.
“The forest taught us to be observant, perseverant, patient and confident,” says Nethra. “We also learnt how the lions live as packs in harmony, how they hunt and eat and so on.”
Nandini refers to child advocacy expert Richard Louv’s Last child in the woods. “In the book he says that we live in a nature-deficit society and that our children should be saved from the disorder,” points out Nandini. “The only way out is to expose them to the beauty of nature at a younger age.”

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