November 9, 2011

Stories of the Jungle – I: Morning Walk in SGNP

I intend to write a series on my jungle adventures... let’s see how it goes.

Fresh in the memory is the SGNP (short for Sanjay Gandhi National Park) located close to my house and probably the only forest I’ve been to in the recent years. Also, the photos of this place are in digital format and handy. So I’ll begin here. The real jungle stories will take some memory digs and time. So those will come later.

SGNP is the place where I go for my morning walks (sometimes ;)). Sonali, my good ol' buddy and partner-in-walk has been kind enough and consistent in waking me up early to experience these ‘good times’. All my morning visits to SGNP are attributed to her.

One walk in the woods and it tells you volumes – about the flora and fauna of course, but also about people, the trends, habits of the junta, the age miracles (and the age gaps!) to mention a few. SGNP has long been a favourite morning walk place for thousands of Mumbaikars. It’s within the city and so away from it... the gate of SGNP at Borivali is one of the busiest and noisiest places even at 6 AM. But a few feet inside and the world changes! 


This is what it looks like...

The soft morning light through the thicket of the trees gives it a heavenly feel. And makes you pat your back for coming there in the first place. Of course, walkers usually miss out on the aesthetics and concentrate on the ‘walk’ but I guess its OK to stop once in a while to simply appreciate the nature around and drown in it.



The scene is even more heavenly during the monsoons. Here’s a look...




It’s criminal to even think of not wanting to be here... or not like this place for that matter. There are several reasons though why you would not like this place. It is crowded, for one, especially towards the entrance. And noisy, too! It is appalling to walk past people playing music loudly on their mobile phones. God! Why can’t they use earphones?

It is interesting, however, to see the range of what people listen to while on their walk. The audio devices play everything right from the jumpy Bollywood numbers to the really old Hindi songs to the Angrezi beats for the new blood and even the news. But a young man, probably in his mid-30s, listening to Narendra Modi’s talk was by far the best. Yes, listening to Modi’s talks can be inspiring, but on the morning walk... was amusing, though I appreciate it.

Another noisy lot are the college students who run a havoc to the point of ‘sustained irritation’. But there is no telling them. The cleaners occassionally yell at them but it all falls on deaf ears. And then there are the romantic spots for the newly-in-love couples. Hardly any cover there but it provides more privacy than the main roads albeit marginally.


The lovely canopy near the safari office was home to some really lovely birds till a few months ago. Was? Yes, unfortunately. The SGNP establishment has now put up tents there to encourage people to come and spend some time in the forest, learn and etcetera. This may be a good idea but it has driven away the birds. And the deer too! Yes, even the deer are not to be seen anywhere. How we miss them!


The most hated part of the SGNP is the lion and tiger safari – pathetic to no end! An old, sick white tiger is the first one we see. It is clear in one look that our presence is not appreciated in the wilderness at all. And basically, this is not a natural habitat for a white tiger. So you can’t really expect the poor white tiger to be ‘happy’ and ‘content’.

Next door is a tigress with two cubs. Pity overflowing... the cubs shall be given ready food. No hunting, no choice of meat, nothing. A few feet ahead are Mr. and Mrs. Lion - the male doesn’t care to come out of his enclosure while the female shows up with an angry growl, every cell of her body desisting human presence.

To add to their woes, the big cats are confined to their cages and ...uhh... rooms! There is a sense of deep anger that emerges towards the parents of those kids who yell like hell when they see the cats.  

Okay I am depressed now. Hope tomorrow’s walk with bring some good feel. I think I’ll just stick to the trees and the insects and caterpillars and the likewise. Big cats make me sad.

As for you, my friend, keep looking up this space for more jungle stories... Adios!