Author: Bittu Sahgal
There is nothing in living nature that is mundane, boring, unimaginative or predictable.
After four decades of tramping the natural world’s diverse forests, glaciers, deserts, swamps, rivers, lakes and seas… even in my own tiny little wild backyard in urban Mumbai… I have learned to expect the unexpected (dozens of hatchlings emerging from a bark mantis ootheca attached to a bare wall just outside our back door).
But nothing comes close to what the photographer witnessed and somehow managed to photograph with such consummate skill.
Dr. George Schaller’s The Deer and the Tiger has been a prime influence on my attitude to and my respect for wild nature. His focus on the behaviour of tigers and as many as four ungulates in Madhya Pradesh’s Kanha National Park landscape is the gold standard against which most field biologists still measure their work. Undoubtedly Dr. Schaller must have witnessed jackals cheekily stealing morsels from tiger kills and being chased ‘n’ number of times. But, given the available technology then, capturing such dramatic wildlife moments was well-nigh impossible.
In a world dominated by wealth, which all too often is measured in bank balances rather than experiences, it is little surprise that the wildernesses where such scenes unfold tend to be deeply discounted by decision-makers. This is why we are losing our natural treasures much faster than nature can repair and replenish them.
And yet, even the wealthiest of people, when they bare their souls, speak not of the money they have, but the relationships and friendships they share and the experiences they have.
Speaking for myself, almost nothing compares to the thrill of nature. Not necessarily dramatic events… frequently the first flight of a bird, the emergence of a butterfly or a moth, the drip of leaves in the monsoon, the gentle breath-surfacing of a river dolphin and, yes, sometimes the chase too.