I was in Corbett for a three day Literature Festival. I had two diverse, yet, strangely related conversations during my stay.
I met an 80-year gentleman author, a Punjabi, born in Lahore in the undivided India. Well… Not really 80, but going to be 80 in the next few months, but he wanted me, and I am sure whosoever he met, to know, with a twinkle in his eyes, that he had crossed a milestone.
But my blog is not about his age. He crossed over to India with his parents and siblings as a 4+ little child at the time of partition. His family chose to go to Bombay and not Delhi. He still has memories of living in the camp and using communal toilets for 8 years, or almost till the start of his teenage years. His father was a well settled government official in Lahore.
The circumstances did not deter him. This gentleman studied and joined the merchant navy. He sailed on ships till in the early 80s, he was on a holiday to Goa with his wife. He loved the place enough to decide to quit a well paying job, and settle in Goa four decades back. He established a ship building company. At some time, he said enough is enough, called his solicitors, vertically split the company in two parts – one for each of his two sons.
He now writes books for the pleasure that it gives him.
The other conversation I had was the next morning during the mandatory jungle safari that we must indulge in whenever we are in the vicinity of a forest, even if it is at an ungodly 6 AM on a cold winter morning.
We did not have the privilege of having breakfast with the famed four-legged animal, the tiger. The forest was a lush green after the monsoons, but we were just a wee bit… let us just say… not so happy.
Sensing our disappointment, the guide and the driver attributed the lack of sightings to the government decision to relocate four of the tourist friendly tigers to another forest. They were equally vehement in claiming that the same animals are nowhere to be seen in their new habitat. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the claim, but then the locals must know.
Migration of any nature would be traumatic – be it humans or animals. My new Punjabi friend has made a success of his life by dint of hard labour; but he still remembers his life in the camp, particularly the communal toilets. Decades have failed to erase those memories, though he tries to cover the trauma flippantly.
The tigers may not have the emotions that we usually attribute to humans, but translocation seems to be equally traumatic to them. I do not know if they would retain these memories to the end of their lives, but for now they seem to be impacted.
Is it not time for us to step back and pause to reflect before we take the next step towards anything that is less humane!