Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve,
I’ve come to the Nilgiris in search of answers. Although I left the Amazon, there are questions that haven’t left me. It’s strange how you come away from taking fresh breaths of air to being unable to breathe – out of worry and as much as I hate to say it: hopelessness. What if the air got sucked out of our planet? What if our forests, our lungs were smoked to smithereens?
Life exists in the Amazon like nowhere else on Earth; the universe perhaps. When you see the light going out of that life, you look for ways to deal with the darkness in other places. This, where I am, is a sanctuary for ecology and culture. And although it has been intensively studied and researched upon, the vastness and complexity of this region needs a voice, for its geography, diversity and sense of community, is unparalleled universally.
The green covering this world has given me purpose. I feel like its guardian. I must be. Aren’t we all? Oh wait, we aren’t. That’s the tragedy. We’ll guard our babies but not the planet they will inherit after we are gone. Human hypocrisy never ceases to amaze!
Up here, in India’s Blue Mountains, that purpose seems to have evolved. This Biosphere Reserve is home to a rich cultural heritage that complements its natural heritage.
Amidst a complex eco-system harbouring diverse flora and fauna, unique land forms, forests and water bodies, niche vegetation like the sholas and grasslands, the Nilgiris are home to several Adivasi communities comprising of hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads and artisans. They have lived here, with their distinct traditions, in harmony with their beloved environment.
We could live with them and learn from them how to live within the lands we inhabit without jeopardizing its future and thereby, our own. We could help reinforce the integral link between the forests and the people who have lived by its side for aeons. It takes something solid to take on a challenge like that. An institution of dedicated scientists who will head bravely into unfamiliar landscapes, listen to the cries and calls of community, flora and fauna, convincing the most cynical amongst us that development and ecology can in fact co-exist.
The Keystone Foundation takes me into a paradise of exploration. For the very first time, I will not look at human beings, habitats and wildlife in isolation. I will look at them as one entity. Perhaps it will restore my hope for the future. Isn’t hope the proverbial “keystone” anyway?