Jungle Book with a Difference

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

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Jungle Book with a Difference

Aditya Ganesh grew up in a very liberal environment. Though his father is into international finance and his mother worked in the corporate sector for a while, they always allowed him to explore and learn on his own. Shifting at an early age from Mumbai to the ‘green’ city of Bangalore gave him ample opportunities to get closer to nature.

Animals always fascinated him since childhood, and he inevitably looked for activities concerned with the outdoors and with animals. He become a member of ‘Friends of Elephants’, he volunteered with ‘People for Animals’ and kept looking around for opportunities to be with wildlife. In his 11th and 12th these activities took a back seat since, like innumerable others, he was asked to prepare for engineering or medicine, and his grades actually went down for the first time since he could not connect with those careers. After 12th he got back to his first love, and took up B.Sc. with Zoology in a reputed University. Even when others were questioning why he did not take up engineering or medicine when he had good grades, he himself did not have any doubts or regrets. Luckily his parents supported him fully. Studying Zoology brought many things in better perspective for him, and he actually become one of the toppers in his university. He kept attending many camps and involved himself in activities concerned with the outdoors and nature.

On graduating he wanted to get into a prestigious all-India organization for his Masters but just missed getting selected. Since he did not want to get into a mediocre course just for the sake of getting a Masters degree, he considered the rejection as a blessing in disguise, because he could look wider with freedom. He took a gap year, which was not the ‘done’ thing, but he was not scared what his future will be – and once again he was supported by his parents. He dived into various activities. He went to Kochi as part of a team that was studying dolphins. He made a breakthrough with a couple of reputed professors of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), who encouraged him to help out in research work. For 8 months he meticulously studied the behavior of fresh water fish in lab conditions, feeding them and observing them closely. Subsequently he was selected by the well-known Prof. Anindya Sinha to go to Chennai and study the natural behavior of street dogs in their own habitat, without disturbing them. He was oblivious of the summer heat as he spent hours taking notes about behavior patterns of the street dogs, each of whom he gave a nick-name.

He has now moved on to Netherlands having obtained admission in a prestigious European university for a Masters in Ecology and Evolution, which he feels is tailor made for him. He wants to secure his academic status by studying animals in depth and eventually get into sustainable sciences. He is not particular what and how he will achieve, how much he will earn, but he is sure his life is on the right track.

He recollects some fascinating incidents from his unusual life path: He was selected for an Elephant census which was conducted unofficially and was to be completed over 3 days. The first 2 days there was no sighting of any animals at all, and his team kept trudging to exhaustion in the jungles. In the last half an hour of his last day he saw not only 30 wild elephants but also a leopard. This “unpredictability of the forest” is what fascinates him.

He has had occasion to rescue distressed animals in the most unexpected of places: he found an owlet on the tin roof of a shed, too young to fly properly, and exposed to predators. Aditya recalls how he had to walk gingerly on the roof of the shed and quickly pullout the little fellow. On another day he found that a snake had gone down the pipe of a public urinal and was stuck. Needless to say, with Aditya’s rescue the reptile is happily roaming around somewhere in the jungle right now. He also found a rare Golden Oriole bird in the campus of Christ University. It was incapacitated due to resin from flowering trees which had stuck its wings shut. Aditya had to heat up water to apply to the wings and melt the resin, so that the little bird could fly free again.

Working without stress, enjoying every day and every experience of his life, Aditya is happy being on his own, befriending four legged creatures who get fascinated with him (some are seen to fall in love and drool when he is around), and is happily walking literally on an un-trodden path, merging into nature and giving back to it in some way or the other the innumerable blessings that nature gives us but many of us take for granted.

He is also very clear that wherever he may go for learning, he wants to definitely come back to India, because he believes that this is the country that worships nature and its creatures will welcome him back with open arms.

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