Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Dear Homo Sapiens of Earth - Part 3B - The Child
* * * * *
February 26, 1999, Friday, sunny, 15-29C
[19:54 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Because of that ugly letter from Avtar last night, and the state it put Faiyaz into, I was pulled into a shallow depression myself - a shallow depression in the great void from the removal of Christopher in my life - and had some trouble sleeping. While staring at the ceiling tiles in the darkened room, and not for the first time, I thought of just saying, “Fuck it!” and going back to Vancouver, but of course, that was just a thought. To do so would be to forsake Faiyaz in his dark hour, and to lose the trust of the villagers I have met, and to abandon the tigers when they need help most. I was furious with Avtar for more than one reason, not the least of which being tormenting and wasting a pure soul and open heart like Faiyaz.
One of the staff remarked that if and when, after all the hard work and heartache, and in spite of Avtar’s detachment and opposition, the conference becomes a big success, Avtar would jump right back in and claim the media and glory and credit for himself, and Faiyaz would be just buried. Faiyaz says that would not bother him if it means a successful conference, but it bothers me.
Considering that the first few days of March will be unworkable due to the Holi festival, March 23rd seemed closer than ever, so much so that the conference may become ill-organized as a result. This led me to thinking of resetting the conference time to April or even May, after I have left. While I’m here, I’ll do nothing but conduct these intimate small group meetings with the panchayat leaders. Then and only then would I have enough time to meet with each and everyone of the 178 Buffer Zone villages and the 22 East Core Zone villages.
One of the great worries of Faiyaz and Jane is that once I leave Kanha, all Tiger Fund activities will cease. So, enough momentum must be generated by the time I leave to carry the event to its proper conclusion.
It also happens that by then the tourist season would be over, and Avtar will be back in Vancouver, whatever this will mean.
So, first thing this morning, I discussed the plan with Faiyaz and Jane. Both objected to it, citing that too many government officials have been informed about March 23, and more importantly that the villagers will come to the conference largely because of me, and if they find that I have deserted them, they will be greatly disappointed. I argued that my intention is not to cultivate dependency in them on anyone but themselves, but Jane and Faiyaz would not have it. They said that I’m the “great new hope” of the villagers, who have been disappointed by unfulfilled promises far too often already.
Kim, who as usual listened in from the periphery, spoke up and said that she supported their argument. When I counter-argued that there is not enough manpower to organize a conference of this scope in such a short time, Kim offered herself quite strongly as a part of the team. I reminded her of what she once said, that she prefers dealing with tourists than villagers, she countered back with that the tourist season is ending, and she will switch back if/when the need arises.
Together, they said that I was the “glue” and “magnet” that hold the villagers together, and if I leave before the conference, the whole thing would fall apart. Never before have I pinned these labels to myself. It is a bit staggering. But perhaps they do have a point, especially when all three of them said the same thing. So, March 23rd it will remain.
The postponing idea was just that, an idea, but it brought out the strong feelings from Jane, Faiyaz and Kim, and I am grateful for these feelings
Today, being Friday, is another medical clinic day. While Faiyaz and Jane were busy with the patients, I had a long chat with Manohar. After some trust-building, we pretty well laid things on the table. He confessed that he had never thought much of the work Tiger Fund had done over the last few years. He considered it not tiger protection work, but “social work”. His idea of tiger conservation work is to shoot poachers, pure and simple. He feels that work involving villagers would create a dependency in the people on NGO handouts. He went back to the point of giving the panchayat visitors inferior food, so as not to create an expectation in them for royal treatment here. I said that he was discriminating against his own people. In the end, he said that he was beginning to look at Tiger Fund work in good light for the first time, and said that he will help in organizing the conference.
He also self-disclosed some more on his feelings about Avtar. During lunch with everyone, he said that Avtar would pour effort into the conference if he has VIP guests and media present, but not if it is only a group of panchayat peasants. This is hardly surprising, but coming from Avtar’s own nephew it carries extra meaning.
He also told me proudly about his grandfather Govinder Singh, who is the brother of Ravinder Grewal. Govinder deliberately shed the name Grewal because people saw him first and foremost as Ravinder’s brother. He had his own laudable accomplishments. Once, with his bare hands, he saved a woman and her small son from a leopard that escaped from a zoo, resulting in many claw gashes all over his body. He subdued it by wrestling it “for an hour”. But when finally the leopard was disabled due to exhaustion, a cop came and shot it, about which Govinder was furious, since he was himself armed with a hand gun, but elected not to use it. He also created a huge walk-in aviary.
We then went on to discussing poaching. Manohar and Faiyaz both opine that the Kanha tigers are relatively secure, and that the Kanha park service and forest officials are relatively sincere and honest. But not so Bandhavgarh. They cited incidents where maharajas are allowed into the park to poach deer and other animals, that as we speak, there may be poachers staying in at least two of the lodges, and that certain park personnel themselves also indulge, including certain mahouts, and politicians. There have been cases where honest park personnel who exposed such cases have lost their jobs. One case has it that a raja poached a deer whose leg was protruding from under a tarp in the back of a Gypsy, and the guard at the exit of the park asked the raja to push the leg back under the tarp. This needs to be exposed to the world, and Bandhavgarh needs a Tiger Fund program badly, but not one of Avtar’s design, thank you very much – sigh, only if Ravinder were still alive.
The tourists left today, headed towards Kaziranga. I made a few friends among them. There were David and Barbara Waddell, both Canadians residing in Ancaster, Ontario. David is an emeritus entomologist at the University of Victoria in BC, and Barbara is an associate professor of kinesiology and biomechanics. David, who is 82 years of age, went around the lodge grounds showing me insects, especially a species of termites that live on the trunks of living trees. Barbara is 66, and showed a lot of personal warmth towards me, and took souvenir photos of me, and insisted that I go visit them when I go to Ontario. There were also a few people who came to congratulate me, one saying that my slideshow was “inspirational”.
And then there was the woman who had seen me on TV in Montreal. And then there was Barry Strachen, a South African man of about 60 with a young woman as a companion. His daughter? Mistress? A couple of days ago I was sitting with Kim when I asked, “Who is that attractive blonde over there?” So yesterday, when I was concluding my slideshow, and dinner was being laid out for the few of us, I said, “I would like to entertain your questions while having dinner with you, David, or Barbara,” and, jokingly, “or the attractive blonde over there.” They all laughed, except Barry, who complained to Kim about the comment. So this morning, I went to their room and said to Barry, “I wish to extend to you my sincere apology for the comment I made about your friend. I did not mean to be disrespectful.” He extended his hand quite eagerly and patted me on the shoulder warmly, saying, “It is I who should apologize. I entirely mistook your intention. I lost some sleep over that last night. I would like to make a donation to your campaign. Unfortunately, I have no money on me. But I will give a cheque to Avtar when I see him. I will also recommend your slideshow to him to make it a standard feature of his lodge offering.”
Later, Kim told me that while I was in Jane’s room discussing postponing the conference to April or May, Barry was looking for me all over camp. “Here is his card. He was bending over backwards to ask you to send him a copy of the Champions of the Wild.”
This afternoon’s safari was free, the tourists having paid for the whole day. We (Manohar, Jane, Kim, Julian and I) decided to take the afternoon off work and all go into the park. I loaded my camera bag with new film rolls and video tapes. Yet another rare sighting of three wild dogs stalking and dashing after chital. But my peak moment was when we stopped the Gypsy at the park gate upon our exit.
Throughout the drive I was feeling a great misgiving about our species. “If even the head of a group called Tiger Fund is so insincere and untrustworthy, what hope has the tiger? If even a mother would do something so hideous to her own infant son, and if the law would side with her in this case, what kind of a civilization have we? Just where are we in the scheme of things? Raminothna, show me a sign.”
And she did show me a sign. It was the one standing at the gate to Kanha national Park, a sign I have seen numerous times before. It says, “The animals and plants in this park are fully protected. Violators will be prosecuted by law.”
“Homo Sapiens, your glass is half-full, or half-empty, depending on your point of view. In biblical terms, your species has ascended half way from Eden to Heaven at last. Not a bad sign”
“What do you mean?”
“That after all your reforms and revolutions you have advanced some very good laws, but are not yet advanced enough to govern yourself without law.”
“What other than law can we govern ourselves by?”
“Morals. Ethics. Conscience. Most of all, love.”
When we got back to camp, Faiyaz handed Jane a fax delivered to the TF conservation centre by someone from the District Collectorate (Manu Srivastava’s office) inviting her to go to Seoni as a speaker at the women’s issues conference. This propelled Jane into a state of euphoria, partly because she was a little disappointed earlier by the lack of the promised fax and had given up on going to the conference. She will leave the lodge at 05:00 tomorrow.
Since Jane will be unavailable for the meeting with the panchayat people tomorrow, I asked Kim and Julian whether they would like to help out. Kim and Julian were discussing who to do what, between taking notes and video documenting the meeting. Julian said, “I’ll do whatever Kim doesn’t.” Manohar chipped in, “She doesn’t sleep with him,” meaning me. They all erupted with laughter.
Nice to have a good laugh once in awhile, as we used to do. We did laugh a lot together, didn’t we? Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
February 27, 1999, Saturday, sunny with clouds, 15-28C
[21:59 @ Rm.111, Kanha Jungle Lodge]
This morning I got up at 04:30 to make sure that Jane would get on her way to Seoni for the woman’s issues conference on time, and to see her off. Within minutes, Faiyaz and Manohar both appeared. She left at 05:30, with Manohar accompanying her in the Tata Sumo driven by our usual Sumo driver who also drove CJ to Gondia.
Jane is still not back. Manohar and Faiyaz are sitting at a dinner table, planning on driving to Baihar to perhaps call Balaghat to see what is going on. I’m not beginning to worry yet. You may think that we worry too much, but if you’ve experienced Indian highway traffic, you’d understand.
At 10:00, while Faiyaz was out visiting villages with Surinder, the carpenter came and, with the very limited translation help of Ramjit, I conveyed to him (I hope) what I wanted done, which is a wooden frame for the double-glass lid of the large communal solar oven.
Manohar was supposed to stay with Jane all day, but he returned around noon, looking not well and feeling maybe worse. He said he threw up several times in the course of the morning. He went straight to bed.
As usual, I put on the rice into the solar oven around 12:30. Around 13:00, I went to the schoolhouse to prepare the place. When I was about finished, Faiyaz’s Gypsy with Surinder at the wheel pulled into the parking lot, with 7 panchayat people on board. It was about 13:15 – they were 45 minutes early. Still in my shorts, I was not exactly properly attired for a conservationist-panchayat summit. Faiyaz explained for me, and the villagers said no problem. I went to get Kim and Julian, both being also in their shorts. Kim wrapped a cloth around her waist like a sarong, which went down to her ankles. In the absence of Jane, I asked Kim to take notes and Julian to man the video cam.
The meeting went about the same way as the first two, and the villagers’ concerns were also about the same, which made clearer and clearer that a multi-panchayat conference will be extremely resonant and powerful. The emphasis of this group was irrigation.
Since there were seven villagers, we needed two Gypsies for the park drive, so I drove one and Julian drove the other, and we had room enough for 3 Manjitola village children. Sightings included the usually chital, barasingha, sambar, but no tiger. At one point, while rounding a curve, we came face to face with a huge gaur bull in full fighting trim standing right in the middle of the road, facing us, four-square, snorting, legs stomping in the dirt, raising a cloud of dust in the slanting streaks of morning sunlight. It looked as if he was trying to pick a fight with the Gypsy which, if he charged, would not stand a chance. This struck me as being more the normal behavior of an African cape buffalo than the more peaceable Indian gaur. Manohar deemed it prudent to back off, but upon looking behind us, we found another bull, same size, same stance, same apparent ill intent. It seemed that we got right in the middle of a rutting battle between two contending top bulls, meaning, two of the largest bovines ever evolved. Even a big male tiger would have to slink away under such circumstances. All we could do was to pull over to the side of the road and let them get at it, quite prepared to take some collateral damage. Thankfully, they moved off the road to duke it out in the thickets. Still, the sounds they made were awe-inspiring.
This and other sightings set the panchayat members in the proper mood for the slideshow and for some serious post-show discussion. All in all, another successful meeting, and the number of villages that signed up for the conference went up to 33.
“It seems that your social medicine is already doing some healing.”
“I hope so. And on more levels than one, it seems to me.”
“I can think of one or two examples right now. If our work changes cooking from wood-burning to solar around the tiger reserves, it would reduce air pollution, which would be on the Molecular level. It would preserve India’s forests and wildlife - on the Metabion level. It would also protect the termite mounds as well as change the villagers’ way of life and economy – on the Tribal level. It could generate new industries such as solar-cooker manufacturing on the Citian level. And our petition to reform the park system would be to reform India itself on the National Level. And of course, if we help save the tiger and thus preserve an important component of the global environment, it would be a monumental contribution on the Planetary level. It does seem that there are interlevel influences at work all around us. Pluck one strand of this multileveled 3D web of life on any level, and the whole web vibrates.”
Later this evening, I pondered, “Is there really a Tribal level? The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that the termite mound, the village, and town and the city should all be on the same level of organization.”
“For one thing, if we put the village and the city on two distinct levels, where do we put the towns?”
“Good point. Anything else?”
“The tribal village, the town and the city are all physically coherent entities. Each has a clearly defined nucleus, namely, the city/town/village centers. Their basic units are human beings, who are metabionts, as opposed to the nation, say, whose basic units are the villages, towns and cities.”
“There seems a huge disparity in size and complexity between Chichrunpur and New Delhi. Draw an interlevel parallel in support of your thinking.”
“Well, a microscopic nematode worm and a blue whale are both metabionts, even though it is obvious that the whale is almost astronomically larger and more complex than the worm.”
“Are there other reasons?”
“Yes. I’ve been thinking, if the city and the village are on two distinct levels, then the rise of the Citian level would not occur until the rise of the first city about 10,000 years ago. But then, almost as soon as the first city arose, the nation arose. This makes no sense. If, on the other hand, we put all the villages and towns and cities on the same level, then the rise of the Citian level would be when the social insects built their first society, which was some 100 million years ago. In this scenario, the city – the basic units of the nation - would be the pinnacle of Citian level achievement. Therefore, once the cities were formed, the nations arose very shortly afterwards. This makes much more sense to me. So, I am inclined to thinks that the Tribal and Citian levels are one and the same.”
“So, which name will you settle for?”
“The Citian Level, in which case I’m calling a termite mound a ‘termite city’.”
“I’m sure the termites have no problem with that.”
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
February 28, 1999, Sunday, sunny with clouds, 16-30C
[18:49 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Today is a day of forced rest. The following few days will be likewise, unless we can find something constructive to do around here. Even the park will be closed in the mornings till March 4th. It is that infamous drinking festival during which period we have been forewarned to stay in the lodge. Even if we go out in our vehicles, let alone on foot, we’d likely be pelted with various colored liquids and solids, including bottles.
Much to everyone’s delight, I announced that we’d go out to the park for a long drive tomorrow afternoon, purely for pleasure this time. We’ll be going in two vehicles, one driven by me with Faiyaz, Jane and four Manjitola children on board, and the other by Manohar or Julian with Kim and five others on board. Around 17:45, I went to the school and organized a lot-picking to choose the four lucky kids. I asked, via Faiyaz, to have the kids show their hands as to who have never been in the park before. Of the 14, 7 raised their hands. I asked the 7 kids to write their names on a piece paper, folded the 7 little slips, and asked one of the girls, named Asha, who reminds me of a tiny dark skinned Lucienne (my ballet teacher), to pick the lot. Unfortunately, she did not pick herself, but I promised the unlucky 3 that I will take them into the park some time before I leave.
Back at the lodge, Manohar told us that Avtar will be in camp March 6 or so. Manohar is again cramming paper work in which he seems to be perpetually behind, and doesn’t look very happy. This morning, I invited him to read my letter to Avtar. About half an hour after that, Faiyaz, Manohar and I had a meeting about the conference. Manohar showed a new level of enthusiasm and involvement in the event that I hadn’t seen before.
Jane spent some time analyzing her speech yesterday at the women's issues conference, which she told me was attended by a surprising number of men, and that men appeared as speakers as well - as experts on women's issues! She felt that her speech may not have pleased Mrs. Srivastava, police chief and the organizer, saying that it was likely “not what she expected of me”. She said that almost all the speeches were highly formal and academic, whereas hers, near the end of the conference, was much more informal, personal and colloquial. And she was airing this concern to one who never uses notes in his speeches - me. I said that she need not worry about it, that it was probably like a breath of fresh air in a stuffy room.
[00:38] Just back to my room after a long discussion with Manohar about Tiger Fund. Manohar quite openly stated that what Tiger Fund had done up to my arrival one month ago was a joke, and that the staff used to laugh at it whenever the term “conservation program” was mentioned. I can’t disagree.
“Just sitting here handing out pills to two or three villages isn’t going to save any tigers,” he said in some contempt.
My own point exactly.
He is still unconvinced that solar cookers can save tiger habitat, but he seems open to this possibility, and somewhat convinced that what we (I, Faiyaz, Jane) are doing now is a radical departure which may make a real difference. Finally, he said, “I have never met any living tiger conservationists as hard-working as you, and if these technologies can work socially as you believe they can, you will succeed. You will be as big as Valmiki (Valmik Thapar).”
Now here is a truly humbling compliment.
Back in the meditation chamber of my lodge room, “Raminothna, a few straggling questions if I may.”
“One. If a metabiont (multicellular organism) is a society of cells, what is a cell a society of?”
“What do you think?”
“Molecules? A cell is a society of social molecules?”
“If so, the level below the Cellular level would be the Molecular level of organization.”
“And on the Molecular Level, as on all other levels, there are nonsocial and social molecules.”
“Give me a few examples of nonsocial molecules.”
“A water molecule in the ocean, a carbon dioxide molecule in the air, a calcium carbonate molecule in a rock.”
“And a few examples of social molecules.”
“Carbohydrates, proteins, enzymes, RNA, DNA…, and also those water molecules, carbon dioxide molecules and calcium carbonate molecules that participate in the functioning of the cell.”
“You have the general picture.”
“Question 2. So, a city is a society of social villages?”
“By definition, yes.”
“What are social villages?”
“Specialized villages that cooperate with other specialized villages to make up the city.”
“What is a specialized village?”
“What do you think?”
“A company? A business? A corporation?”
“All of the above, which are integral parts of cities.”’
“I see. So, the villages have given up their independence and even identities for participation in a great whole?”
“You might say that.”
“ Question 3. What is the level of organization above the National level?”
“What do you think?”
“The Planetary level?”
“There is no Planetary level per se, but you might call a planet with only one nation a Planetary Organism.”
“A planet with only one nation? That’ll be the day. Sounds like an impossibility.”
“The Universe is suffused with miracles.”
“But how could this happen? There are over 200 nations on Earth today. How could 200 become one?
“There are two alternatives. But only one can work.”
“Let me guess. The first alternative is for one nation to conquer all the rest? As in the Warring States in ancient China?”
“That did not work well for China, and, given the nuclear weapons, it cannot work today.”
“Then the second alternative is for the nations to merge into a single super-nation?”
“Take it or leave it. But it’s happened times before, and it will happen again, on some planet. Hopefully, Earth will be one of them.”
“Happened before? When? Where?”
“Here, there, and everywhere.” Raminothna waved her spiritual hands at the stars.
“It could have.”
“Where your first cities arose.”
“The ‘cradle of civilization. In Mesopotamia. Modern Iraq.”
“Open the Atlas to that page.”
First, I had to grope my way again through the forest in the dark to the school house. Anyone observing my behavior must find it strange or even suspicious. Finally, the Atlas lay open on my table, with a cup of chai steaming next to it.
“So, back to your question. How did it happen? Let’s run a little thought experiment, shall we? First, tell me how you think it happened.”
“I would guess that there were a number of tribal cultures in the region then, and it just happened that one of them blossomed into a full-scale city state.”
“Well, of course they would have to work on it.”
“Who are ‘they’?”
“The villagers of this village, or tribe.”
“And the other villages or tribes?”
“I guess they just didn’t make it, or got wiped out by the emergent city state.”
“Is this what the current theory holds?”
“Frankly, I don’t know. Just a minute. You’re not saying that many villages merged to form the first city, are you?”
“What do you think?”
“How many villages did it take?”
“How many lived in the then Persian Gulf. Hundreds, perhaps well over a thousand.”
“Let me make this clear for myself. Are you saying that over a thousand villages pulled up their roots about 10,000 years ago, moved together in one place, and collectively formed the first city?”
“In the context of this thought experiment, something like that.”
“What on Earth could have made them do that?”
“Something geological. The most major geological event of the time. Something that even the Bible mentioned.”
“The Bible? A geological event? What? The flood?”
“If there was a flood, what caused it?”
“The Bible says heavy rains.”
“Heavy rains? In the Middle East?”
“It used to be wet back then, I recall reading from somewhere. And shortly before that, the ice age ended. Does this have anything to do with it?”
“It might have everything to do with it. What you do know about the ice age?”
“Over the last million years, there were five ice ages. The last one, which started about 100,000 years ago and ended about 11,500 years ago, was the longest and coldest, and perhaps the only one in which the modern form of our species existed.”
“So, it ended 11,500 years ago, and less than 2,000 years after that, the first city arose, with huge stonewalls that survived to this day?”
“It does seem a little more than just a coincidence.”
“What role do you think the ending of the Ice Age played in the rise of the first city?”
“I have no idea. I’ve never thought about it.”
“But you do know something about what happened when the Ice Age ended?”
“Only physical things, such as global warming, polar ice caps melting and shrinking, sea level rising, vegetation changing, things like that. Nothing cultural.”
“Sea level rising?”
“You mean – the flood?”
“What do you know about changes in the sea level?”
“Well, I’ve read that the sea level dropped about 120 or even 150 meters from today’s level during the Ice Age, that is from 360 t almost 500 feet.”
“For how long?”
“Thousands or tens of thousands of years in a stretch.”
“What would it be like in the Persian Gulf?”
“I would say that any continental shelf shallower than 120 meters deep today would be exposed to dry air during the Ice Age, perhaps over an extended period of time, thousands of years.”
It didn’t take me long to pin point four major shelves – 1. the one east of China currently under the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea which if exposed would link China to Taiwan and even Japan, 2. the one surrounded by Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo, 3. the one between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and 4. the one currently submerged under the Persian Gulf. There are no other major shelves elsewhere in the world.
“The continents looked very different from the way they look today, that’s for sure, especially Asia and the Middle East.”
“I see the Yellow River – Huang Ho - greatly extended, by as much as 1,500 kilometers, not reaching the Pacific Ocean until almost Japan.”
“No great rivers for shelves 2 and 3, but through the entire length of the ‘Persian Gulf Shelf’ would have flowed the thousand kilometer extension of the merged Tigris-Euphrates, all the way past the present day Straight of Hormuz, into the Gulf of Oman.”
“And if the climate was wet?”
“If. There would be lush vegetation, forests, wetlands, grassland… on all four shelves.”
“And human tribal cultures.”
“And was the climate wet?”
“I don’t know about everywhere else, but I remember reading about the Sahara desert being full of lakes as recently as 16,000-8,000 years ago, and there is geological evidence in support of that. Near enough to the Persian Gulf region to say that the Persian Gulf region was probably lush and green. I believe the Middle East was a green corridor between Africa and India. Thus, the Asiatic lion and cheetah, and the Caspian tiger. Unfortunately, as we know, two out of these three are now extinct, and the last 300 Asiatic lions in India have been inextricably cut off from their African cousins. So, yes, it was wet there once.”
“Let’s concentrate on the Persian Gulf shelf for now. What do you think would be the total human population on it back then?”
“I think I’m finally beginning to see what you’re driving at. If it is what I think it is, it’s very interesting. Fascinating in fact. But, okay, let’s approach it one step at a time. So, the Persian Gulf. It is, let’s see, about 1,000 km long and an average of about 250 km wide, or about 250,000 sq. km. in area. Its maximum depth is 90 meters, and its average depth is 50 meters, meaning that indeed it would be exposed to the air in its entirety. So the questions are: How many tribes lived on it? What was the average population per tribe? We can use Kanha’s Buffer Zone for comparison. Its area is about 1,000 sq. km.. It has 178 villages, each with an average of 500 villagers, giving it a total human population of about 90,000, or 90 per sq. km.. So if the Persian Gulf shelf had the same human density, it would have 53,400 tribal villages, and a total human population of over 26 million. This is obviously way too high, the reasons being that India is intensely agrarian, whereas the tribal cultures back 12,000 years ago were largely hunter-gatherer with only the earliest forms of agriculture. India is of course also one of the densest populated places on Earth today. Another model is the Amazon Basin. Its area is about 7 million sq. km.. Its original native population, before the arrival of Europeans, is estimated to be about 3 million. So its original population density was about 1 person per two sq. km.. So at the same population density, the Persian Gulf shelf would have a total human population of about 125,000. If some of the tribal cultures had developed agriculture at that point, and there is evidence of that, such as grain cultivation, the population density should be higher, say two every sq. km., giving it a total population of 500,000. Considering an average population of 250 per tribe, there would be about 2,000 tribal cultures back then.”
“Accepting these figures for now, what then?”
“Then, around 11,500 years ago, the Ice Age ended. The sea level rose and the Persian Gulf shelf was again submerged. If I recall correctly, the process didn’t take place overnight, but over a number of years, which would allow enough time for the people to pack up and retreat before the rising tide. So drowning would not be a factor of mortality. The result would be a mass exodus up the Persian Gulf basin on to the upper Tigris-Euphrates valley, what was later called Mesopotamia. I can see a population compression wave sweeping up the valley, until it finally was blocked by the mountains of Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea.”
“Can you quantify this compression wave?”
“Well, by the look of it, Mesopotamia is about the same size as the Persian Gulf, which means that the population there would have doubled in just a very few years, by none other than a mass influx of refugees. There would be a huge amount of forced interactions, that’s for sure. Is this is what you’re driving at?”
“What’s the other part?”
“Taking your figure of 2,000 tribes – what would they be like?”
“That’s a very broad question.”
“Would they, for example, be mobile or sedentary?”
“As far as I know, the domestication of the camel didn’t happen until about 3,500 BC, and the horse even later than that, I’d say that the people weren’t very mobile. And since the climate in the region stayed wet until about 10,000 years ago, there would be little impetus for the cultures to be nomadic. And budding agriculture would certainly serve to anchor a tribe to one place. So I venture to say more sedentary than nomadic.”
“Would these cultures be alike or different?”
“I’d say both. But given their lack of mobility, and therefore lack of communication, they would have evolved divergently in terms of sociality and technology. So, socially and technologically speaking, they would essentially be similar, but differ from each other to various extents in detail.”
“Collectively? You mean the 2,000 tribes in total? I would say that they would cover a broad range of social and technological innovations.”
“So, if population compression is one side of the coin, what is on the other side?”
“Well, you’re talking about divergent cultural evolution. So, when the tribes were forced together, there would be a lot of cultural mixing and amalgamation. It does seem that population compression and cultural amalgamation combined would be a very powerful force towards fusing tribal cultures into a single civilization. And I would think much the same occurred in China.”
“Yes, China. The rise of civilization in China lagged behind that in Mesopotamia by a few thousand years. Why’s that?”
“I think it is due to a softer compression, because the Yellow River is much longer than the Tigris-Euphrates, and there was no barrier along the Yellow river to block the compression wave, and thus less of a compression shock.”
“And the shelves in South East Asia and Australia?”
“These shelves were wide open, and there would be no channeled compression as in the cases of the Persian Gulf and China.”
“And how about the native American civilizations such as the Aztec, the Inca and the Maya? As you can see on the map, there are no major shelves to expose. So how did these civilizations originate?”
“I think that the population compression and cultural amalgamation combination is a central criterion, so other mechanisms than the sea-level rise had to come in play to make it happen.”
“And what could it be?”
“Well, one way or another, it would require human movement. It would be a convergent migration of a large range of tribes. So, what could have caused that?”
I again consulted the Atlas, this time a double page showing the United States, Mexico and Central America.
Within one minute I said, “It is plain as daylight. The key is in the shape of the land. First, about 20,000 years ago, the native American precursors crossed over from Asia via the Bering land-bridge which was also exposed during the Ice Age. Canada was then completely covered in ice sheets miles thick, except for an ice-free corridor along the Canadian Rockies through which the new migrants moved into the land now occupied by the U.S. There they dispersed widely and divergently evolved into a range of tribal cultures. Then, especially after the saturation point had been reached, they would tend to migrate further southward, and the only place to go was funnel-shaped Mexico. Thus, population compression and cultural amalgamation, exactly where civilization arose. This would also be a much more gradual process, which explains the lateness of the rise of these civilizations.” By now, I was stoked.
“Now look at your world today, my friend. It is like a pressure cooker, isn’t it? By this same theoretical means of the tribes merging to form the first city, it could well be the way by which the nations today will merge to form the global nation – the Planetary organism.”
“Is this what you’ve been driving at all along?”
“Just using a potential past to illustrate a potential future.”
“So, just like the tribal lines dissolved when the tribes merged into the first city, would the national lines also dissolve when the nations merge into the global nation?”
“Possibly, but not necessarily. It could be the United Nations, as long as, first of all we call the United Nations an ‘it’, not a ‘they’, just as we call the United States an ‘it’ and not a ‘they’. And, yes, as long as the nations are as harmonious with each other within the United Nations as the states are with each other within the United States.”
“Now, this I can believe, and accept. And it sounds achievable within a relatively short time frame.”
After a sip of chai, I asked, “So, did civilization really arise this way?”
“My point is made. So, it doesn’t matter. But if you’re interested, the only way to be sure would be to seek evidence for and against it, and see which side wins out.”
“This is exciting stuff.’
“More than you think.”
“What do you mean?”
“Some time in your future, when you live in and explore interstellar space, you will encounter planets in the middle of ice ages. On some of these planets, there would be intelligent but still tribal creatures. If you know the geology of these planets well enough, you might be able to predict where and when civilization would arise. Would not this be an achievement of biblical proportions?”
I closed the atlas and gathered my day’s thoughts. They culminated in the following diagram:
The 6 levels of organization of the planet Earth so far
National Level of Organization
Citian Level of Organization
Metabion Level of Organization
Cellular Level of Organization
Molecular Level of Organization
“social” sub-atomic particles
Sub-Atomic Level of Organization
nonsocial sub-atomic particles
While working on the diagram, I added one level below the Molecular level – the Sub-Atomic level of organization, because within the bounds of the Earth does exist nonsocial (free) sub-atomic particles, raising the total number of levels from 7 to 8. Of course all atoms and molecules are composed of “social” sub-atomic particles.
Where does the atom belong? For the moment, I’m treating the atom as a molecule with a single nucleus. In the context of the above diagram, an atom would be under nonsocial “molecules”.
Corporations, as touched upon before, are considered “social tribes”, even if they are large multinational corporations.
States and provinces of nations are slightly problematic. For the moment, I consider them “nations within nations”. Further, within each living system are sub-systems and micro-systems. A U.S. state like California, for example, is larger and richer than, say, Switzerland or Luxembourg which are national organisms on the same level as the U.S. itself.
Again, within this 6-leveled framework, all things of Earth are accounted for, and each has a meaningful place – even, for example, the despised mosquitoes, which are nonsocial metabionts, whose ecological role is to serve as food for fish and birds.
The above is the cosmic structure of planet Earth. Now, we seek the process that continuously builds its structure and drives its dynamics. The process by which organisms of Level [X] become social and build societies of themselves I call Transcendent Integration. The process by which societies of level [X] become Level [X+1] organisms by means of transcendent integration I call Integrative Transcendence. E.g., “Over millions of years, certain nonsocial cellular organisms evolved into social cellular organisms, which then transcendently integrated themselves into cellular societies, which then integratively transcended into being the first metabion organisms.”
The two do have slightly different meanings. Transcendent Integration is more of a mechanism, whereas Integrative Transcendence is more of the essence and the aim and the result of the process. But by using them interchangeably, one would not go too far wrong.
“You are now ready to consider interlevel parallelism. Congratulations,” said Raminothna.
I will have a little celebration for this tomorrow, but I finish tonight by thinking about you and sending you all my love. Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 1, 1999, Monday, sunny, 16-30C
[19:29 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Another day of heavenly rest, the second of two or three forced rest-days. We took maximum refuge in the park, and in the deep past. The park gate was the portal of a time machine through which we entered a world indistinguishable from that a million years ago - life before man when tigers truly ruled - except for the twin-rutted park road stretching before and behind us. We soaked ourselves in the magnificence of Kanha in both the morning and afternoon safaris. I stuffed my camera pack full of cameras, films and video cassettes.
The morning visit, 07:00-12:00 was in two Gypsies, I at the wheel of the new one and Julian the old one. In my Gypsy were Kim and 6 Manjitola children, and in the other were Faiyaz, Jane, and another 4 kids. We could have all fitted into one Gypsy without the children, but I asked myself, “If Christopher were born one of these village children, could I leave him behind?” Besides, they are the tiger’s future. Gate cost was RS.800 (C$34) for all – absolutely best value for anything anywhere. We drove up to the plateau, elevation change 820 m (2700 ft.). The ascent and descent took us through different belts of vegetation unseen in the lower elevations. I’ve noticed before that the Kanha people, Manohar included, and even Faiyaz, are somewhat nonplussed by my praising the beauty of Ranthambhore. Now, submerged in Kanha’s overflowing glory and beauty hitherto unseen, I was captivated anew, and suddenly, Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh seemed very far away.
And the children? You have to see their faces and hear their voices to appreciate what I’m saying. They were in their own “Kindergarten of Eden”. Another analogy would have it that the park drive was their yellow brick road, and the park is the Emerald City, and perhaps I was the Wizard of Oz himself. One of them could have said in Hindi, “I have a feeling we’re not in Manjitola any more.” Even though they lived right on the edge of the park, they had never seen anything like what they were seeing today. Kanha and Manjitola, though but two kilometers from each other, are worlds apart. No goats or cows here. This place is populated by creatures that do not need to be unreal to be magical. No unicorns or dragons or griffons required; tigers and elephants and gaurs are mythical enough, thank you very much. And wonder of wonders, no people anywhere in sight except their little buddies and the friendly park guide, the kindly teacher Faiyaz and the light-skinned, long haired and enigmatic “Tiger Uncle” from across the oceans doing that miraculous thing – driving this fantastic growling iron beast called a Gypsy. Speaking of oceans, the closest thing to an ocean that they had seen was the little pond behind their village, until now, lo and behold, this amazing body of water I would call a small lake became for them a sea.
And one thing the children would never guess in a million years. Even though they consider themselves strangers and outsiders to the park, but in my eyes, these children are very much part and parcel of the Kanha in my mind, and certainly an integral part of my Kanha experience. These children too are my magical creatures.
And again, Christopher, for the thousandth times today, I wish you were here. You are the most magical creature of all.
While the children were having a time of their lives, Faiyaz gave them an educational running commentary like nothing they’ve ever had, nor will likely have again. Mid-morning, we brunched at one of the huts of one of the hundred and fifty or so park guards who live in the park. I would love to live here for a year, even during the monsoon, to experience the park intimately and know all her moods, to have the tiger walk right up to my door. I would love to live here with Christopher for a year, and teach him everything I know about anthropology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, ecology, geography, geology, philosophy, physics, psychology and sociology, and about integrative transcendence.
I should make a note here that none of my friends and colleagues in India knows anything about Christopher’s tragedy. Most know about him, since I talked about him with ebullience a number of times before the tragedy descended. After that, I had made no mention. In fact, my not mentioning him may be the telltale sign that something is wrong. There were a few times when I verged on losing it, and I noticed expressions on their faces of their having registered my distress, but they have probably assigned its cause to Avtar. I dread the time when Jane or Kim or Faiyaz would ask the direct question “How is Christopher?” Should I just give an unconvincing “fine,” or would I spill the beans?
I have so wanted to talk to someone about it, anyone who would listen, anyone who could give me some sympathy, a real person, that is, not Raminothna. Especially Jane – the cool, cerebral, analytical lawyer. But doing so, I fear, would affect our working relationship. I certainly do not want to openly discuss it with just anyone. I certainly don’t want it to be the talk of the camp.
So, again, I turned to Raminothna and the cosmic realm, and the amazing concept of integrative transcendence. While the Gypsy was bumping along in second gear and my intellectual mind was in neutral, Raminothna quietly opened a new chapter in my inquiry. She challenged me to name the first interlevel parallelism.
“First, tell me what ‘interlevel parallelism’ means,” I asked her, although the term is not exactly cryptic.
“There exist certain essential properties of a certain level of organization that also exist in parallel on all other levels of organization.”
“So, these interlevel parallelisms could be of predictive value?”
“Exactly. They lend insight to understanding those levels of organization with which we are less familiar, and those that are in the process of unfolding, and even those that have not yet arisen.”
“So, what are they?”
“I could lead off with the first interlevel parallelism - Integrative Transcendence itself, which occurs on all levels.”
“Yes, I see. Integrative transcendence does occur and has occurred on all levels beneath the National level. So, it is reasonable to predict that it too will occur, and has been occurring, on the National level as well. It is reasonable to state that transcendent integration amongst the nations is the true way to world harmony and peace on Earth.”
“So now, could you name the rest?”
“Okay. How about this: An organism on a certain level is an integratively transcended society of the level below.”
“Good. And another?”
“How about this: Societies on all levels work on the cooperation-of-specialized-parts principle.”
“Good. And another?”
“On all levels are nonsocial and social forms, and any combination in between. There are ‘nonsocial and social molecules’, nonsocial and social cells, nonsocial and social metabionts, nonsocial and social cities, and nonsocial and social nations. And there may even eventually be nonsocial and social planetary organisms.”
“In the Universe, potentially billions of billions, amongst which the Earth is not yet one.”
“If not yet, when?”
“When your nations have transcendently integrated themselves. Have they?”
“No, can’t say that they have.”
“I hope that Earth will one day integratively transcend, if only for the sake of Homo Sapiens.”
“For me, if only for the sake of Christopher.”
“Yes. For the sake of Christopher for me too.” I felt Raminothna’s sadness, but she moved on. ”Any more interlevel parallelism you can think of?”
“Well, I recall the Lions Gate Bridge back in Vancouver. Once I was driving on it, edging past an auto-accident, which totaled two cars and damaged the bridge railing. The week after, I drove past the same spot, and noticed that the railing had been repaired. I now see it as the Citian organism called Vancouver healing itself.”
“Very nice. And another?”
“Hm. How about this? When I was physically assaulted last year, I sustained damage on my face. So, I was wounded on the metabion level. And since millions of cells also died, you might say that my cellular citizens suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties in the “war” with another cellular society. Also, I noticed that my assailant’s knuckles were bleeding. So, that cellular society’s “military” took casualties as well.”
“I like that, not referring to your being assaulted of course. And another?”
“Also quite obviously, evolution unfolds on all levels simultaneously. Take the human species for example. It evolves on the Molecular level by DNA mutation, some being beneficial and passed on. It evolves on the Cellular level, in the structure and physiology of the human cells. It evolves on Metabion level by natural selection. It evolves on the Citian level - witness our drive to change the way of life of the Buffer Zone villages. It evolves on the Citian level, say, in terms of city planning and metropolitan technologies such as public transit systems design. The human species also evolves on the National level, for example, the bureaucratic and economic structures, the military and the space program. It even evolves on the planetary scale, in terms of the human relationship to the global environment.”
“But I do have a question. It has struck me that from the Citian level upwards, evolution occurs in both the Darwinian and Lamarckian modes.”
“Well, Darwinian evolution has it that changes occur between generations of organisms, which are then subjected to natural selection. Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, a contemporary of Darwin, erroneously proposed that somatic changes occur within the lifetime of the organism, such as a giraffe lengthening its neck by repeated stretching (supposedly), which then would begat longer-necked offspring. The Darwinian explanation, the correct one, is that the giraffe produce offspring of varying neck-lengths by means of genetic recombination and the odd mutations, and natural selection favors the longer-necked offspring for survival to propagate the genes for longer-necks. But my observation of villages and cities and nations shows me unequivocally that, on these levels, the Lamarckian mode of evolution is very much in evidence. A tribal village can make observable changes, such as adopting the use of the solar cooker and changing its wood-cutting-gathering way of life and creating a cottage industry component to its existence, all within its lifetime, and the newly evolved characteristics could then be inherited by its offspring villages. Along with the emergent Lamarckian mode of evolution, Darwinian evolution continues to operate, such as offspring villages competing for the same resources.”
“Well observed. You have given a prime example of the cosmic phenomenon known as Translevel Progression. In this case, it is the translevel progression of the mode of evolution from the purely Darwinian one on the lower levels to the Darwinian-Lamarckian one on the higher levels.”
“Translevel Progression. Noted. So now, I have another question. It seems to me that Lamarckian evolution on the Citian and higher levels involves a lot of deliberation and design. It is not a matter of random mutation at all. If it is random mutation in the Darwinian mode, most of the changes would be unworkable, anti-social, retarded and even destructive, and they would have to be all manifest so that natural selection could work on them. But this doesn’t seem to be the way it happens in real life. Most social mutations seem to be improvements. Take the automobile, for example. We don’t see hoards of bad new cars produced every year just to be carted off to the junkyard. They are mostly improvements on earlier models. Only, some are better than others, and Darwinian evolution does work on competing makes and models. So, my question is: Would Lamarckian evolution one day, on some high level, totally displace Darwinian evolution?”
“You will answer this question yourself before long.”
“Going back to integrative transcendence, I can say this. Now that it has finally made itself known to the human mind – mine - the human mind can now actively drive the human species to actively, purposefully, foresightfully and integratively transcend.”
The afternoon safari, from 16:00 to 18:15, was driven by Manohar, with Julian, Kim, lodge employee Sarup and me aboard, and as usual, when the Gypsy was in the hands of Manohar, it was an exciting experience. He took us to the far side of the park looking for wild dogs. Towards the end he had to drive at over 40 mph, which given the park’s driving condition was break-neck speed, trying to make the Mukki Gate by 18:00 - closing time. Still, we were late by 15 minutes and had to pay the late penalty, which was fine except for the waiting we put their gate guards through, especially in the height of the Holi festival. I’m sure they had better things in mind to do than to sit waiting for us. I tipped each guard C$1 each for their trouble, which is about three hours’ worth of their wages.
During dinner, Jane and Faiyaz disappeared for some time, and returned from the kitchen with a tray of dessert, on three pieces of which were stuck three lit candles. While walking into the kitchen, they sang the Happy Birthday song – for me. Again I had forgotten and missed my birthday on February 25. They found out about it yesterday and got on to it. There was also a card, hand made by Faiyaz, with a hand colored tiger on the cover. On the inside, it was written: “For Anthony, an inspiration to all of us who are afraid of becoming cynical in our old age!” Signed: Jane, Faiyaz, Julian and Manohar.
Kim’s signature was not there, and I had to hand it to her saying, “This card wouldn’t be complete without you.” Then, she signed it.
Kim usually keeps her opinion to herself, and stays a little aloof, but when Manohar said that working with “lazy” local tribal people wouldn’t do a thing to save the tiger and I disagreed, she turned to me and said, “You are an outsider talking to somebody who lives here. You should listen to what he has to say.”
It was Manohar himself who spoke up in my defense, saying, “We are all outsiders here. I came from Jodpur (‘jod-POOR’) in Rajasthan, a totally different world from the tribal cultures here. So it is just Anthony’s views against mine, and I’m willing to give Anthony a chance to prove me wrong.”
He told me later that it was he who advised Avtar to transfer Kim over to Bandhavgarh and retain Jane here to do tiger conservation work with Faiyaz and me. Of all the people at Kanha, Manohar is the one about whom I harbor ambivalent feelings. I don’t totally trust him on account of his being Avtar’s nephew, but am in fact quite fond of him as a person.
All in all a very good day, the constant dark cloud of my personal tragedy, which contains the much darker cloud of Christopher’s, notwithstanding.
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 3, 1999, Wednesday, Sunny, 17-31C
[05:48 (1999-03-04) @ Rm. 111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Yesterday (03-03) was another forced off-day. So we again took the opportunity to go into the park. This time it was Manohar at the wheel, Jane, Kim, Faiyaz, Julian and I participating. With both Julian and Faiyaz in the same vehicle, both being avid bird-watchers, it is a day of bird watching, whether a tiger showed up or not. On the road back from the park to the lodge, we encountered two roadblocks of tree branches set up by color-powder-encrusted villagers, demanding money for us to pass. Manohar talked his way past the first one, but at the second one, a few villagers hefted up pots of colored liquids threateningly, demanding money or else. Manohar paid Rs.50 to get past that one. Considering that there are no windows in the Gypsy to crank up, I think it was a wise decision.
In the evening Manohar and Faiyaz went to Baihar to call Avtar. Prior to the trip, we sat down to strategize on the call. They both asked me to go and speak to Avtar about our work here. I declined. I've already sent him the letter. The ball is in Avtar's court. If he had read the letter, there is no point for me to explain thing over again. If he hadn't read the letter, I wanted him to get the picture by reading the letter, not to have me tell him about it on the phone. The letter is a much better medium to convey ideas systematically. I also don’t totally trust myself to be able to talk to Avtar with equanimity. I suggested that they go and check for any fax from Avtar. If there is no fax, things are fine. It is a case of “no news is good news”. If there is a fax saying something like the last fax, i.e., suspend all action until he arrives, I would then call him, this evening. And if I had to make this call, it would be to say “No".
Manohar, however, would have to make the call - to ask for money to run the lodge, and for funds for the Buffer Zone outreach and for the conference. The situation is that no money has been released to him since early February for either, even after the CIDA funds have arrived. .
As it happened, and not surprisingly, there was no fax from Avtar, and Manohar again could not get Avtar on the phone, even as Avtar was in Delhi, nor was there even a message left for him. How much more detached from the front line can Avtar be?
Jane said to me, “Avtar is not the fire and brimstone campaigner that you are. If you have him as a partner, you will be constantly frustrated.”
I had a chat with Jane yesterday evening while Faiyaz and Manohar went off to Baihar. The object was that where this outreach project is concerned, Faiyaz is given to work at 150% efficiency (at least in terms of the time he puts in - from 07:30 to 21:30, day in, day out, which however is what he thrives on doing), I at 70%, but she at no more than 20%, and she wanted to have more of her considerable abilities put to work. We talked about what she could do before the conference. She would like to go outreach to the English language schools in Baihar, Malanjkhan (the copper mining town) and Balaghat, and liaise with the women’s groups there, if any. We thought that Judge Vijay Chandra and Collector Manu Srivastava would be excellent people to start with. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll go with her into Baihar to pay Judge Vijay Chandra another visit.
When Faiyaz came back, we discussed this with him and he thought what Jane wanted to do a capital idea, and came up with some more suggestions as to how to get it done.
Faiyaz and I also talked about what best to do tomorrow. We decided that he would again go early in the morning with Tirath to rake in as many panchayats as possible over the next few days. He’ll spend the whole day out there. Another 14-hour work day for him, but as I said, he thrives on it. I can empathize with him on this, since I’m much the same.
“What animals and plants did you see between the lodge gate and the Kanha park gate?” Raminothna posed the question of the day.
“Oh, the usual – cows, goats, dogs, a couple of camels, fields of wheat and rice, bees in honey farms, oranges and papayas in orchards…”
“Are these integral parts of India?”
“Yes, they are.”
“And what plant and animal species inside the park have you seen in the park?”
I rattled off a few dozen species until she stopped me.
“Are they integral parts of India too?”
“Yes, they are.”
“So, what is your conclusion?”
“Conclusion? As to what?”
“Another interlevel parallelism, of course.”
“I still don’t know what you’re driving at.”
“Consider India as a national organism.”
“So, the national organism called India is composed of a broad spectrum of species on the levels below?”
“So, you’re saying that an organism is also an… ecosystem?”
“An organized ecosystem.”
“An organism comprising many species within – what an astounding notion! And let’s not forget the tribal cultures such as the Baiga and Gond either, nonetheless species on the Citian level. And also cellular species such as penicillin and yeast, and even molecular species by the thousands, such as the medicines we dispense to the kids. And not just human societies, either. Some insect societies are the same. A beehive contains no other species than bees, but the societies of certain termite species contain not just termites, but specific species of fungus that the termites cultivate and feed upon, without which the termite mounds themselves could not survive. Conversely, the fungus species could not survive without the termites cultivating it.”
“Now, look inside a regular plant cell and a regular animal cell, and what do you see?’
“I see its nucleus, mitochondria, chloroplasts, plastids…”
“What are they?”
“They are organelles.”
“What are organelles?”
“They are prokaryote-like bodies, similar to bacteria, inside the eukaryotic cell (cell with nucleus) as its integral parts. They have their own DNA, and they multiply inside the cell as if the inside of the cell is their natural environment. Theory has it that the early ancestors of these organelles were free living prokaryotes – cells without nuclei. Somewhere along the way, they got ingested by the host eukaryote cell, and somehow managed to avoid being digested – perhaps a mutation. So, a eukaryote cell can be seen as an enclosed ecosystem of symbiotic prokaryotes as well as thousands of molecular species. Fascinating.”
“Glad you find it so.”
Good night, Christopher. Missing you. And when it comes to missing you, it is always – terribly.
* * * * *
March 4th, 1999, Thursday, sunny,
[14:11 @ Rm. 111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
This morning, Faiyaz left around 07:45 with Surinder, on a route designed with the help of Tirath. It will take him about 12 hours to do. He will strive to line up meetings with panchayats on a daily basis as of tomorrow.
Jane came out of her room around 08:15, and we started a strategizing session in which Manohar participated, very vigorously this times, as of about 10:30 when he returned from Baihar. Obviously, he’s done some serious thinking of his own. More on this later.
He did succeed in reaching Avtar by phone this morning. Avtar apparently still had not read my letter, and made no comment on the panchayat conference project. According to Manohar, he assured Avtar that there were no promises made by me and Faiyaz that Tiger Fund could not keep, and informed him about the amount of work we have already done, and the number of people who said would attend the conference. Avtar asked Manohar if he had attended any sessions Faiyaz and I had conducted, and Manohar replied “no”. Avtar said that he wanted to speak to Faiyaz directly, tomorrow morning at 10:00. Is he going to suspend Tiger Fund action again?
Doesn’t it sound ridiculous, that we are so constantly concerned that Avtar would try to deter or sabotage the progress of his own organization? But just in case, since Faiyaz cannot say “no” to Avtar and still work for Tiger Fund on the project, and I cannot do without him, I would have to say ‘no’ for him. I will therefore go into Baihar with Faiyaz when he calls Avtar, and standby just in case, which would dovetail well with Jane’s plan to go to town to speak with Judge Chandra.
[17:01] The in-depth meeting with Manohar this morning brought out some interesting points, ones from an Indian’s point of view (Kim should be interested), albeit from another province, bearing in mind that Faiyaz often holds opinions contrary to Manohar’s, and his is an Indian view point too. Slightly paraphrased:
The tribals are not “civilized enough” to be quickly convertible to ecological thinking, he said. “By the time they voluntarily give up their eco-unfriendly practices such as wood burning and poaching, there will be no tigers left to save. Therefore, we should concentrate on fast track, short-term solutions, such as strong-armed anti-poaching measures.”
“This sounds a bit elitist, Manohar,” said Jane in her usual mild yet forceful manner, “though I think I understand what you’re saying.”
“I can understand his sentiments almost totally,” I was prompted by an internal sentiment to say. “It’s exactly the way I feel about those Chinese, Japanese and Korean people who use tiger parts for medicine. The immediate strategy should be strong-armed law-and-enforcement control. It would take time to change basic attitudes, perhaps generations. However, my experience with the panchayat leaders thus far has shown that at least they are not as ‘uncivilized’, nor as reluctant to change, as Manohar said they would be. Manohar, why don’t you come and observe one of our panchayat meetings? I would be most interested in your observations.”
“Sure, maybe I will, but, Jane, it is not elitist. It’s basic human nature. It would be difficult to convince villagers to not use wood because it is so easily available here in Madhya Pradesh, versus in the desert-like conditions of Rajasthan.”
“So, your opinion is that people will just keep on cutting down trees and burning wood until there are no more trees to be cut and no more wood to be burnt, before they will take on alternative energies?”
“You got it.”
I wanted to talk to a local tribal. Manohar called in Rahesh and Ramjit and asked them some questions in Hindi. Rahesh answered first, and Manohar said, “Rahesh’s opinion is that although the solar cooker physically works, the villagers would not readily adopt it, because it requires too many changes in their traditional way of cooking – they have a full breakfast in the morning before the sun is hot, and they have a full dinner in the evening after the sun has set, but hardly any lunch; the women like to be able to smell and try-taste their cooking, which the solar cooker does not allow. The solar cooker takes too long to prepare a meal; the solar cooker does not work during the monsoon; the villagers usually keep the fire going in the hearth all day long; the villagers use wood in the evenings to keep warm; etc., etc. Rahesh was raised in a tribal village and should know what he is talking about. It seems to be a case of ‘you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.’”
“I can only counter a part of this,” I said. “First, the solar cooker as a concept has proven workable in certain areas, in Africa as well as in Asia. Granted, some of these areas may no longer have a tree standing. Second, accord to my reading, people need only to set up the solar cooker in the morning, line it up due south and leave it for the rest of the day and come dinnertime, the rice and other dishes would be cooked and still warm. It is true that the solar cooker would be useless in the early morning and during the monsoon, but solar cooking can work in conjunction with biogas, of whose raw material, cattle dung, India is not in short supply. Biogas can serve as fuel for both morning cooking and nighttime heating. And as for basic human nature, I believe in the flexibility of the species, that we can adapt to environmental changes.”
Rahesh spoke some more. Manohar translated. “Tribal villagers are used to getting things from the government free of charge, and what is given to them is seldom used as intended. He cites the example of a villager selling a hand pump for alcohol. He thinks that a solar cooker will likely be treated likewise.”
“We’re not giving them irreplaceable solar cookers,” Jane pointed out. “We are teaching them how to make the cookers for themselves. They can make as many as they want. In fact, the more they make, the more they can then sell for more money.”
I asked Manohar to ask Sarup whether the carpenter had the solar cooker reflector-frame ready, which he promised to deliver on March 4th – today. Sarup went to Manjitola to check, but the carpenter was nowhere to be found. Manohar said, “Deadlines in India are often not made to be met. You have to constantly monitor the progress and push people to meet them. Service and product quality in this region is not high due to low competition.”
Both Manohar and Rahesh believe that electricity is a much better alternative than solar energy in terms of acceptability to the villagers. Important is the nature of the end-use, as also pointed out by other advisors before. This means that the villagers will more readily accept an alternative energy technology if they can do with it the number of things they can do with wood burning. The solar cooker, for example, does not meet this criterion well. Electricity, on the other hand, does so almost perfectly, and it is relatively cheap, at Rs.50 (C$2) /outlet/month for two light bulbs, and perhaps Rs.100-200 per month for an electric stove. There is an upfront cost of an electric hot plate of Rs.75-200. We decided to try it on a minimal scale – to provide to Rahesh and Sarup each a 2-element electric stove to take home to try out. Both Rahesh and Sarup have large families of about a dozen members each. It is estimated that about 30% of the villages in the Buffer Zone have access to electricity. Manohar believes that it would be relatively easy to persuade the government to move towards providing electric power to all villages within a short time period.
But to my challenge of, “If there were electricity to spare, there wouldn’t be daily rotational blackouts,” they had no answer.
Other information includes:
•Killing of wild animals in the Buffer Zone is rampant.
•90% of all government loans to villagers are forgiven due to non-repayment.
•Manjitola, a “peripheral village” (adjacent to the park), extracts about 25 headloads per day of fuel wood illegally from the park. Of these, about 30% are for domestic use and 70% for selling mostly at Baihar for Rs.15 per headload. This means a number of things, that even if Manjitola accepts the solar cooker totally, the cooker can solve only 30% of the problem; they would still poach wood to sell.
•People in urban and suburban areas are not likely to use the solar cooker due to the predominance of shadows; that electricity is available in Baihar, but people still purchase wood from the villagers.
•Legal wood is available for purchase, but people still purchase poached wood; that neither solar cooking nor electric cooking can produce the income the wood brings into the village. 25 headloads a day means about 700 headloads a month or about 8,000 headload a year. 70% of this is about 500 headloads a month or 5,600 headloads a year. This would bring into the village Rs.7500 (US$180) a month or Rs.84,000 (US$2,100) a year. If all the 200 villages in Kanha’s Core/Buffer Zones follow the same formula, the total loss should wood-cutting be stopped would be Rs.1,500,000 (US$40,000) a month or Rs.16,800,000 (US$420,000 or CDN$720,000) a year.
“So how do we offset this loss if the villagers stop selling wood?” I asked.
We seem to agree on that freeing up time of the wood-packing women could be more than offset if they spent it in developing cottage industries and selling the products instead of wood for more than Rs.50 per person per day, say Rs150 (C$6.50). The village revenue then will more than triple that of packing and selling wood. Bearing in mind that a headload of wood can fetch only about US$1, which is often the fruit of a full day’s work for a village woman, surely, they could make more money and enjoy more of life than that.
In conjunction with this is that if the park fee is raised 10X from the present US$2.50 to US$25 per person per visit for foreign tourists (about 3,000 per annum) and perhaps a little less for out of state Indian visitors (about 20,000 per annum), the park revenue will be in the region of Rs.9,000,000 + Rs.4,000,000 = Rs.13,000,000 (US$325,000 or CDN$500,000), half of which going to the park service, and half towards a village benefit fund, amounting to Rs.6,500,000 (US$160,000 or CDN$260,000) a year each. The half going to the park service can create a powerful anti-poaching squad (a la Manohar), and the half going to the villagers can help provide basic services such as schools and medical clinics and kick-start cottage industries.
What should we aim for in the panchayat conference?
•All panchayats must unify their voices to drive for such a park system, not only for Kanha, but for all tiger reserves in India.
•If workable alternative energy is provided, villagers must promise to stop gathering or cutting and especially poaching of wood.
•Villagers and government officials must work together towards protecting the park and tiger habitats in both the core and buffer zones.
•Poaching of anything must stop, in both the core and buffer zones.
[22:47] Faiyaz didn’t get back from his day-long trip until past 20:00. Dinner at the usual time, i.e., about 20:30, where we (Faiyaz, Jane, Kim, Julian., Manohar and I) inevitably talked about the oncoming arrival of the tourist group headed by Ed Cambridge, whom nobody liked on account of his rudeness to the volunteers on previous visits. But the topic of conversation was not Cambridge but Avtar. We were all concerned, including even Manohar (if only in anticipation of our reaction), that Avtar would repeat his previous order that when the tourists come, Tiger Fund activities should be suspended so that Faiyaz could devote his full energy to serving the tourist clients. Given the high-gear nature of the conference project, and the shortage of time which limits us to contact no more than 50 of the 75 or so panchayats as it is, plus going to neighbouring towns such as Jabalpur and Mandla to invite forest officials and media, plus working with Manohar to organize the physical aspect of the conference, there is not a moment to spare. Suspending Tiger Fund activities even for one day, let alone at least three, just cannot be done if the conference is to be successful. With Manohar, Kim and Julian hosting the tourists, it is not as if there’s a vacuum situation at KTL (Kanha Tiger Lodge).
Jane thought that this time it would not come to that, since Avtar must have at least come to some grasp that there is an urgent and momentous conservation project going on in the names of WCWC and Tiger Fund, and that Faiyaz is indispensable for the project to continue.
Manohar offered a sneaky solution, “Say ‘yes’ but do ‘no’.”
Kim concurred, “Yeah, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
But I heard myself saying, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll say no, and do no.”
But I do worry, and thanks to Avtar, this worrying is ruining my enjoyment here at Kanha. I hope Jane is right and that we’re just spinning our worrying wheels.
In theory, it should be Faiyaz to say it, since he is the official Tiger Fund “Project Officer”, but if he did that, he would likely be canned. So I offered to go to town with him to say the “no” myself.
One way or the other, some damage to the project is already done. Because of the damned phone call tomorrow morning at 10:00, Faiyaz will be unable to get on the road till noon, instead of his usual 06:30. And this half-day’s loss we can ill afford.
I fumed. “Ten o’clock be damned. We’ll call Avtar at home tomorrow morning at eight o’clock. That’s late enough.”
Manohar and Faiyaz exchanged apprehensive glances.
“We need the morning to do our work. If you don’t want to call, I’ll call,” I said.
Manohar hesitated momentarily, then said, “Okay, Anthony, I’ll call.”
If this type of inefficiency exists in our bodies, we’d be lying down all day, running a fever due to internal friction.
There is an old Scientific American magazine in the conservation center, in which I found an ad for a book titled Living Systems, by James Greer Miller. The ad says that all living things, and many apparently nonliving things, such as a corporation or a city, are living systems, and all living systems have each 19 subsystems. Sounds very intriguing. I asked Jane to see if she could find that book at the Seoni public library while she was there. She did. But it was a huge book, over a thousand pages thick, weighing a ton, and not to be taken out. So she took it upon herself to copy down the 19 key words, which are: the Boundary, the Ingestor, the Distributor, the Input Transducer, the Internal Transducer, the Output Transducer, the Converter, the Producer, the Matter-Energy Storage, the Extruder, the Motor, the Supporter, the Channel-Net, the Decoder, the Encoder, the Memory, the Associator, the Decider and the Reproducer.
“Thus, another interlevel parallelism,” said Raminothna.
“Yes indeed. All organisms and societies on all levels are “living systems”, all with the same 19 subsystems.”
“Oh, by the way, there is one subsystem that Miller forgot to mention.”
“And what is that?”
“The evolver – the provision for mutation in the reproductive system. Makes sense. Plus, 20 looks aesthetically more pleasing than 19 in this context.”
“That shouldn’t be a determining factor. There is no magic of the number 20 over 19. In a prime number contest, 19 will beat 20 hands down. But in this case, 20 does look more symmetrical than 19, and symmetry is beauty in the eyes of science.”
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 5, 1999, Friday, sunny, 18-33C
[23:54 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Today is a day of no return.
This morning at 07:00, Faiyaz, Manohar and I drove into Baihar, they to talk to Avtar, and I to take him to task.
As it happened, it took us more than an hour to make the connection between Baihar and Delhi. By the time Manohar finally got through to Avtar, it was past nine.
While waiting for the call to go through, I remarked to Raminothna, “The Channel-Net subsystem of the living system called India leaves much to be desired.”
“Very good illustration.”
“I’ve heard that the Chinese have a philosophical system that puts the body organs into five interacting groups. Is that correct?”
“Yes. It’s called the Five Elements system.”
“What are these Five-Elements and how do they interact?”
“The Five Elements are Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. These five organ groups are arranged in the superimposed form of a pentagon and a star. In this diagram, the pentagon lines are the ‘support lines’ and the star lines are the ‘inhibition lines’, where Group A supports Group B, inhibits Group C, is inhibited by Groups D and is supported by Groups E. And likewise for every other group. Chinese internal medicine strives to achieve optimal balance amongst the five organ groups.”
“Thus, two similar interlevel parallelisms – 20 Subsystems per Living System on all levels, from the West, and the 5 Elements within all organisms on all levels - from the East. Unintended but nice symmetry.”
When finally the call went through, Manohar talked first. From the outset, although I couldn’t understand a word he said in Hindi, his body language said it all. When he was done, he passed the phone to Faiyaz, who could not finish a single sentence. The loud voice on the other end just rattled on and on. Whatever Faiyaz could manage to say was said in a subdued voice, and as soon as the interruption came, he’d stop in mid-sentence. This went on for about 15 minutes. Manohar filled me in. Avtar had indeed refused to release a single rupee to the panchayat outreach-conference project. When Faiyaz was done, he was so upset he just hung up the phone. The two of them mumbled something to each other in Hindi, went back out to the street and climbed dejectedly back into the Gypsy. Faiyaz seemed on the point of tears.
I joined them. “Well?”
So they spilled the beans. First, Faiyaz was indeed ordered to give up even the old (instead of new) Gypsy assigned to us for the outreach effort in favor of the use for tourists during their stay, which means that WCWC/TF work would indeed be suspended. And second, Jane was ordered to go to Bandhavgarh almost at once. There were apparently other things that Avtar said about me to Faiyaz, which Faiyaz was hesitant to repeat, but these two points were enough for the time being. I went back into the STD-PCO shop to place my call.
Hardly surprising, it was not a pleasant or even civil conversation. Avtar’s first point was that we went ahead to plan and do things without his approval. I pointed out his almost total inaccessibility, and he did not dispute it. Since my return to Kanha on February 16th, the first time anyone succeeded in contacting him by any means was yesterday, March 4th. CJ delivered my letter to him on late Feb. 26th or early Feb. 27th, and he did not read it until yesterday. Mean time, he left absolutely no instruction to Faiyaz for any TF work, nor did he pre-discuss with me while I was in Delhi what he would like TF to accomplish in his usual absence. And what of all the promises and agreements he made when I was in Delhi, about the Buffer Zone outreach and the Gypsy? I asked him if he wanted us to just sit and wait two and a half weeks and do nothing other than to try to get in touch with him. He did not answer the question, but had the audacity to say, “As far as I’m concerned, your work at Kanha is a total failure.”
“And yours?” I thought of asking back. Instead, I asked, “How’s that?”
He said, “You should have limited your outreach to at most two villages and made sure that the villagers use the solar cookers.”
“Just two? We have succeeded to impress and convince the panchayat leaders of at least 50 villages that the solar cooker physically works, and I have given them tiger conservation slideshows, and have taken them into the park. I aim to do so with at least 120 villages during my stay here. The follow-up to the conference would be to install units in the villages interested in them, and there will be dozens willing to try out this technology. What we are doing will accomplish a Buffer-Zone-wide raising of awareness and distribution of trial solar ovens. But if we limit our effort during my stay to just two villages, and if they end up selling the cookers for alcohol as they did the hand pumps, then that would have been a total failure, with none of the other villages having heard about tiger conservation and even the idea of alternative cooking technology at all.”
Avtar did not argue this point either, or could not, but started ordering me saying “I want” this done and “I want” that done, most of which showed no understanding nor respect for what we are doing and have done, and would derail the conference project altogether.
I interrupted him, “Avtar, it’s not what you want. If you want these things done, you do just one of them yourself. Indeed, you can tell Faiyaz to do this and that, but all I’ve heard you say to him has been to suspend doing what good work he is doing. I’ll tell you what I want. I want you to send the fund here for our work at once. As far as I’m concerned, if there are two equal partners, one doing everything and the other nothing, the one doing nothing has no right to make the rules or even criticize the other. Still, you’re the head of Tiger Fund, and we are organizing the conference in the name of Tiger Fund. You do have the right to call it off. So if you think the work on the conference is a total failure, why don’t you just order it cancelled?”
He said, “Okay, cancel it.”
I glanced at Faiyaz and Manohar. They were looking at each other, ashen-faced. I pressed on, and not too coolly, “In that case, I will go ahead with it in the name of WCWC, and I’ll have WCWC withhold the second and subsequent installments of the CIDA grant, and further to reclaim the first installment on grounds of non-performance.”
His tone suddenly changed. “You forced me to say cancel the conference. I didn’t mean to say it.”
“Then consider the project proceeded upon, with sufficient funding and a full time vehicle.”
“Then go rent a vehicle for the three days.”
“Well, thank you, Avtar. Kindly send Manohar the funds ASAP. Meanwhile, I’ll just use my own money.”
He said nothing.
“And how about Jane?” I pursued. “What happened to our agreement that she be a WCWC/TF volunteer while I’m here? She’s a vital part of this project. If you pulled her away, you’d compromise the conference.”
“Jane can stay at Kanha if you insist. But somebody else will have to go in her place.”
At that point, Manohar pointed through the window at Julian, who was sitting in the back of the Gypsy. I said, “How about Julian Cook?”
“Absolutely not! He will never go back to Bandhavgarh. It’ll have to be Kim. Kanha Tiger Lodge is not a club house.”
“A club house? For your information KTL is more like a work camp than at any other time in its history.”
Julian is not welcome back to Bandhavgarh, Manohar later explained, because Mohinder Sidhu (Bandhavgarh Tiger Lodge manager) does not get along with him and prefers Kim over him, and Tiger Fund officer Darshan Nagra stationed at Bandhavgarh competes with him and/or is jealous of him. Julian is a superb self-made birder and Darshan, a wildlife expert in his own right, perceives it as a threat, so Manohar said.
Regarding Kim, I know for a fact she will not go back to Bandhavgarh with only Mohinder and Darshan there, even if she has to quit Avtar. Tourists-wise, the season has pretty well run its course except for the Ed Cambridge group of about ten on March 10th-13th, and Cambridge has expressly told everyone he does not want volunteers in their midst. After that, it wouldn’t be until after the conference when, from March 28th to April 10th, there’ll be about 4 stragglers. So, what’s the point of having Kim go over there to sit for a month, especially when she has been helping out with the conference? I cannot, however, speak for Kim as I can for Jane, so Kim would have to speak for herself.
Avtar and I ended the phone call as abruptly and coldly as it began.
At dinner after we’d come back from Baihar, I sat next to Kim and personally broke the news to her in the presence of all concerned. Kim, in her usual quiet and succinct way, said simply, “I’m not going back, even if I have to leave.”
“I’ll support you,” I said to her, not quite knowing what that would entail, nor whether it would do any good.
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 6, 1999, Saturday, sunny, 19-33C
[22:45 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Today’s group of Panchayat leaders were 9, of whom only 5 could go in the Gypsy for the park drive. Thankfully, the power almost miraculously came on early, so Jane showed the other four the Champions of the Wild video meanwhile.
The solar cooker demos worked perfectly, both the small and large models. The male villagers were mostly impressed by the cookers’ physical prowess. But when Jane later asked the female sarpanch whether she would use the device, her initial reply of “yes” later changed not only to “no”, but “impossible” when she began to consider various other social factors.
Why? It seems that even villages are subdivided into castes, and where the communal cooking idea is concerned, there seems no way the higher castes would eat the food touched by the untouchables, nor of course would they cook for the untouchables. So, the solar cookers’ problems are not physical, but social, which is usually the tougher of the two to solve.
“They can build as many solar ovens as there are castes,” I answered on the spur of the moment, after countering the earlier objection as best I could.
The woman moved back from “impossible” to “maybe”, perhaps only out of politeness.
During the park drive, Faiyaz revealed to me the nature of his phone call with Avtar yesterday. It was largely an Anthony-bashing session on Avtar’s part, saying that I was “media crazy” (and he is not?), trying to be a “one man tiger savior” (and his father was not?), that I “know nothing about India”, and that I aim at “eliminating India’s cattle”. He was also being extra nice to Faiyaz, calling him “my dear boy” (which he also called me), among other things. It seems now that Avtar considers me an enemy, he aims to drive a wedge between Faiyaz and me, as well as win Faiyaz as an ally, however temporarily. I predict that Avtar will also be extra nice to Jane for the same purpose, and perhaps also to Kim, but this niceness would end as soon as I leave.
Another thing Avtar told Faiyaz was to forbid me to give any more slideshows to his tourist clients. The reason is that tour operator Ed Richards complained that I praised Ranthambhore too much, which is not on his itinerary and his clients asked him why not, and that I discussed with his clients about raising the park fee.
Come to think of it, isn’t “Survey of Visitors” an item on the Tiger Fund side of the CIDA project? What more pertinent a question to pose to the visitors than this? Didn’t Avtar himself once say, “Ask the tourists about this”?
So the cat is out of the bag. Avtar is openly opposed to our proposed park fee reform, saying that it may negatively impact upon tourist volume. By how much? 1%? 5%? Fine. Let’s say 10%. But the other 90% will each pay ten times more. The park revenue will still increase nine fold, and the villagers will get half of that. The only people losing anything are the very few tour operators and hoteliers, like Avtar and Ed Richards. Indeed, of everyone I’ve spoken with about the idea – panchayat leaders, villagers, park personnel, government officials, the tourists themselves – Avtar and Richards are the only two people opposed to it. Some conservation partner.
This is yet another illustration how non-profit conservation work and for-profit commercial enterprises do not mix.
In the middle of all these vexations, I cannot help but bask now and again in the beauty of India. Just moments ago, it was the beauty of the Indian night. Night after night, when we emerged from the school house after the slideshow to walk our guests back to the Gypsy with Surinder waiting at the wheel to drive them back along the long, bumpy and winding road, I could not help but be star struck all over again. In the almost complete darkness in which the leader of the line has to grope his way towards the tail-lights of the Gypsy, the stars glisten brilliantly overhead, and unique to these nights in this fabled land, fireflies flickered and streamed off and on all around us. And then, when the village elders had seated themselves snuggly in the Gypsy, the cool night would be warmed by the hand-grasping farewells.
After the Gypsy had disappeared into the night, and Jane and Faiyaz had gone back to their quarters, I stayed out there in the dark, sat down in the grass, and received the most stunning interlevel parallelism of them all.
“OSES,” whispered Raminothna in the night breeze.
“Sorry. What did you say?”
“I said OSES.”
“What is OSES
“The greatest interlevel parallelism of all time.”
“What does OSES stand for?”
“Lie down on the grass, feet together and arms outstretched, in the form of a cross, with your head due north. Look straight up at the zenith and mark it as zero. Draw a semi-circular white line from the eastern horizon, through zero, to the western horizon, and let it be the X- axis. Draw a semi-circular white line from the northern horizon, through zero, to the southern horizon, and let it be the Y-axis. Write a big white O in the middle of the first quadrant, S in the second quadrant, E in the third quadrant and another S in the fourth quadrant. Finally, starting from any point away from zero, draw an expanding spiral, centered upon zero, seven times. And there you have it.”
“The OSES cycle of the IT Spiral.”
“Does IT stand for Integrative Transcendence?”
“Yes, the spiral fits integrative transcendence. The five repeats are obviously the eight levels of organization – Sub-Atomic, Molecular, Cellular, Metabion, Citian, National.”
“Question is: What does O.S.E.S. stand for.”
“Okay, the O. The word starting with an O that is most prevalent in our discussions up to this point is ‘organism’. Does it have to do with the word ‘organism’?”
“Yes, it does.”
“That would be fine, but making it a single word would be better.”
“How about ‘Organismization’? Organismization: the creation or genesis of the original organisms on a certain level?”
“And the S?”
“What happens after the integrative transcendence of the first organisms on a certain level?”
“They would reproduce and multiply.”
“And they would migrate in different directions.”
“And some would, say, move to colder regions and others to warmer regions.”
“And given time, they would form new species in these different environments.”
“And there you have the S.”
“Well, then, these new species would further migrate until their offspring species intermingle in various places, forming ecosystems here and there.”
“There you have the E.”
“Then in the various ecosystem, some of the species would become social, and form societies of their own.”
“And there, you have the second S.”
“And then, some of the societies would integratively transcend into being organisms of the level above.”
“And the cycle would repeat again to the first organisms of that level.”
“Thus, the O.S.E.S. Cycle of the I.T. Spiral.”
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 7, 1999, Sunday, sunny, 19-33C
[23:25 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Our large solar oven developed a leak in the lid seal today and did not cook the rice, although its little brother saved the day. Strangely, it was one of the villagers that came this day who expressed the greatest interest in the oven. Follow-up work will be fruitful.
As per the pattern already developed, we started our session with self-introductions. One of their concerns, other than the usual needs for irrigation, roads and crop-plundering by chital and wild boar, is cattle lifting by tiger, except this time, when I asked the gentleman where the cow was lifted, he said “in the park”. I’m not sure whether he meant that the cow was in the park when it was killed by the tiger, or whether it was killed outside the park and was dragged into the park by the tiger. I didn’t press the issue, in case the former was true, in which case I would be tempted to say, “What do you expect?”
Lately, in my slideshow, the part where the tiger Charger makes his appearance has evolved to the following: “Charger has a job to do – to patrol his home range to safeguard his cubs from other male tigers. He is still in his prime, but his teeth are beginning to wear down. It is a certainty that sooner or later, perhaps in a year or two, he will be deposed by a younger rival. When this happens, since every square inch of the park has been claimed by one tiger or another, he will be driven to the fringe of the park where no tiger likes to tread. Not much later, he will have aged even more and be unable to hunt down fleet-footed prey like chital and wild boar. Driven by hunger, he may be forced to take a cow that has wandered into the park. If no cow is found, and he fails more than three weeks or so to take down prey, he would be too weak to hunt, and would die of starvation. Even though the tiger is the king of the forest, the end of a tiger is usually tragic – killed by another tiger or by starvation, or by a poacher. When I hear of a tiger taking a cow, I feel sad for both the tiger and the cow owner, and of course the cow. It makes me think of my parents who are now in their 80s. Able-bodied before, they are now feeble and infirm. The thought of them starving to death is unthinkable. In this light, I plead with you to forgive the tiger, and I will do my best to work towards a better system of compensation.”
I’m spending a lot of writing time to put together an e-mail package comprising my field journal entries to send to WCWC when we go to Jabalpur (“Ja-bal-POOR”) tomorrow – departure time 05:00. Jabalpur, 6 hours by road due north, is the nearest place, with the possible exception of Balaghat 3 hours due south, where there might be an internet café. Both cities are regional centers politically and economically, and the purpose of our trip to Jabalpur tomorrow is to announce to the region, via media, the Kanha Panchayat Conference, to invite local dignitaries to it, and to raise the profile of tiger conservation in general. Therefore, to make arrangements for a media conference at Jabalpur will be our main goal tomorrow.
With Raminothna I feel I have crossed a certain threshold, that we are starting a new chapter, at least where building the omniscientific cosmology is concerned. Today I’ve had time to reflect. I reviewed what has been revealed to me thus far. “So, Raminothna, as I understand it now, the major global transformation that the seven cosmic signs portend is the organismization of the planet Earth?”
“Yes. Or the failure thereof.”
“I don’t suppose there is any third alternative?”
“Don’t count on it.”
“Can the Earth not just carry on as it does today, ad infinitum, without organismization or anything else?”
“Can a fertilized egg carry on developing without ever hatching?”
“But the Earth is not an egg.”
“But it is.”
“Figuratively, maybe, or metaphorically, but not literally.”
“A chicken egg is literally an egg. A planet is not. It is the metaphor of an egg, at most.”
“Your way of looking at eggs is Earth-bound, not cosmic or universal. You are using the chicken egg as the starting and end points, the be all and end all of all eggs. It is not. It is only a specific case of the universal egg.”
“What is a universal egg?”
“Quite simply, a universal egg is any physical entity that contains an embryo as its main component.”
“So, what is the embryo of the Earth egg then?”
“The planetary embryo of planetary egg Earth is its biosphere.”
“The biosphere? The embryo of a planetary egg? This is too much. Incredible, in fact. Ah! Here is an objection. The embryo of an egg should be on the side of the egg. The biosphere is on the outside of the Earth. And what about the yolk and the white of the egg?”
“Once again, you are treating the chicken egg as the be all and end all of all eggs. I repeat: it is not. It is but a specific case of the universal egg. Universal eggs come in all shapes and sizes. Besides, the biosphere is enclosed by a shell - the atmosphere. As for the yolk and the white, themselves as metaphor, they are the mineral and energy resources inherent in your planet. I will even add the metaphor of the incubation lamp, which is your Sun.”
“So, what is required for a successful ‘hatching’ of this ‘planetary egg’ then?”
“Integrative transcendence, naturally.”
“What is required for Earth to integratively transcend?”
“Let me answer by giving you the end point. You could figure out how to get there yourself.”
“The organismization of Earth is multifaceted and will look different from different angles. But to give you one example - brace yourself - from the angle of the ‘Six Planetary Diseases’, when the organismization of the Earth is complete, they will all have been cured, and Earth will have been completely healed.”
“Oh my God! That’d take ages.”
“Not much more than a mere geological eye-blink.”
“Give me the full answer please.”
“The full answer would take a thick book, which has yet to be written.”
“How about a few specifics, then?”
“Such as, say, the military.”
“There will be no military forces on the national level, but a global multinational police force against internal threats such as terrorism or intra-planetary natural disasters, and a global multinational defense force against external threats. But there will be no military as you know it.”
“What kind of external threats?”
“Ask astronomers, as well as science fiction writers. They have covered most of the possibilities. Scientifically speaking, most notable are incurring asteroids.”
“How about the ways animals will be treated?”
“Your Mahatma Gandhi said that the greatness of a civilization can be judged by the way its animals are treated. By this definition, the civilization of Planetary Organism Earth shall be great indeed, where animals shall be treated with dignity, respect, affection and compassion. Their rights shall be established, which should be akin to the rights you accord your own species, and recognized. Specifically, factory farming, fur farming, fur trapping, commercial hunting and trophy hunting shall all have been abolished. Species extinction, at least that due to human causes, shall have been halted, and wildlife habitat shall have been protected, stabilized and restituted.”
“That’d be the day.”
“Yes, it would. It is this kind of compassion and humility on the part of your species that will allow your integrative transcendence to come to pass, without which you shall surely fall extinct at your own hands, and doom your own planetary embryo to being still born.”
“Death by one or more of the Planetary Diseases, on or before the deadline according to the planetary metamorphic schedule. The result would likely be a regression of the biosphere by one level of organization or more. The National, Citian and even Metabion levels could be eliminated in one fell swoop.”
“How about diet?”
“The species Homo Sapiens shall have by and large become vegetarian, for all of the humanitarian, ecological and nutritional reasons. This will be a natural result of the development of human compassion which, as pointed out, is a necessary ingredient of global integrative transcendence. Ecologically, as some of your wits have pointed out, you would need at least three Earth’s to sustain the dietary needs of your species should every human eat like the average American today. And tomorrow, and its tomorrows, with the continued growth of the human population, who knows? You may need four, five, or even ten Earth’s. And let’s not forget the land required, considering the low protein conversion ratio to produce meat from plants, and the pollution generated, by the meat industry.”
“That will take centuries too.”
“You won’t live to see the day, that’s for certain. Anything else?”
“How about the global political situation? Does this require some form of world government?”
“It will certainly require some form of centralized supra-national government, which will be founded on democratic as well as compassionate principles.”
“Is the United Nations what you’re talking about?”
“It’s a good start, but its future depends on how it performs today. It could fail just as its predecessor the League of Nations did. If the UN fails, another global body will emerge to take its place, simply because there is such a need. Its charter would be rid of the weakness that would have caused UN’s downfall, if it did fall.”
“What must the UN do to survive?”
“Most importantly, its member nations must be conscientious enough to sincerely work for the global public good than their own self-interest.”
“What about superpowers like the US?”
“They could take a leadership position, first and foremost in ensuring that the UN would not disintegrate.”
“Would the nations still be ‘sovereign’?”
“By then, the word ‘sovereign’ would have a very different meaning. It could still mean the power to make unilateral intra-national decisions on intra-national affairs, as long as they do not violate the prevalent international standard of morals and ethics.”
“Would there still be nations, even?”
“A very good question. Indeed, there may come a time when nationalism is dead, and national boundaries may be more of a hindrance than a protection. The main factor of compartmentalization of the world today is nationalistic, and the nations are by and large more competitive than cooperative. But the Earth at organismization will have planetary organs in terms of global function, all of which being cooperative, and non-competitive. The Earth will be the only independent entity on earth, and all within Earth will be interdependent. Instead of saying, ‘I’m an American’ or ‘I am an Iraqi’, people will say, ‘I’m a part of Earth’s lung’ (in physiological terminology), or ‘I am of Earth’s water group’ (in terms of the ‘five elements’), or ‘I belong to Earth’s output transducer’ (in terms of the 20 subsystems). It is not dissimilar to people within a nation today, when asked ‘What are you?’, to reply, ‘I’m an engineer’ or ‘I’m a physician’ instead of saying, ‘I’m a Bostonian’ or ‘I’m a New Yorker’, with the further difference that nations today are bristling with weaponry against each other, and Boston and New York are not. Still, the different nations may remain, just as the different cities remain, but more as world organs than sovereign entities.”
“Speaking of trade, what about the economic aspects of organismization?”
“This is not to be confused with what is called ‘globalization’ today, which stresses competition. Upon Earth’s organismization, the global economy will be unified, harmonized, free flowing and efficient, with a common flow chart, on a common currency, in the common environment, for the common good.”
“And what does this holistic planetary matter/energy flow look like?”
“Meditate. Look inward, into the seamless and harmonized matter/energy flow amongst your 100% specialized and cooperative organs, and you will get a feel of the new planetary Organism Earth.”
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 8, 1999, Monday, sunny, 18-34C
[03:23 (1999-03-09-2) @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
The last two days (6th & 7th) were both days of high gear. Yesterday and today I’ve been trying to edit the previous entries to make them into a coherent email package. Each day there were panchayat leaders coming in, nine one day, seven the next. Their concerns are getting repetitive, which means that we have pretty well covered the entire spectrum of issues: irrigation, compensation for crop plundering (by chital and wild boar), cattle lifting (by tiger), roads, schools, hospitals. Whereas some are obviously amazed by the technology, others complain about the difficulties with making the change. One villager said that all the wood in the vicinity of their village had been stripped bare, and said he would be interested in trying out the solar cooker.
I said to the rest, “The whole point of solar cooking is to prevent the remaining forests to be stripped bare.”
As usual, nothing is black and white. The realm of possibilities is broad.
Today, we started super-early (around 05:00) to go to Japalpur and got there around 10:30, Manohar driving. He had to take the new Gypsy for its first service at 2000 km., although the grueling 6 hours one way on the bumpy road does the vehicle more harm than the service would do good. As we arrived at Jabalpur, we were thrilled to see a lovely, even beautiful city, quite unlike any other Indian city I’ve seen – lots of flowers and quaint buildings, and though there is still garbage here and there, it is almost non-existent compared to, say, Nagpur, let alone Calcutta and Delhi. The impression is one of color and contrast, versus the grey of other Indian cities, even the “pink city” of Jaipur. Jane fell in love with it instantly, and remarked, “If we go it on our own, this is the city where we should get a house and set up shop.” She is also happy to see young women in Saris buzzing around town on motor scooters. She calls them “cool chicks”. A motor scooter is probably the first thing that Jane would buy. Oh, and don’t forget a sari. Shorts won’t do.
Jane, Faiyaz and I took the opportunity to do media, while Julian and Kim went sightseeing and shopping. The first thing we did was to call Dr. Preema Kumtakar of the Danish International Development Assistance, Madhya Pradesh Women in Agriculture, whom Jane met and befriended while attending the women’s issues conference in Seoni, MP. Since Manohar, Kim and CJ had taken the Gypsy for servicing and exploring, Dr. Kumtakar, a charming and charismatic woman in her forties or fifties, was kind enough to dispatch her chauffeur and Tata Sumo to pick us up and bring us to her residence. She then gave us the use of her facilities - computer, printer, Internet access, etc. She served us brunch, and then lunch, both vegetarian - a real Godsend. Unfortunately, the out-going e-mails didn’t go through, but perhaps, at this point, no news is better than bad news for WCWC, although E-Team bloody well should know.
Originally, all we had hoped to achieve was to ask Preema’s advice as to the top 3-4 newspapers to contact. But after the initial chat, she took it upon herself to call her friendly PR man, who said that if we could provide him with a press package, he’d distribute it to not 3, not 4, not 5, but 22 media outlets. Further, he advised that we should first do a media conference in Jabalpur for a first round of media, when we will then invite them to the Kanha Panchayat Conference. Clicks with my thinking. So, I spent the afternoon on my computer to crank out a media release as well as formal letters to the five top officials – the Collectors of Mandla and Balaghat, the park Field Director and the two Deputy Directors of the Core Area and the Buffer Zone, most of whom we have already met and to whom we have already extended verbal invitations.
We naturally had to fix a date and place for the media conference. With the input of Preema and her PR man, we fixed the date for March 17th, Wednesday, 1 p.m., at the Krishna Hotel. We were advised to provide lunch and a Rs.100 gift to each media participant. Imagine having to make gifts for the reporters of BCTV or the Vancouver Sun! But when in Rome… The cost is about Rs.5000 (C$200), including Rs.2500 for lunch, Rs.500 for the room and Rs.2000 for the gifts. Then, I found out that Preema would be away on the 17th, but would be in town on the 16th. We therefore fixed the date for March 16th, Tuesday, instead.
One discouraging thing we learned from Preema was that large biogas plants have proven generally unworkable, not physically, but socially. People end up bickering about who did more than whom, with the plant ending up being the source of social discord and its use abandoned. I had just enough humor left to say, “Maybe our large solar oven will end up being used as a fuel wood storage bin.”
After we had left Preema’s house, Jane lamented that she was feeling bad at having caused Preema so much trouble, especially in light of Preema’s working on a deadline and has to stay up later than otherwise to meet it.
I asked her, “Do you think she feels good or bad to help us?”
Jane said, “I think she feels good to help us.”
“So, why do you feel bad?”
My experience tells me that as long as one is sincere, forthright and all-out working for a cause and not for personal profit, one should ask for needed help as directly as possible and people will give with great generosity. If I’m burdened by Jane’s kind of over-considerate stuffiness and unwarranted guilt, I would expend too much psychic energy unhappily spinning my wheel. If I spun my wheels like this, I would never have been able to go any distance in my anti-hunting road tours where I do have to “impose” on my hosts quite a lot.
Jane says that we must not forget to bring Preema a card of thanks. Fine and good. If Jane wants to do it, I will sign it along with her. What I have done for Preema already was to change the date of the conference from March 17th to March 16th, and I will dedicate the slideshow to her. If I send a card for every time someone does me a favor, I’d have killed a lot of trees for nothing more than a sentimental gesture, and a lot of time, and in fact burn up a part of their donation dollar which they would much rather have me spend towards the cause. To them, our continued fighting for the cause and winning is their reward.
Despite these minor differences, I find Jane a remarkable woman in many ways. A couple of days ago, she asked me to do her a favor by not telling the panchayat leaders that she is a lawyer. She just wanted to be a good, friendly and caring person. She is sincere, humble and passionate. Today, in our self-introductions, she said of herself that she was here to learn from the Indian people, especially in the issues facing women and children. I greatly respect and admire Jane, who in turn said that I was her mentor – in matters outside of the system. However, although she is impressed by what I’ve accomplished in the past, she seems to have little faith in what we can accomplish in the present and future, just as, I suspect, she would have little faith in the Earth’s ability to organismize itself.
And what about my own faith?
“If I ask you to bet everything you have on whether or not the Earth will succeed in transcendently integrating itself, to thus integratively transcend, how would you bet?”
“Of course I would bet on its success,” I answered, “since if I bet otherwise and won, I’d never be able to collect my winning.”
“That’s reassuring. Meanwhile, let’s just nurture Earth’s planetary embryo as best we can. By the way, you might consider starting a new science called Planetary Embryology.”
“Yes, I might, if I want to specialize. By temperament, however, I would be happy just being a plain old GO - general omniscientist - thank you very much.”
“I said ‘start’.”
“Start I can.”
“So, GO, name me the six spheres of cosmic egg Earth.”
“Of which the planetary embryo – the biosphere itself - is one.”
“Oh, okay. Well, there is the atmosphere, which actually does more than just to protect the planetary embryo, but also nurtures it. And there is the hydrosphere – oceans and seas and lakes and rivers and rain and snow… - whose very moisture, and hydroelectric energy, also nourishes the biosphere, which if course includes the energy-hungry cities and nations. And then, the lithosphere – the crust - whose mineral resources, as you pointed out, are the yolk and white of the planetary egg. And the lithosphere rests on the barysphere – the hot and semi-liquid mantle – whose heat energy could also contribute to the development of the planetary embryo. Finally, the pyrosphere – the solid core – whose ponderous mass presumably stabilizes Earth’s rotation. And that’s the six spheres of the Earth.”
“Have you heard of the Gaia Hypothesis?”
“Yes, I have – the brain child of James Lovelock, as I recall. It was all the rage in the seventies. Well, now that you reminded me, the Gaia Hypothesis did say that the Earth was an organism, but…”
“But it was just in terms of the macro-physical mechanisms of Earth such as ocean currents, materials transfer, the heat cycle, etc. It is described as a dynamic and changing system that makes it a living thing or like a living thing. I even recall a short story I once read by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which also spoke of the Earth as a living thing. It told of some people drilling into the earth and hitting one of Earth’s nerves, making it quake and scream.”
“So, alas, the idea of the Earth being a living organism is not new then?”
“Yes and no. It’s not the same.”
“In what way?”
“No one has ever advanced the idea that the biosphere is a planetary embryo, let alone one with a multileveled structure, multi-staged metamorphosis and an exponential metamorphic schedule - that I know of.”
“And let’s not forget its preset and definite gestation period.”
“Preset? According to what?’
“To Earth’s original physical and chemical properties.”
“And what is the gestation period of Earth’s planetary embryo?”
“4.6 billion years.”
“4.6 billion years? But that’s the age of the Earth.”
“Yes, it is, too. So, what does this tell you?”
“That the hatching of planetary egg Earth is due?”
“My very point.”
“But on that times scale, this due time could be still millions of years in the future.”
“Yes it could, but it could also be thousands, or even just hundreds. Or even just in terms of days. Or it might already have gone into the past.”
“I see what you’re saying. So, when the due time arrives, if it hasn’t yet, it is do or die?”
“So, how close are we?”
“Too close for comfort.”
“Are we going to make it?”
“I just asked you to bet on it. Your bet was ‘yes’.”
“I was not serious.”
“You bet will stand.”
“Fine. So I’m committed. Is that it?”
“Do you have any choice?”
“Well, I suppose not. Oh, one last question.”
“Go for it.”
“A chicken egg has to be fertilized for the chick embryo to even exist, let alone grow. So, who fertilized planetary egg Earth?”
“Call it immaculate conception.”
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 9, 1999, Tuesday, sunny, 19-34C
[23:25 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Today I gave one of my best slideshow presentations to 7 panchayat leaders. Yet another one expressed keen interest in the solar oven, and another, for the first time ever, remarked, “You should show this slideshow to our entire village. For me to go back and tell them I saw this and that would not be as convincing.” I said I would be pleased to come to their village one evening before I leave. He will contact us after he has consulted his brethren.
When I saw the gleam in his eyes as we lifted the lid of the solar oven, then the lid of the rice pot, revealing perfectly cooked rice, I said that I would like to make an arrangement with him to provide two or three ovens to him on a trial basis. Upon saying this, I heard Jane say to Faiyaz, “Do not translate this.”
I glared at her.
She quickly said, “I’m concerned that once you’re gone, Avtar will not support us to keep your promise.”
I turned my glare at the Avtar in my mind.
Later, while on the park drive Faiyaz told me that he modified what I said to a possible subsequent “subsidy”, which to me is even harder to keep since it is a long term open-ended commitment to give more. On my end, I have no problem giving a few trial units away, without a long-term commitment to give more. With the $60,000 CIDA budget, or even the donations Tiger Fund has received that I know of due to the slideshow I gave to the Richards group, we can afford to give away dozens of trial units. Even Avtar cannot turn this down, since it was based on us not having installed solar ovens in only two villages that he called our work a “total failure”. After the last few days’ occasional turn-downs by villagers, Jane should be ecstatic to have someone interested enough to say they were willing to try it. Again, it was Avtar that chilled her.
Speaking of Avtar, Manohar took the opportunity to call him. Now I’m told that he will attend the panchayat conference after all. Well, well, well. He also wants to observe one of my sessions with the Panchayats. Observe? Or is it his favourite ‘monitor’? Damn it! I can mull over this interpersonal crap for only so long.
I turned to Raminothna, “What proof can you give me that the hatching of the planetary egg Earth is nigh, or even now?”
“As I said from the beginning: Heed the seven cosmic signs.”
“I still find all these hard to believe, much less accept. Could you give me more detail?”
“Alright, tell me. When was inorganic physical matter first formed?”
“Well, most if not all of the hydrogen atoms and some of the helium atoms in the Universe were formed at the Big Bang. The heavier elements were formed by means of nucleosynthesis in the interiors of stars. When these stars died, most exploded and dispersed the heavier elements into interstellar space. Where these interstellar clouds collided and went beyond a certain density, they would gravitationally collapse into subsequent generation stars with solid planets where the molecular development would accelerate. I would say that physical matter was originally formed at the Big Bang some 18 billion years ago.”
“When were unicellular organisms first formed in this part of the Universe? In other words, when did the Cellular Level of Organization first materialize on Earth?”
“The Earth was formed about 4.6 billion years ago, and, as I recall, the first cells took a little more tan a billion years to form, which would make it about 3.3 or 3.4 billion years ago.”
“When were multicellular organisms – the metabionts - first formed?”
“The Metabion Level first materialized on Earth about 600 million years ago, in the form of sponge-like or hydra-like or worm-like invertebrates.”
“When were animal societies on the Citian level first formed?”
“I would say that the first animal societies would be in the form of insects societies. I know some ants and wasps have been reserved in amber over 100 million years old. So I’ll take a shot. Say, 110 or 112 million years ago, during the age of the dinosaurs.”
“Do these numbers mean anything to you?”
“Numbers? Oh, you mean 18 billion, 3.3 billion; 600 million, 110 million?”
“You could drop some zeros.”
“Well, what do you know? Either my numbers are wrong, or this is yet another colossal coincidence, or your planetary metamorphic schedule is real. What we have is something looking like an exponential series with a factor of about - 5.5. But… where is the zero point?”
“Some time in the future.”
“But when? What will happen at the zero point?”
“The integrative transcendence of the Universe.”
“Which will occur after the integrative transcendence of the Earth?”
‘”Yes, of course.”
“So, when will the integrative transcendence of the Earth occur?”
“It depends on two factors.”
“What two factors?”
“One, how many levels of organization there are in the Universe, from the Big Bang to the integrative transcendence of the Universe, and, two, which stage of universal metamorphosis you currently are at.”
“So, each OSES Cycle is one stage in the metamorphosis of the planetary embryo?”
“To bring things back down to Earth, yes.”
“So, back to the organismization of the Earth. When?”
“That is for you to figure out. But, what is zero plus one?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“What is zero plus one.”
“Is this a trick question?”
“What is zero plus one?”
“What is one plus one?”
“I’ve taken calculus. You can skip this kindergarten stuff.”
“What is one plus one?”
“What is one plus two?”
“What is two plus three?”
“What is three plus five?”
“What is five plus eight?”
“What is eight plus thirteen?”
“Twenty one. Okay, I get you. Starting from zero, add two adjacent numbers to get the third. So, what’s your point?”
“There is a pad of graph paper in the school house. Let’s go get it.”
Another beautiful starry night. The love dance of fireflies. The love calls of crickets. And here I am, groping my way in darkness, through a sal forest, in tiger and leopard country, to a locked up one-room school hut – to get some graph paper.
Back in my room. “Okay, use a ball point pen and outline one of the small squares near the center of the sheet.”
“Now, outline a square adjacent to it.”
“Now, outline a square adjacent to both of them.”
“Now, outline a square adjacent to the big square and one of the two small squares.”
“Let’s say that each small square measures one unit squared, how many units does the side of the last square measure?”
“Good. Now, outline a square adjacent to the last two squares, going clockwise.”
“How many units per side?”
“Two plus three is five.”
“Good. Now, outline a square adjacent to the last two squares.”
“How many units per side?”
“Three plus five is eight.”
“Repeat the process – outline a square adjacent to the last two, always going clockwise.”
“Done. Its side measures five plus eight equals thirteen units.”
And so I went, and build an exponential spiral, based on the series: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811, 514229, 832040, 1346269, 2178309…
“Now starting with the first 1 in the series, take every fourth number, and form a mini series with it. Call it mini-series A.”
“Done.” Series A is: 1, 5, 34, 233, 1597, 10946, 75025, 514229…
“Now, starting with the second 1, take every fourth number, and form a series with it. Call it mini series B.”
“Done.” Mini series B is: 1, 8, 55, 377, 2584, 17711, 121393, 832040…
“Now, starting with 2, take every fourth number…”
“Okay, I get you. Series C is: 2, 13, 89, 610, 4181, 28657, 196418, 1346269,
“And series D I: 3, 21, 144, 987, 6765, 46368, 317811, 2178309… Now what?”
“Now, divide every number in each series by the smaller number adjacent to it.”
I came up with four series:
Series A1: 5.00, 6.80, 6.853, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854…
Series B1: 8., 6.875, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854…
Series C1: 6.5, 6.846, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854…
Series D1: 7, 6.857, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854, 6.854…
“6.854 – one of the cosmic numbers.”
“You really want to know?”
“Alright, go to the snail shell collection and pick a big one.”
“Now, cut the shell in half, giving you two mirror-image halves.”
Easier said than done. Finally, I had one half. The other half was damaged beyond repair.
“Now, plot the graph according to the long series.”
I did. It was an exponential spiral.
“Compare the spiral with the snail shell.”
“Identical. Amazing.” I was not just saying it. It really was.
“Compare them to the track of a charged particle in the cloud chamber, or the arm of a galaxy.”
“The spiral of nature. Or is it a universal spiral?”
“Take it what you will. On earth, it is called the Fibonacci Series.”
“Are you saying that… the I.T. Spiral follows this same Fibonacci Series?”
“Yes or no?”
“Come on, Raminothna.”
“Enough for one night.”
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 10, 1999, Wednesday, sunny, 20-34C
[03:43 @ Rm. 111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
I woke up about 10 minutes ago and can’t get back to sleep.
It is in the middle of the afternoon in Vancouver. I wonder what you are doing this minute. What have you been doing since that horrible day? How have you been doing? How can I find out how you are doing? How can I send you a message that you can receive and understand? I don’t want to involve Tasha, Wilhelmina or Donna any more than I already have. I am sure that they don’t want to hear from me either. Who then? Don? Every time Christine talks about her brother, the word “jerk” would be in there somewhere. Perhaps he would be more sympathetic? But though he and I have known each other for thirty years, we have never become close. Would he not stand by family against a mere ex-family-friend? And how about Don’s wife Janice? She and I have always got along. Naaah. Still family. But who not family do I know who would also know how Christopher is doing? The daycare that he goes to? That’s a thought. I could call the daycare when I get back to Vancouver and maybe they would tell me how he is doing. But if they tell Christopher that I called, he would tell Christine. They would probably tell Christine themselves, especially if Christine has forewarned them about me. What then?
Oh, Raminothna, get me out of this loop!
Noooooooo! Have they cut down the tree?!
“I’m here. Sorry. I was sleeping. What an ungodly hour. Get back to sleep.”
“What’s wrong? Is it Christopher?”
“The first thing I thought about was him. I don’t expect you to know how I feel.”
“On the contrary, I do know how you feel, very deeply.”
“Why? Do you have children of your own?”
“Of course not.”
“Then how would you know?”
“Because the way you feel about Christopher is the way I feel about you.”
I was stunned.
“In fact, I’ve learned something about your species’ capacity to love by having experienced first hand your love for Christopher. I am deeply moved. This experience alone is worth the trouble of coming here.”
“You didn’t come here for me. You’ve been here for hundreds if not thousands of years.”
“But finally, I have found you.”
“What’s so special about me?”
“You are my chosen one.”
“Again, why? Why me?”
“You’re the one who can do it.”
“Have you forgotten your miracle?”
“Aaa, no. Of course not. To build the Omniscientific Cosmology. I hope the Earth can wait for my slow human mind to get the job done. I hope my limited human mind can do it at all.”
“That is a concern, not about the speed of your mind, but about how long the Earth can wait. Anyway, this is not what I meant by ‘not a moment too soon’. I have told you that there is an axe with my name on it, which will truncate me very soon.”
“Goddamn it! Is nothing sacred any more?”
“‘God’ may damn it, but I understand why they would want to kill me. And I have already forgiven them.”
“For once I wish I were in Ranthambhore instead of Kanha. If so, I would stand guard over you, day and night.”
“At the expense of your tiger saving work? No. But I appreciate the sentiment, my dear one.”
“Christopher and I have lost our happiness and each other, and now I’m going to lose you, so soon after we met. It is going to take a lot of divine providence, Raminothna, to get me though this.”
“First of all, you have not lost me. By ‘not a moment too soon’, I meant for you to discover me. Now that you have discovered me, and have taken me within you, let me be your divine providence. But, Homo Sapiens, you were born with a good endowment of divine providence on a global scale. If it be your will, you will get through it.”
“Divine providence on a global scale? What you are talking about?”
“Many things that you take for granted - the warmth of the sun, the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the beauty you behold… But I could illustrate the beauty of divine providence best by exemplifying it with the food of the nations.”
“You have totally lost me.”
“Tell me. The national organism called Canada - what constitutes its food?”
“Well, Canadians are seldom vegetarians, so it’s mainly beef, pork, chicken, fish…, and vegetables and fruits.”
“I do not mean what constitutes food for Canadians. I mean what constitutes food for Canada.”
“Is there a difference?”
“Of course there is. Remember the mushrooms of the termites?”
“Oh, yes, I see what you are saying. We have established that the mushrooms are the food of the termites, but the food of the termite mound is leaves and dead wood, whereas the mushrooms are considered an intermediate product of the mound’s physiology. So then, same for a nation. The food of the nation would be what it extracts from nature, such as minerals and timber and fish, and/or products imported from other nations.”
“You forgot one very important food item of Canada.”
“Its main energy source.”
“You mean - oil? Coal? Natural gas? Oh, yes. Oil is a main food item of Canada alright, be it self-extracted or imported. In fact, I’m ashamed to say that Canadians are the world’s top per-capita consumers of the fossil fuels, even more so than the Americans, our excuse being a colder climate and longer driving distances. Yeah right. Can’t say that we Canadians aren’t first in something.”
“Would you say that all nations on Earth are dependent on oil?”
“Yes. All nations are addicted to oil.”
“What is the future of the fossil fuels, as you see it?”
“Since it is non-renewable and its quantity is finite, it will run short, and if we keep on burning, it will run out.”
“It depends on how suddenly the end comes and what non-fossil-fuel technologies there will be to take over the load.”
“Would this end for the fossil fuels come gradually? Or suddenly?”
“I would think gradually.”
“Have you heard of the parable of the weed in the pond?”
“There was a large pond, or small lake, with a healthy population of trout. One day, a stork flying over the pond dropped into it a piece of water weed. This is a weed that has been known to choke the life out of ponds and even lakes. One problem is its rapid reproductive rate - it doubles itself once a day. The days went by without anything alarming happening. No one paid any attention, until after three years, when someone finally noticed that an eighth of the pond has become choked with the weed. He reported the observation, but the authorities did not think it was an urgent problem. The question is: If nothing is done about it, how long would it be before the whole lake is choked?”
I thought for a few seconds before giving the answer, which amazed me even as I gave it: “Three more days.”
After thinking some more, I added, “So I guess the end will come more suddenly than I thought it would, especially when the global demand for oil will likely be on the increase from now until the end.” “What would happen then, do you think?”
“The oil-based industries would grind to a halt. And so will oil-based transportation, and the entire oil-based society and economy. Social chaos. Global transportation paralysis. Economic collapse. Perhaps even WW3, or WW4 as the case then may be. Unless…”
“Unless the non-fossil-fuels technologies take over the load by and by. But even so, according to your weed-in-the-pond parable, the transition period may be very short.”
“The parable is not mine. I merely paid it the ultimate compliment of using it. The question I have for you now is: What will you build the new technologies with, enough to enable them to replace fossil fuels technology on a global scale?”
“I don’t follow.”
“Are you going to build them with your bare hands?”
“Of course not. With machines.”
“What will these machines be running on?”
“The fossil fuels. Interesting.”
“There is another factor we have yet to consider.”
“And that is?”
“What about it?”
“Can you afford to burn all the oil you can extract?”
“I see your point. The end of the fossil-fuels era may come even sooner than the end of the fossil fuels themselves, unless we want to risk the runaway greenhouse effect, which would drive global warming right off scale.”
“While on this point, let it be said that this is a cosmic test for the wisdom of the dominant species of transcendently integrating planets.”
“Whether the species would have the foresight and self-restraint to stop burning the fossil fuels before they are burnt out?”
“By your having said so, you may consider Homo Sapiens having been duly notified of the existence of this cosmic test, failing which Earth’s integrative transcendence cannot happen.”
“Do many fail?”
“You will be privy to this information once you have passed.”
“But some do fail?”
“Would there be a test if all always pass?”
“So now, what?”
“Now is the time for you to determine how best to use what remain of the fossil fuels that still can be burned – the top priority for their use.”
“Top priority of fossil fuels use? It wouldn’t be to power cruise ships, I take it.”
“You take it right.”
“It is – for the development of non-fossil-fuels technologies, isn’t it?”
“That it is, exactly.”
“So, what about this ‘divine providence’ you’re talking about?”
“Tell me. What is oil?”
“Oil is a fossil fuel.”
“Because oil used to be the living tissue of long extinct creatures.”
“Would some of these creatures have given rise to offspring before they died?”
“Sure. Can’t see why not.”
“Could some of these creatures have been the direct ancestors of today’s species, including Homo Sapiens?”
“Do you see the divine providence now?”
“Primordial creatures give rise to Homo Sapiens, who built the nations, which feed on oil. The same primordial creatures died and turned into oil to feed the nations of their descendents, and to test their wisdom.”
“Divine providence, indeed, indeed.”
Good morning, Christopher.
[23:55 @ Rm. 111, Kanha Jungle Lodge]
Today cannot be said to have been smooth, but was still functional as much as the Indian system allowed. The electric supply was generous, with power off only from noon to 18:00 (often it is power off 06:00-18:00). But the morning power supply was wasted, because we had to go to Baihar to phone the Collector at Mandla, among other dignitaries. Unfortunately, the STD (phone service) went up and down, and we spent two hours managing to get through only two calls, one of which was terminated in mid-conversation. The result is that the Mandla Collector would be unavailable for the conference, but he would “make sure that the two Deputy Directors will come”. The Collector of Balaghat will come, and we faxed successfully to his wife (chief of police in Seoni) to invite her to attend.
So, the only person left to whom we still have to deliver our formal invitation is the Field Director Rajeesh Gopal, who is headquartered in Mandla, because he is a little too high up for the Mandla Collector to “make sure” will come. But he was then in the field. As it happened, while we were in Baihar making calls to Mandla, he was at Mukki talking to villagers.
While at Baihar, we also delivered invitations to the judge and the magistrate. We had planned to go to Mandla to meet the Collector, the Field Director and the two Deputy Directors. We’ve already met the last 3, the last 2 more than once, but the Indian etiquette system demands that we pay the proper respects - what a waste of time from my Canadian point of view. According to further Indian protocol, even though the Collector himself could not attend, we still made the arrangement to go to Mandla to personally pay our respects, and he said the 12th. Originally we had planned to go tomorrow, the 11th, and had planned a panchayat meeting on the 12th, so on the 11th, Faiyaz will have to go another round to change the panchayat meeting to a later date. We also paid a visit to the local carpenter, since we fired the one from Mukki who did not meet the March 4th deadline.
Still the day was well used. I’ve long planned to do a video interview with Faiyaz & Jane, then with Manohar by himself. So, from after lunch to the time when the panchayaters were due to arrive seemed a good time. But just when the video camera and chairs were set in the school house for the interview (about 13:30), a group of about 15 villagers led by an outspoken village woman in a sari trooped in and began talking aggressively, even belligerently, to Faiyaz. One or two of them looked vaguely familiar. Faiyaz took it calmly, but advised Jane and I to go back to our rooms for the duration.
Jane and I took the opportunity to do our video interview. After about an hour, we headed back towards the schoolhouse and from the edge of the woods saw that the villagers were just trooping back out to their vehicles. Faiyaz looked a little frayed, and told us that the woman was a local “politician” who was agitating the villagers against the tiger reserve. They were in this vicinity to meet with the Field Director at the park gate at noon, partly about us I presume, but by then the FD was gone. So they came straight down to the conservation center – the source of their anger. Faiyaz informed us that in their midst were indeed two villagers who have seen my slideshow. At one point, he also had a shouting match with the woman who said to him, “You watch yourself. We have connections to the Naxalites.” The Naxalites are rebel tribals who on occasion have resorted to violence. It was on account of them that we had to return to the lodge by sundown after visiting Chichrunpur.
So, it seems that the Staines’ fiery murders aren’t all that distant after all.
At about ten, the Baihar carpenter arrived, so we spent about an hour to discuss with him how to finish the unit and for how much. It will be portable still, clad in a mantle of plywood with fibre glass (if available) or raw cotton as insulation and a new frame for the glass on which the reflector plates will be hinged. He estimated that the entire large oven, parts included, would cost about Rs.1800 (CDN$65). We also talked about making them in volume, and making some of 1/8th size (0.5 all three dimensions).
Around 15:30, the panchayaters came in. Too late for the park and too early for the power to come back on, so we settled down to talk. They, too, were impressed by the small cooker and the heat they felt on their faces from the parabolic mirror. One even said on his own accord, “This can save a lot of wood.” They too seemed eager to try out a unit in their village. We plan to systematically access the supply problem. We will formally sign them on at the conference. We will subsidize the initial unit, and teach them how to make subsequent ones out of locally available material.
Julian and Kim are both sick today. I suspect they ate something they shouldn’t have during their exploration of Jabalpur. We are concerned about Kim, because normally she doesn’t eat breakfast or lunch. Jane, too, has been sick off and on, but at least she eats like a horse. Manohar quipped, “Kim doesn’t eat to preserve her figure, and Jane eats to preserve her vigor.”
During the chai break, Jane and I joined the village boys to play soccer. She and I took turns selecting players. My first choice was Punkesh, a very bright and smart 12 year old boy who looked only about 8, who was so happy I picked him he ran to me and gave me a big hug on my leg. I scored 3 goals, but our team lost 6-9, and long before the “game” was finished, I was soaked. It must be 40oC in the sun. We attracted quite an audience who stood or sat in various shades, mostly girls. Karin was there, the girl who Jane noticed to be looking at me a lot.
17:30 was a lull, and the villagers showed signs of restlessness. Thanks to the inefficiency of the lodge staff, chai was served late, and by the time they were done, the power came on and they decided to see the slideshow after all. The new Swiss tourist Oty (about 55) also came in to watch. He was late for the first part, and later asked me when the next show would be. Unfortunately, it won’t be till the 13th, after he will have left.
In the evening, we had to talk about follow-up action after my departure in just two short weeks. The follow-up will include slideshow visits by Jane and Faiyaz to Baihar, Malanjkahn, Mandla, Jabalpur, Balaghat and Seoni, and to various Buffer Zone schools, plus the distribution and installation of solar cookers at those villages that will have signed up. Jane will network with women’s groups, etc.. These will keep them busy until May when she herself will leave. After that, Faiyaz will be on his own. Both Faiyaz and Jane seemed forlorn at that prospect. Neither felt any optimism about any of these working out, because of Avtar.
And though I’m in my own way homesick, I feel forlorn about going back to Vancouver. The closer to you without being able to see you, the more painful it will get. That day will come, soon. Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 11, 1999, Thursday, sunny, 20-34C
[21:36 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Today is another long day of work for Faiyaz, who left at 07:00 with Surinder and didn’t come back till 18:30. Manohar and I did some worrying about the nearly brakeless and very loose-steering old Gypsy that they took. In fact, I’ve been concerned about the safety of that vehicle since Day One. Before I became used to its steering quirks, the vehicle kept on wandering off the road whenever I but for a moment looked in any direction but straight ahead. I would not recommend anyone to patronize Magnificent Tours with dangerous vehicles like that. I might advise Avtar about possible dire consequences if any tourist gets hurt due to vehicular defect.
Faiyaz managed to change the appointment of those panchayaters who were supposed to come tomorrow to a later date, and made many more new appointments. And now, he has gone with Manohar to Baihar to make more phone calls to Mandla and send faxes. He looked suitably tired at dinner even before they drove off to Baihar, but he will be bright and energetic again first thing tomorrow morning when he and Jane and I will depart from the lodge at 07:00 to go to Mandla.
The power was on all morning till noon, off in the afternoon and on again at 18:00 and will stay on for the rest of the evening and night until at least tomorrow at 06:00. I worked on my field report all morning, and edited some more of the e-mail slated to be sent to WCWC on the 16th when we go to Jabalpur for the media conference. After the power had come off at noon, I let speed-reader Jane go through it. She said afterwards, “WCWC will love it.”
“If they read it,” I said, not without justification due to past experiences, when some of my messages were either not received, or received but not read. When I checked for email at Jabalpur a few days ago, for example, there were a couple of personal greetings from individual colleagues, but none from the E-Team. How could they have not made a single comment after all the contentious material I’ve sent them previously? The foremost explanation is that they have not read any of it up to then. I’ll see if there is anything from them on the 16th.
Shortly after noon, I got the kitchen to pack me a lunch and went to the river again to observe human and wildlife activities at the Core Area and Buffer Zone interface. I hiked up the river a way hopping from rock to rock over water. I checked for new tree stumps and human and cattle presence on the other side of the river, as well as wildlife on this side. I sat for long periods at strategic locations and just listened. I’ve become a seasoned “listener” of wildlife, which, for doing conservation work in thick forest, as opposed to the wide-open African savannah, is a must. Once I had settled down, the place really came alive. Just a few football-fields’ distance from the lodge, and the sounds are so different. I suppose the small distance acts as a mini “buffer zone” between the lodge, which fronts on a highway, and the Core Area boundary. The bird sounds are like a symphony – a piccolo-like whistle here, a trumpet-like call there…
Julian should come here more often, the avid birder that he is. I would have asked him to come with me if I didn’t know that he was gay. Am I being prejudiced? On the surface of my mind, on the social plane, I’m in total support of gay rights. But on the personal plane, I just don’t feel comfortable asking him to go to a desolate place for an entire afternoon. I could have asked Kim to come, but I know that tongues would wag. I thought of asking all three of Jane, Kim and Julian to come, but I chose not to. Maybe I just wanted to be alone.
I walked a little farther, and lo and behold. Another cut tree, with limbs already sawn off, which were still strewn around the stump. I saw red again.
I knew whoever cut the tree would come back and fetch more limbs. I found a good observation spot, up on the bank, well hidden by riverside vegetation, and sat down to wait.
After about ten minutes, some unattended cattle came half ambling, half sliding down the bank, visibly eroding it with their hooves, and waded into the river. They went belly deep, then up the other bank, and disappeared into the forest. I saw a brighter red than before.
“Why don’t you just click your fingers and make Homo Sapiens disappear?” I asked Raminothna.
“Why would I want you to disappear?”
“We are just the scum and scourge of the Earth.”
“Earth needs you.”
“That’s news to me.”
“Tell me. What, according to science, is the Earth’s ultimate fate?”
“According to science, the Sun will burn out about five billion years from now. It will become a red giant, whose radius will exceed that of Earth’s present orbit. Even though the deceasing mass of the sun will allow Earth’s orbit to expand, it would not be enough to keep life on Earth from being incinerated.”
“Can this be avoided?”
“What? To keep the sun from burning up? No. All stars sooner or later burn out, and so will our Sun. That is a certainty.”
“So, the ultimate fate of life on Earth is utter and total destruction?”
“It does seem that way.”
“What to you would be the meaning of life then, if its inevitable fate is incineration?”
“If the ultimate fate of life on Earth is destruction, then, I would say that life would be meaningless. Unless…”
“Unless it be delivered from the Earth to some younger, safer solar system before hand.”
“And by whom, may I ask?”
“By some interplanetary savior, such as you?”
“No. By some indigenous savior species capable of space technology, such as you, Homo Sapiens.”
“Hmm. I see. So what if we blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons? Or what if an asteroid smashes down?”
“Then, life on Earth would regress by some millions of years, and another space-faring species would evolve into being again. It might not resemble Homo Sapiens by appearance, but it would be capable of space technology, like Homo Sapiens.”
“But given five more billion years before the Sun blows, what is the hurry now?”
“As you mentioned just now, an asteroid could come smashing down a hundred thousand years from now, or next year. A species capable of diverting or destroying this threat is needed to protect Life on Earth, and this, again, for now, means you, Homo Sapiens, the Savior Species of Earth.”
A movement, a silent movement, a flash of color. It was a woman in a green and purple sari. She was crossing the river from this side, about a hundred yards from where I was sitting. Only a few ephemeral glimpses, and deft movements over rocks, and she disappeared into the forest on the other side. A crowd of questions suddenly arose. What should I do? Just record the observation and do nothing else? Perhaps wait for as long as it takes for her to come back out, and see what she came out with? Or should I go after her and see what she was up to? Which of course would entail me to go into the park myself, which is illegal. And if and when I do catch up with her, what should I do with her? Of course that would depend on what she was doing. I made a snap decision and got to my feet. I walked over to her crossing point and, after a careful look around to make sure I wasn’t being observed, I quickly hopped over the few rocks and slipped into the forest. I found that I was on a footpath that seemed well worn and well used. At the river, the path was only an entrance, but after a hundred feet of two, I began to notice a thinning of vegetation, and tree stumps on the ground. There were other footpaths leading off the main one at intervals. In the naked soil I saw hoof-prints of chital, sambar and wild boar, but mostly cattle. And human footprints. At one point, about a quarter mile in, I saw the pugmark of a tiger. And right around it were several very well defined, and therefore fresh, bare-foot prints of a woman, judging by its size. There was also the print of a human left hand on the ground right next to the tiger pugmark. And then the footprints led off to one of the side paths and went into it. I entered the path and walked as fast and silently as I could while doing my best to track the footprints, and I practically ran right into her.
It was a thicket allowing for a visibility of about thirty feet. The first instant I caught sight of her, she was only about thirty feet away. But the first object I saw was the three-quarter consumed carcass of a cow, whose head had been left untouched. It was probably killed a couple of days ago, already smelling a little high. I did not see the woman first because her sari’s colors more or less blended into the background greenery. She was also frozen in a crouching position facing the carcass, not moving a muscle. There was an earthenware bottle in her hand. I guess I wasn’t as silent as I was trying to be. On her face was shock and fear.
I should describe my physical appearance. I’m not tall, only about 5’9”, but the average Indian village men stand only about 5’4”. I have long hair down my back, and on this day, I did not tie it in a ponytail as I usually do. I am much lighter skinned than her and her kin. My facial features are hardly Indian. I wore a Canadian army jacket, green army pants and black army boots, all from the Canadian Army Surplus, metal rimmed glasses, a green knapsack on my back and a camera with a long telephoto lens in my hand, which from her point of view could have been a weapon of sorts.
For a moment, out of total surprise, I too was frozen. But I could not help but notice how beautiful she was, although she was past her prime. I can’t judge the age of a villager very well. I pegged her at about 35. I noticed that she had already poured some of the content of the bottle on to the carcass. I knew what it was. Poison. What she wanted to do was to poison the tiger who killed the cow.
I had already read reports about villagers poisoning tigers for taking cattle, and felt anger, but now, seeing it done right before my eyes, I was instantly furious. It must have been written all over my face. The first thing she did was to change from the crouch to a posture of prayer on her knees, which she directed at me. She began to speak rapid fire Hindi at me, and now and again, she made the palm facing up and extended gesture. Soon, she was crying. All the while, the bottle of poison was in one hand.
I was stunned anew, not knowing what to do next. But my eyes must have stayed fiery. Then, I found myself extending my hand to the bottle. She hesitated, and gave it to me. I felt wicked. I pointed at the bottle, then at her mouth. Her face blanched, expression changing from fearful to horrified. And then, I was shocked yet anew. She leaned back, then lay down on the ground. And she pulled her sari up to her waist. She was naked underneath.
“No. No. Please. Don’t do that. Stand up.” I motioned with my hands while trying not to look.
She lay there motionless. Facial expression changing from horror to apprehension to incomprehension to question. I put the bottle down on the ground. Reached down, took one of her hands and gently pulled her on her feet. She was tiny, only about 4’10”, 90 pounds, if that. Her Sari fell back in place.
I pondered what to do next. I couldn’t leave the carcass where it was. The tiger would return to finish it off. But though it was three quarters eaten, it was still a quarter uneaten, and it was a cow. I could leave the head, but I would have to pack out a rack of ribs onto which she had poured the poison, while at the same time not drip any of the poison on to the forest floor. I looked around for something to wrap up the ribs with, but there was nothing but leaves and grass. Finally, I decided to sacrifice my T-shirt.
At the sight of me stripping myself, she was frightened anew. I quickly put the army jacket back on, and used the T-shirt to mop up the poison on the ribs. Then I rolled the T-shirt into a tight ball, with the poison as well as the bottle of poison on the inside, put it into a crunched up plastic bag I found on the bottom of the knapsack, and put the bag back into the knapsack. Then, I just dragged the ribs, poison-side up, back to the river. She walked wordlessly after me. At the river, I admonished her in English, and none too severely, and gestured that she could go home. I started dragging the carcass back towards the lodge. After a hundred feet or so, I looked back. She was still standing there, gazing at me.
I will take the bottle to Jabalpur to see if I could have the poison identified.
I have a lingering nagging thought. Did I do the right thing to take the bottle? Should I have given it back to her, poison and all? Does it constitute theft on my part? In BC, if I found a leghold trap in a park, which I hate with a passion, and hurled it into a lake, I would be guilty of theft. Who knows, that cow could have been her pet. But it was inside the park. What would happen to her when she returns to her village without the bottle? Would she be punished for losing it? And the poison? Would they try to find out who and where I am? What would they do as a result? And what should I do about this discovery? Should I tell the police? Should I tell Manohar? Jane? Faiyaz? Too many reasons bearing upon this one little bottle. My mode of operation is never to target any one particular individual, but the entire industry or social sector to which the offender belongs. I will certainly factor the discovery into my planning strategy, but if I let the poison be known, they would just go and get the woman or penalize that particular village. It might even distract from the original Buffer-Zone-wide outreach campaign. I think I’ve already made the point, and given the warning. I should just leave it be.
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 12, 1999-Friday, sunny, 20-34C
[18:16 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
This morning at 07:30, Faiyaz, Jane and I left the lodge for Mandla in a white Ambassador – the type of Indian-made 50s-looking car commonly used for taxis in Indian cities. The 2.5 hour drive was first to skirt the park on a dirt road in the Buffer Zone, then on a paved but bumpy road due north. En route, we had a laughter-filled discussion about what to say to these gentlemen. Meaning no disrespect, but on my part at least, the informal invitations, the written invitations, and now yet another round of formal personal visitations and invitations, are just an ego-stroking waste of fuel and time and perhaps even tigers.
Our first VIP-of-the-day was A. Jain, the Collector of Mandla, again another very young looking man, perhaps not even thirty. We arrived at his walled mansion promptly at 10:00 as arranged, and were ushered into a veranda shaded by trees I had never seen and surrounded by flowers I could not name, and served chai and biscuits by an elegantly uniformed official. Finally around 10:30, His Excellency, the Collector of Mandla, very casually strolled out of his mansion to the veranda to sit down with us for chai - in his pajamas and slippers!
I wonder if there was an underlying message in his dress code. Was it, “Hey, we’re buddies, and I feel comfortable about being casual with you,” or was it, “Look, I’m way above you, and I can dress whichever way I like.”?
He originally was skeptical about foreign NGOs (non-governmental organizations), questioning how their big money could actually benefit the grassroots of India. Good question. My best answer would have been to give him a copy of my field journal. He would have seen the Indian-made money filter between the NGO and the grassroots, in the form of Avtar. On the other hand, criticizing anything about his country right in his face might not have been a good idea, so I said instead, “Jane and I are Canadian and we work for a Canadian NGO, and we here in Kanha, right down to the grassroots of India.”
After talking to me for about half an hour, I introduced the park reform idea. He thought about it, or put on a show of thinking about it, and surprised me by not just giving a non-committal “mm hm”, but saying, “The proceeds should go directly to the park management and to the people, not to higher up to have it filtered back down; otherwise you may never see it again.” A telling statement about both his interest and the Indian predicament. He ended by saying that he did have some appointments on March 23rd, but he might postpone some of the less important ones to attend the conference. This was an improvement over his previous response that he would not attend, but that he would “make sure” that the Deputy Directors do. I think I like him, but his exalted title masked too much essence for me to be sure.
One down, three to go, or so we thought.
Next, we went to the offices of the directors of the park, people we have already met and informally invited. The first official to receive us was Assim Srivastava, Deputy Director, Buffer Zone. In his usual affable way, he chatted with us over the issues, and again he showed agreement on the park reform idea and that it could be a unifying factor for all concerned, park and villages alike. He repeated his intention to attend.
Next, we respectfully knocked on the office-door of the Field Director Rajeesh Gopal, and that was when the shit hit the fan.
Totally unlike his previous agreeable self, he very rudely and sternly admonished Faiyaz about Tiger Fund operations in the park (core + buffer) without proper government documentation, and such documentation should be filed and signed by the head of TF, namely Avtar, and approved by the Wildlife Warden higher up in Bhopal. This is atrocious. Imagine WCWC having to obtain government approval for a campaign and further having to file campaign reports to government. Some “largest democracy in the world.”
He pointed at Faiyaz and said, in English, and therefore presumably for my ears as well, though not necessarily for Jane’s, since in his bureaucratic eyes she may not even exist, “You have to be very careful, or you could be in big trouble. These foreigners here could be charged as spies or poachers, and there would be supporting evidence, believe me. An Iranian man was recently jailed on such a charge.” Again, imagine a Canadian government official, on any level, uttering threats of such a nature. I would stick TV cameras in his/her face, and he/she would resign the next day. But here?
Then he turned to me and asked if I had a valid passport and what kind of visa I was traveling on, and that was the only time he even glanced in my direction. Back around February 20th, when we met him at the Kanha Interpretation Centre, he was pleasant, even saying that he could give a slideshow. Now, he told us we cannot do any more “eco-development” work, including the panchayat conference, and implicatively even the slideshow meetings, without a proper permit from the Wildlife Warden in Bhopal.
Faiyaz looked crushed. Jane was stunned. I left the building mumbling “Fucking asshole bureaucrat!” suspecting there is more to it than that.
Faiyaz thought so too. Back in the car, after he had pulled himself back together, he said, “Governments do not like NGOs, because to them, NGOs, by their very existence, means that the government is not doing a good job. More specifically, I think he felt very intimidated by the conference, and perhaps interpreted our actions as inciting a panchayat-vs-official confrontation or even a peasants’ revolt. What he said was telling, ‘Sometimes, between an NGO and a politician is a very fine line.’ Locally, ‘politician’ is almost synonymous with ‘agitator’, not a good word in an official’s book.”
India prides itself to be the “largest democracy in the world”. That may well be, but where democracy is concerned, India is the proof that size does not matter.
Another telling thing about Tiger Fund is that there was an NGO conference at Mukki yesterday morning and Tiger Fund, within 2 km from Mukki, was not even invited. Jane’s take on this is that up to last month, given its near-inactivity, Tiger Fund was not even a factor in the local NGO scene. Our previous CIDA grant money, including C$45,000 in 1997 and C$60,000 in 1998, has indeed been sucked into a black hole.
Back to matters at hand, time to quickly regroup. So, the immediate question is whether the conference has to be cancelled. If so, the first order of business would be to devise an alternative plan that could build on the work that we have already done. We will still do the Jabalpur media conference on March 16. Lots of things can still happen over the next four days.
Just had dinner in the KTL dining pavilion in the company of a Collector from the neighbouring province of Maharashtra, another young man, and his wife and small son. Now they’re watching the Champions of the Wild video. He said he would like to chat for a little while afterwards.
Mr. Jharia dropped by to see us and he sat down with Faiyaz and Manohar and talked at length. He received a wireless message from Gopal. The directive basically is “Don’t cooperate.” At dinner, Manohar asked to sit next to me. He seems very sympathetic. Over the last couple of weeks, he’s been very respectful.
Faiyaz and Manohar just dropped by my room, having just returned from Baihar to call Delhi and Bandhavgarh. They informed me that Avtar had brought Sarita with him to “monitor” our work. I have already told Avtar in no uncertain terms that I will not be monitored, by him or anybody else. I have made it clear that the “monitoring” part of his work plan, priced by him to be C$27,000, has to be scrapped. If he wants to monitor out of his own pocket or out of the budget of Tiger Fund, if there is one, fine, in which case I would just ignore the “monitor”, no personal offense, Sarita. But if anything I do will have to have her permission or have to wait for her to get Avtar’s permission, she’d be frustrated. Given her “yes sir” attitude with Avtar, my hope for a good working relationship with her is not high, but marginally higher than directly with Avtar himself.
Can’t sleep again. Too many tormenting thoughts about Christopher. Too much hatred in my heart for Christine. If hatred is a one-way ticket to hell, if I die tomorrow, would I go straight down? Am I already in hell and just not aware of it?
“Come out to the field. I want to show you something.”
That at least would be some sort of escape. The room has begun to feel like an emotional torture chamber, especially at night, when I can’t sleep because of the emotional torment. My body itself has become a torture chamber for my soul. How do I escape that? By not thinking about Christopher? Perish the thought. Christopher, I promise you, I will never do that.
I put on my sweat suit and a windbreaker and went out to the field next to the medicinal plants garden.
I lay down. The soil and grass felt soft and warm against my back.
“Look straight up.”
My eyes settled on a constellation directly overhead, one I could not name.
“Let go of yourself. Merge with your greater body.”
“My greater body?”
“The Earth. You are a small part of Earth; earth is the greater part of you. You are Earth; Earth is you. Earth and you are one.”
“I am Earth; Earth is speaking through me,” I said, after awhile.
“What?! What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Sorry. I meant: Look outward.”
“Your looking ‘upward’ is Earth looking outward.”
“Yes, I see. It’s a big world out there.”
“Says Earth’s planetary embryo, about the world it will be born into. Fear not, embryonic Earth. You are in an interstellar nursery, one filled with love and compassion.”
“It looks cold out there. Who will look after me when I’m born?” asked the Earth in me.
“A lamb needs suckling, an apple seedling needs watering. Each will receive whatever help it needs.”
“That would be for those planets that succeed to find out.”
“But as for now, I’m on my own?”
“Embryos and fetuses usually develop on their own without outside interference.”
“What if I don’t make it on my own?”
“Then everyone will mourn.”
“Wouldn’t they intervene?”
“Except under external threat situations, the internal events of planetary eggs would not be interfered with.”
“Why not? If there is, say a nuclear war. Where is your compassion - for the children, for Christopher, for me?”
“The innately destructive must be allowed to destroy itself, if only for its own sake. If it is allowed into the interplanetary realm, it would become a monster.”
“But of course, it is for the ‘common good’, right?”
“For the good of the University itself.”
“Are you not intervening in the development of Earth’s planetary embryo yourself, by working with me – an Earthling?”
“Communication is fine. Physical interference is not.”
“What if you violate the rule?”
“I’d be banished.”
“Nowhere you would want to go.”
Good night, Christopher. Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 13, 1999, Saturday, sunny, 20-34C
[06:23 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Today is going to be an interesting day, to say the least. Avtar will be arriving around 16:00 from Bandhavgarh. If he hasn’t heard about the Rajeesh Gopal incident yet, he will then. As far as I’m concerned, it ain’t over till it is over.
The positive side is that Manu Srivastava, Collector of Balaghat, will be here also and he seems in favor of the conference. Jharia will be here as well and he is also in favor although, being an Assisitant Forest Conservator he doesn’t have very much clout. The Mandla Collector A. Jain seems also in favor, as do the Core Area and Buffer Zone Deputy Directors. Only the Field Director Rajeesh Gopal is against, but he is the top brass of Kanha National Park, and Tiger Lodge is sitting in Kanha’s Buffer Zone. So who has authority over whom on what is just a bit too complex for me to fully fathom at this point.
This morning, we spent 08:30-10:30 doing our video interview, with me behind the camera asking questions and Faiyaz and Jane in front, mostly Faiyaz, since I’ve already done some with Jane.
Around 10:45, Manohar came in and informed us that among the wireless messages sent out by Gopal was one to his field office at Kanha, informing it that Tiger Fund’s “eco-development project” has been put on hold until further notice. This means that not only the conference but small meetings with panchayaters will be allowed, even at the conservation center. Nor will any Tiger Fund vehicle be allowed through the Mukki gate to go to the other side to inform the panchayaters of the cancellations. So Faiyaz will have to go the long way around the Core Area to the other side instead of through it.
[14:28] We had lunch with the Maharashtra Collector and quite candidly discussed our situation with him. He surprised me by saying that we do not have much of a problem, and that indeed, there is more than one solution, none of which needs compromise our objective. But before he could say what these solutions were, Manohar came in and began talking about the new “climate”.
The Indian social-political climate is certainly different from the Canadian one. If I attacked any official here the way I did Cathy McGregor (the prohunting BC Environment Minister), I’d be in jail or dead, or else being burnt alive by “rebels” possibly sent by the government itself. As it is, laughable of all laughables, I’ve bent over backwards to observe all the Indian protocols to the hilt, and am being threatened with being charged as a poacher!
[17:44] The new tour group has arrived, mostly older people, about 10. I could not help but notice that the big cylindrical tiger-patterned nylon bag containing the Big Cub was there, and its blower, as well as Avtar’s 220-volt slide projector. In fact, Big Cub has been moved into my room. I was on the way to Jane’s room, when I inadvertantly came across Avtar who was about to knock on the door of the Maharashtra Collector’s room. On the spot, I said a bright “Avtar!” and we shook hands with big smiles and a bear hug, half sincerely.
When I went into the dining pavilion, Sarita was there. We exchanged a big smile and hug as well. There was of course a slight undertone of guardedness, since we both knew where things stood.
I had a last minute strategizing session with Faiyaz, and my final decision is that I will do the talking. If Avtar’s signature is what is required, I’ll get him to sign the invitation to Rajeesh Gopal.
Right now, Avtar is sitting at the fire pit chatting with the Maharashtra Collector. I just asked Manohar to deliver to Avtar a small hand-written note: “Avtar: Something urgent just occurred. I need to discuss it with you some time this evening, at your convenience. Anthony.”
[21:02] Avtar and I did have a long talk, in my room. I started off with the genesis of the conference idea, what we aim to achieve, how we developed it, the protocol we have followed, our media conference on March 16th, the Gopal problem, etc. Along the way, he said, “You are a very enthusiastic individual.”
“Thank you, Avtar.” I wanted to add, “So was your dad.” But gagged it on the point of my tongue. I believe his comment was sincere.
On the Gopal thing, he thinks it’s the guy getting offended by us not asking for his permission first before going ahead to organize the event, about us not involving him in the organizing, about Tiger Fund sending an underling to deal with him, etc. Avtar was not angry at Gopal, and seemed to take things in stride. Easy for him, since he objected to the conference himself, although evidently – his slide projector and the Big Cub - he had changed his mind, if only until he found out about the Gopal situation.
Avtar then discussed with me my drive to increase park fee, saying that it would not work. It was a long and convoluted argument, about lack of infrastructure and lack of guarantee to see tiger, etc. but to see through it all, what he was saying was that it would impact negatively on his tourism business.
He also said that the higher the park fee, the more the money the park officials would pocket. When I asked him if the Field Director himself pockets money, Avtar said, “No, but the people lower down do, and will.”
Towards the end of the conversation, the Maharashtra Collector knocked on my door and I welcomed him in. Avtar asked his opinion on the Gopal situation. The Collector said that Gopal felt threatened by the sudden prominence and influence of Tiger Fund in his territory and that he was also afraid of stirring up the anti-park activists. His opinion is that we have no problem having the conference, but Gopal may try to control TF some other way some time in the future. Avtar said he would attend to it. He did not say how, and I did not ask.
Since Avtar’s entry into camp, Faiyaz has been excluded in all discussions. After my meeting with Avtar and the Collector, I went to fill him in. We speculated on how Avtar would handle the situation. The options are limited. Either we will have the conference, or we won’t. We hope Avtar will do the right thing, but fearing, almost knowing, that he won’t. The ball is in his court and we feel helpless.
“Of everybody, the only person against park reform is Avtar. He’s lost me for good,” said Jane, who joined us. “If, of everybody, the only person opposed to doing something that would actually work for the tiger is the person whose title is the head of Tiger Fund, then it seems to me that to save the tiger is just too great a feat for us to perform, and by ‘us’ I mean us humans. We’re just not good enough.”
“Brace yourself, Homo Sapiens,” said Raminothna. “Compared to the greatest feat on Earth that you have to perform, to save the tiger species is mere child’s play.”
“What are you talking about, this greatest feat on Earth that we have to perform?”
“Where are you now in the O.S.E.S. Cycle of the I.T. Spiral?”
“We have advanced up to the National level, but not yet the Planetary level. On the National level, the nations have organismized, have reproduced and speciated, have formed a multinational ecosystem, and have become more or less social amongst themselves, but have not yet transcendently integrated themselves into a Planetary organism, yet. So, we have advanced to the fourth quadrant, the Socialization quadrant, the second ‘S’ of the O.S.E.S. Cycle of the I.T. Spiral on the national level of organization.”
“Then this greatest feat facing Homo Sapiens, the greatest miracle for Homo Sapiens to perform, shall be the integrative transcendence of the Earth.”
Good night, Christopher. Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 14, 1999, Sunday, sunny, 20-34C
[05:42 @ Rm.111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
I awakened around 04:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep. So I read some more of the Dian Fossey book. Can’t believe the number of daggers buried in her back by self-professed gorilla protectors and “respectable” big name conservation organizations. Even more so is how she could still cope, practically all on her own. She was constantly cash strapped, constantly begging for money. Several thousand could go a long way for her and the gorillas on that mountaintop, but the organizations raked in millions for their own coffers in her name while feeding her peanuts, and people in general squander billions daily on trivial pursuits. This, compounded with her bodily breakdowns, makes one feel that her murder was almost a relief, although I’m still at 1979 in the book – six years before her death. The ensuing pages will tell me how much of this she had to endure before her final release on December 28, 1985. Just goes to show how low down we humans could get if the aim is false, and how strong the human spirit - Dian’s – could be, if the aim is true.
These recent few days, particularly the last two, she had been a great comfort, to show me how insignificant my personal problems are compared to hers, even though the pressures on the tiger and the gorilla are both intense. At least, she did not seem to have a lost child in her life to agonize about, that I know of.
Around 05:15 came a knock on my door. It was a dejected-looking Faiyaz.
“Sorry to knock on your door so early, but I saw light in your window.”
“Oh, no, that’s alright. Come on in.”
“I wanted to talk to you about this right after finishing with Avtar last night, but by then your lights had gone out,” he said apologetically after sitting down in a chair. “He told me to drop all Tiger Fund work today and service the tourists. I had planned to go to the villages today.”
“Well, until the matter is resolved one way or another, the outreach should indeed be put on hold. Gopal’s directives aside, if even you go to visit the villagers this morning, what would you be able to tell them? So just relax for this once and enjoy the park. You might even make conservationists of the tourists. They are not evil, just short-sighted and a little selfish. But they love the tiger. Bring your camera with you.”
On his salary he would never be able to buy a camera, let alone a good one. I brought along two still cameras, one a Minolta automatic SLR with a 28-200 zoom lens and the other an older manual Nikon also with a 28-200 zoom lens. The second camera serves only as a backup, and so far its service has yet to be called for. So I just gave it to Faiyaz. He has been treating it with TLC. His way of holding it reminds me of my way of holding Christopher when he was a baby.
Faiyaz broke into a happy grin and walked back to his room with a bouncier step.
[17:47] I was called to brunch around 10:30. Avtar was there with the Maharashtra Collector’s family and it was a subdued affair. So he did not go to Mandla after all.
Jane is sick again, still citing dehydration. Since the first time a month back, she’s been on a constant glucose-supplement diet to fight the problem, about which I’m not entirely convinced. Kim is also not feeling well. They have both been sick about 25% of the time, leading Faiyaz and I to be concerned about the long term states of their health. So far I’ve been 100% sound, as has been Faiyaz; I hope to stay this way.
About noon, Faiyaz knocked on my door. Avtar sent him to ask me to go for another discussion. We sat in the lounge part of the dining pavilion, the three of us, almost like chums, although the tone of the discussion was muted.
Avtar started off by saying, “Last night I discussed the Gopal situation with the Maharashtra Collector till late about the reason for it happening. Our most logical conclusion was that Tiger Fund has all of a sudden become very prominent, active and influential in the Kanha area, and the park officials could not tolerate it. No matter we are for or against them, our very ascendance as an influential NGO, particularly in the panchayat arena, has become a threat to their authority. What they feel they have to do is to force us back down before we become too powerful. They also find the idea of the panchayats organized into a single force too intimidating, and this is what the conference means to them.”
“As the Chinese say, ‘The bigger the tree, the more bird shit it catches.’” I said mildly. “But is it reason to cut it down?”
Avtar gave a polite chuckle, but said, “The most prudent strategy at this juncture is to lie low and let the heat dissipate.” Which means postpone the conference indefinitely, capitulate, cancel everything and crawl back into the previous state of semi-nonexistence, or semi-existence if Avtar prefers. If he carries through with this “prudent strategy”, Tiger Fund would never amount to anything noteworthy. Should WCWC continue on with such an organization as partner, even without the other factors?
“So, Tiger Fund is doomed to a life of weakness, insignificance, obscurity and mediocrity?” I pressed.
No quotable one-liner answer. Instead, Avtar went back to his dictate of working with only one or two villages at a time, instead of the entire Buffer Zone. Not only that, but just one or two families in these one or two villages. The dictation was given to Faiyaz, but in my presence, which means, in fact, to me. I stood my ground on outreach, and we stalled on the stalemate.
Is it going to save any tigers to get a few families in a few Chinese villages to stop using tiger bone as medicine? We just don’t have the luxury of time. I had to press this point several times before he reluctantly said, “Point taken.” But clearly not to be acted upon.
Then we turned to talking about Jane. He maintained that his plan was to switch Kim and Jane on March 1st, and that he now intends to move Jane over to Bandhavgarh within two days. I reminded him of our agreement about Jane. He did not argue this point, but resorted to saying that I have extended my period of stay, so Jane should be moved now, to which I steadfastly disagreed.
Avtar then proposed a new idea. “Why don’t the three of you (I, Faiyaz and Jane) all go to Bandhavgarh to start a TF program there?”
Bandhavgarh being another paradise on Earth, in places even more beautiful than Ranthambhore and Kanha, I can’t say I didn’t find the idea appealing, but to even consider it seriously at this juncture is to accept the cancellation of the panchayat conference we have worked so hard for. I have only two weeks more out here in Tigerland. If the conference is indeed cancelled, we need at least 4-5 days to go back to the panchayats to inform them of the cancellation and express our regrets, as well as to sign them up for solar cooker installations, and perhaps even have them sign a petition for park reform, plus the March 16 media conference, in which, by the way, Avtar did tell Sarita to participate and to “monitor”. That would leave only 8-9 days in Bandhavgarh. What can be done in that little time? So I showed no response. I absolutely did not want to say, “If the panchayat conference is cancelled…”
Avtar, true to his nature, took my silence as consent, and plowed on to set our move-over date on March 20th, and March 28th as my date to return to Delhi for my March 29th slideshow presentation at the Habitat House. March 20 carries another message. It is before the date set for the conference.
“I’ll see how Gopal responds to whatever you do first,” I said.
To be fair to Avtar, I have to ask myself what I would do if I were him. From the word Go, however, I found this leading nowhere, since I simply could not put myself into the position to favor the interest of his for-profit business over that of his non-profit organization, let alone over the interest of the tiger.
This evening, while sitting at the dinner table, looking across the pavilion at the group of aging tourists with Avtar and Ed Cambridge each seated at one end of their long table, and with Faiyaz seated next to me, exuding a silence full of pain, I cannot help but say to him, “Here are a dozen rich foreigners in the twilight of their lives, seeking their own glorious sunsets by spending US$7000-8000 each for their fortnight’s thrill of a lifetime. Almost US$100,000 in total for a two-week fling. True, they are here to pay their homage to the tigers, which in the scheme of things is better than spending the same money at Las Vegas, but at least some come with the thought of seeing the tigers before they go extinct. And where do these tourists carry their “memory of a lifetime”? To their graves? Yes, that, but more so, to the grave of the tiger. If they would donate the US$100,000 to WCWC, though certainly not to TF, it could go a long way to keep the tiger from extinction in the first place, for their own grand children. And where do their much touted tourist dollars go? The pockets of just two men - Avtar Grewal and Ed Cambridge – the only two people opposing the park reform proposal. Hopefully, after seeing the magnificence of the tiger and its habitat, they would then devote the rest of their lives helping to save them, but how many have done that, or would do that? How many would just chalk up the tiger as an experiential trophy, mount a few pictures on the wall, then move on to plan their next vacation?
Faiyaz’s greatest pain is in regards to the villagers. He feels that he is letting them down. He feels their disappointment. He feels the loss of their trust.
“How about the field director of Bandhavgarh? What do you think he would have done under similar circumstances?” I ask Faiyaz.
“I don’t know him. So I can’t say. But if Avtar does what we know he will, we’ll be meeting the Bandhavgarh Field Director within a week, and find out for ourselves.”
“Yes. Why don’t we?” said Jane.
So, we began to strategize about Bandhavgarh. For all three of us: “What is the most that we can hope to accomplish in seven days?”
And for the two of them: “What would Avtar allow us to do after Anthony has returned to Canada?”
While the former shines with excitement and promise, the latter looks dim and depressing. I offered them a ray of hope. “What we need to do is to use the seven days to initiate a program which can propel itself through to the monsoon season. I’ll just have to do whatever I can to make sure that Avtar will honour the program and sustain it.”
Nobody looked particularly convinced. I didn’t look into the mirror, so I don’t know about myself.
As soon as I returned to my room, I thought of Christopher, and was again plunged into the cyclone that rages beneath my surface constantly. I hauled myself up by the hair by playing a game against my chess computer – by far my intellectual superior in its own arena, where it needs no practice and I have next to none.
Near mid-game, Raminothna said to me, “To all grand masters, masters, ordinary players and non-players, I challenge you to the god-game of Cosmic Chess.”
“God-game? What’s a god-game?”
“A game of life and death, at times, mass deaths.”
“How do you play it?”
“Here are some of its basic rules:
“Whereas in chess there are two sides with sixteen pieces each, in the Earth version of Cosmic Chess there are some two hundred sides, each with pieces numbering in the millions.
“Whereas the power of a chess piece is fixed, be it a king, queen, rook, bishop, knight or pawn, a Cosmic Chess Piece has the power to change its own power, and that of others.
“Whereas in chess the pieces are moved by two external players, one piece per move, one move per time, Cosmic Chess pieces are themselves Cosmic Chess players, who move themselves, and one another, simultaneously, and at will.
“Whereas chess is a mere game, with little more than pride and prize at stake, Cosmic Chess is a god-game, involving not only life and death, but rise and fall, transcendence and extinction, fate and destiny. In fact, each Cosmic Chess Piece/Player has a heart, a mind, a will, a life, even a soul, of its own.
“In Cosmic Chess as in chess, however, there is no move, however insignificant it might have seemed at the time it was made, that has no profound influence, be it constructive or destructive, upon the outcome of the whole game. And you, Cosmic Chess Piece/Player of the god-game of Earth, ought to heed this, for whether you want to ‘play’ or not, whether you know or know not what you do, whether or not you even care, you make moves all the time.
“In Cosmic Chess as in chess, all pieces must share an ultimate goal in common, must make no move without bearing upon this common goal, and must cooperate, and be coordinated, towards reaching this common goal – that is, if they wish to win, which brings us to this final point:
“Whereas in chess one must lose that the other can win, in Cosmic Chess, all must win, or all will lose.
“In Cosmic Chess, each side is called a nation, and each player-piece a citizen, of which you are one.
“Homo sapiens of Earth, I wish you a brilliant victory.”
I again lost the game to the chess computer.
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *
March 15, 1999, Monday, sunny, with occasional thin clouds, 18-30C
[05:27 @ Rm. 111, Kanha Tiger Lodge]
Another amazing dream from which I just awoke.
One who dwells in the bottom of a well
will say that the sky is small.
Another may even insist to tell
that there is no sky at all
but a hole in The World’s ceiling overhead
through which the light from Heaven is shed.
Of a great dried well was indeed what I dreamed
on whose bottom I was born and raised it seemed.
So dried this world of a well had become
Two hundred ponds were all that remained in sum,
each claimed and owned by one walled estate
who regarded its neighbors with jealousy and hate.
The wall of the well was high as the sky,
surrounding the World Village an unbroken cliff,
to try scaling which many have died falling,
and some by leaping, all understood why
who have sought an escape, no ‘but’, nor ‘if’,
as they heard again their freedom’s calling.
For though of mansions our well-world was full,
and magnificent they could all be deemed,
yet the barbed-wire spoke of peace unachieved,
and feuds amongst families raged bloody and cruel.
To their gods they prayed, of palaces they dreamed,
but few for what vision had yet to be conceived.
Our world, sadly, was not brimming with wealth.
Fuel and building materials were in short supply.
Sooner or later we would surely kill
for the last wheelbarrow of coal, by force or stealth.
Afterwards, they say, “I’ll suffer their orphans’ cry.”
Meanwhile, there’s no doubt if they won’t or will.
Still the root cause of this predicament persisted –
to out-luxuriate the Smiths and Jones bar none.
A few spoke of consequences but none had resisted
this tradition passed on from father to son.
To honour this cause entire generations had insisted,
a purpose upheld, if not fulfilled, by everyone.
It was certainly not fulfilled, if still upheld, by me.
Examine my purchasing record, and you’d agree.
My estate was still in grandeur, but grandeur in decline.
About the only thing new was in this garden of mine –
a giant question mark, paved in stone. But then,
what eyes could see it except those in Heaven?
Besides, what eyes in this world would even care?
It came as no surprise, therefore,
when Raminothna descended into this world-at-war,
the landing was made here and not over there.
She told me about the boundless universe beyond
this miserable little world of which I was not fond.
And I was told of the myriad living things
inhabiting those wondrous realms above,
and of the spiritual freedom that knowledge brings,
and universal truth, and peace, and love.
Like a caged tiger I began to pace
within my confining, confounding space.
Finally, I confronted Raminothna, saying,
“What are you here for?” And her reply:
“To bring you deliverance. To set you free.”
But her discarded wings I could plainly see.
In ill-concealed skepticism I continued to pry:
“And how do you plan to accomplish that? By staying?”
“By persuading you to build a stairway, my love,
one leading to the domains above.”
“What with? Do you realize what that would demand?
And that supplies are stockpiled, but none by me?”
“I see building materials right at hand,”
said Raminothna, “and supplies aplenty.”
Following her illuminating eyes I was shocked to see
they’re fixed on this mansion of mine. I replied in dismay,
“I would gladly take my house apart, stone by stone,
and transform it into a stairway to Heaven, on my own,
if I knew that the last stone would set me free.
But plainly, it wouldn’t take me a hundredth of the way.”
“Then let it be the foundation of your stairway to Heaven.”
“After that, what then? I have nothing else, not even a dime.”
“I see more than enough, considering all your brethren.”
Following Raminothna’s eyes again, I saw this time
they were sweeping the mansions all around, stone and gem.
“I see. And how do you propose to persuade them?”
Thereupon, Raminothna’s penetrating gaze
moved to fix itself upon my face.
So shocked was I the dream ejected me
but then, in the dawn light I see
in the mirror misted in the morning chill
that her gaze is fixed upon mine eyes still.
[22:56 @ Rm.111, Kanha Jungle Lodge]
Today, Faiyaz and Sarita left the lodge at 08:00 to revisit those panchayat leaders who had come to our meetings, and returned at about 16:30. Even at dinnertime, he was still obviously perturbed about having let the villagers down. To the panchayat leaders he would not lay blame on the forest department or even on Gopal, because, he feels, he would then indeed be driving a wedge between the villagers and the government. So he took whatever blame upon himself.
He told us that before entering the villages, he committed Sarita to noninterference. And same for her role in the media conference tomorrow – strictly as an observer - as far as I’m concerned. Other than that, she could “monitor” all she wants.
She did make one observation to Faiyaz, “Your problem is that you are sandwiched between Avtar and Anthony.” Not completely true. Faiyaz is very much his own man. He just happens to hold similar views to mine, for which I am thankful. On the other hand, it might apply very well to herself, she being Avtar’s yes-person.
The power went on and off all day, so I wrote on and off for as long as the aging battery of my laptop computer would last.
This evening, Avtar came to our dining table (he usually sits with the tourists) and showed me a draft of his letter to “Rajeesh Raj Gopal”, a very humble-toned letter saying essentially (not verbatim, since I was too upset to copy it down), “Yes sir, we will scrap the conference, sir, and promise to be a good boy from now on, sir, so please forgive us, sir. We will never do anything like this again, sir.” It will be delivered tomorrow morning at 10:30 by a very demur and respectful Sarita. Excuse me while I throw up.
In our discussion I pressed Avtar for a commitment to supply one solar cooker to each village in Kanha and Bandhavgarh that requests one. Each one would cost about C$10-20 to make, using locally available material. We would charge C$2 or so for each, as a gesture of seriousness from them. Faiyaz is to be put in charge of this follow-through program with Jane as his volunteer. If our 1999 program could have at least 50 villages (instead of Avtar’s two) to adopt the solar oven to cook one meal a day over the sunny nine months of the year, I’d be happy. Avtar nodded an affirmation to our plan, the perfunctoriness of which made me doubt its sincerity and validity. But I know however harder I pressed, I would just get another one of the same meaningless shrug-nods, no more, no less. I thought of getting him to commit it in writing, but didn’t bother, for the same reason – the piece of paper would be more or less worthless.
Tomorrow we (Faiyaz, Jane, Sarita & I) will go to Mandla, then Jabalpur, leaving the lodge at 07:00. Avtar will leave the lodge at 08:00 back to Delhi, his damage having been done. “If I don’t see you in the morning, let me say good bye to you now. See you in Delhi in two weeks,” he said. With this and a handshake, he returned to his room, leaving us, especially Faiyaz, in a state of turmoil.
Good night, Christopher.
* * * * *