Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter

Finding time for nature can be helpful as it promotes positive body image. Pixabay


Now that the ‘grand reset’ is in place, the world which we always took for granted has started slipping away from our grasp. But don’t just lose heart. Maybe it’s the best thing to have happened to us in a long, long time. The swiftness with which nature has struck back has left us in awe. The two-month-old videos of dolphins returning in the canals of Venice, or a family of geese walking with gay abandon on the tarmac of Tel Aviv Airport have become passe. The changes are happening all around and at breathtaking speed, in whichever part of the globe, we may be.

Sipping my first cup of tea in the morning, I can hear more bird songs than I remember from the balcony of my flat in Delhi. The sky has turned decidedly bluer, the butterflies in the parks have started fluttering around in larger numbers. I am getting similar reports from Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Jaisalmer, and many other places. The tipping point, of course, would be reached after the return of frogs and sparrows. These two, arguably the strongest indicators of a healthy environment in cities, were among the first to leave India’s metros, as our electric gadgets, fuel-guzzling automobiles, and other creature comforts started creating bigger carbon footprint in the jungles of concrete.

My own experience as a nature photographer and wildlife filmmaker helped me observe some of the changes, even before the arrival of coronavirus. Only, most of us did not notice or pay heed to the positive changes. While some of these have been brought about by decisive intervention, others have happened by deliberate non-intervention on our part. The trick is to know which button to push without losing the sacred connection.

Tucked away in one corner of Uttarakhand and overshadowed by ‘big brother’ Corbett National Park is the almost forgotten Rajaji Tiger Reserve. Most people return from the edge of this enchanting place, after performing the ritualistic Ganga aarti at Haridwar’s Har-Ki-Paudi. Till about two decades ago, Rajaji Park was on a ventilator, so to speak. With no viable tiger population left, the park was at the tender mercies of thousands of ‘van gujjars’ whose makeshift abodes and large number of cattle were playing havoc with the national park’s eco-system.

The swiftness with which nature has struck back has left us in awe. Pixabay

At one point, it seemed like inevitible curtains for the park’s sprawling sal forests, grasslands, valleys and whatever wildlife it was left with. And then, the big change happened. Almost overnight, a few well meaning individuals — mainly forest officials and bureaucrats in the State Government — got together and paved the way for the relocation of ‘van gujjar’ families and their cattle outside the national park. Today, with all squatters gone, Rajaji Tiger Reserve stands true to its name; it has over 20 tigers, a very healthy figure which is a far cry from its dismal past not too long ago. No longer is it gasping for breath in the ICU. Let me give one more example.

On the edge of the Thar desert near the Indo-Pak border, a unique battle is being fought, one which has largely escaped media attention. This is a tricky one, involving experts from Abu Dhabi, Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Rajasthan Forest Department and the Union Environment Ministry — all for the sake of the Greater Indian Bustard. With hardly 150 birds left in the wild, they are at the very edge of the abyss.

With a wing span of over seven feet, the Great Indian Bustard (it’s also the state bird of Rajasthan) is among the heaviest flying birds on Earth. The irony is that in the early 70s no less than Salim Ali, the renowned ornitholigist, pitched for appointing bustard as the national bird of India. But some ‘babus’ in New Delhi struck down the appeal — one reason being that the bird’s name rhymed with the word ba****d.

Now, of course, better sense has prevailed. Last year, Project Bustard was launched, and the hunt began in the deserts of Jaisalmer to find bustard eggs which could be artifically incubated. For this, a hatchery has already been set up in Jaisalmer. The Chief Wildlife Warden of Rajasthan, Arindam Tomar, had told me that this was “the last chance” for the Great Indian Bustard. Many such endeavours, at both individual and organisational levels, to retrieve the lost ground for nature and wildlife can be found all around us.

At times, decisive intervention is needed to obtain desired results. But more often than not, one only has to stand back and let the natural processes make necessary repairs. The maverick Greek philosopher Diogenes told this to Alexander the Great, when the latter approached him in his cave and inquired if he needed anything: “Just stay out of my sunshine.”

The virus, besides reminding us of our fragile hold on life, has brought us closer to nature. Pixabay

Perhaps this is what is required from us, to stay out of the nature’s light. Unwittingly, this is precisely what we have been doing during the past three months. The results of our “not doing” continue to amaze us every day. The crystal clear rainbow which people from Gurgaon to Hyderabad observed a few days ago, and the thousands of accompanying photographs which they posted on social media to express their astonishment, shows the miracles nature can churn out. If only we let it be.

For more news updates follow Newsgram on LinkedIn

I am sure people in most towns, villages and cities have have been experiencing these magical moments. Who would have ever thought of viewing snow-capped Himalayan peaks from Jalandhar and Saharanpur? These mircales are unfolding on an almost daily basis. Many people say the virus, besides reminding us of our fragile hold on life, has brought us closer to nature. Maybe so, but I like to believe our connection with nature was always intact. Only we forgot about it.

Also Read: Janhvi Kapoor’s New Film ‘Gunjan Saxena’ set For An OTT Release

It’s just that we are beginning to wake up now to the wonders which can be re-created. Remember Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz? While still a prisoner serving life imprisonment in the notorius Alcatraz jail, Stroud became the famous bird doctor, his education starting from the first wounded sparrow which flew inside his cell, demanding help. As for me, I am waiting for the frogs and sparrows to return. (IANS)



Bangladesh over the years show that the state has failed in its duty to protect minorities

By- Salil Gewali

If humanity is hurt, God is hurt.

Religion without compassion might give way to hatred. Compassion with a "self-interest" motive is completely irreligious. But of late, some of the religions have departed from those basic human values. Love and compassion are for only those who follow their "specific" faith. Very sadly, the religions are up as trading commodities in the world of proselytization. Better preachers attract more followers. Of course, no issue if they are not vying for their religious "supremacy". But the ground reality is utterly different. The claim for exclusive supremacy has become the first commandment --- a real bone of contention among the existing religions. In the name of religion, we have polluted our minds. we have corrupted our souls. We have also gone so much astray that God must have now shut his gateway to heaven!

Keep Reading Show less

The Aruba villa has great interiors, an outdoor facility, amazing bedrooms, clean bathrooms and huge living space.

By- Your Service

Taking out time for family has become very difficult as people are pretty busy in daily life and find very little time to spend with their loved ones. Planning a family vacation is an excellent way through which the whole family can step away from their daily life and have fun. You can find many destinations for a family vacation, but there is no place that can beat Aruba.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Flickr

Milky Way galaxy as seen from Chitkul Valley

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has for the first time spotted signs of a planet transiting a star outside of the Milky Way galaxy, opening up a new avenue to search for exoplanets at greater distances than ever before.

The possible exoplanet -- or planets outside of our Solar System -- candidate is located in the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51), also called the Whirlpool Galaxy because of its distinctive profile, NASA said in a statement.

Astronomers have, so far, found all other known exoplanets and exoplanet candidates in the Milky Way galaxy, almost all of them less than about 3,000 light-years from Earth.

An exoplanet in M51 would be about 28 million light-years away, meaning it would be thousands of times farther away than those in the Milky Way, NASA said.

"We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies," said Rosanne Di Stefano of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The exoplanet candidate was spotted in a binary system called M51-ULS-1, located in M51. This binary system contains a black hole or neutron star orbiting a companion star with a mass about 20 times that of the Sun. The X-ray transit they found using Chandra data lasted about three hours, during which the X-ray emission decreased to zero.

Based on this and other information, the team estimates the exoplanet candidate in M51-ULS-1 would be roughly the size of Saturn and orbit the neutron star or black hole at about twice the distance of Saturn from the Sun.

The team looked for X-ray transits in three galaxies beyond the Milky Way galaxy, using both Chandra and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton. Their search covered 55 systems in M51, 64 systems in Messier 101 (the "Pinwheel" galaxy), and 119 systems in Messier 104 (the "Sombrero" galaxy).

However, more data would be needed to verify the interpretation as an extragalactic exoplanet. One challenge is that the planet candidate's large orbit means it would not cross in front of its binary partner again for about 70 years, thwarting any attempts for a confirming observation for decades, NASA said.

Named in honor of the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. It has eight times greater resolution and is able to detect sources more than 20-times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope.

Known to the world as Chandra (which means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit), Chandrasekhar was widely regarded as one of the foremost astrophysicists of the twentieth century. (IANS/JB)

Keep reading... Show less