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GHOST OF THE JUNGLE

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The wilderness has been my second home since my teens and among the long wish list of animals to be photographed, the pride of the place was obviously the Black Panther in the wild. Over the 3 decades of wild life photography across the world, the list had considerably shrunk to just a handful and yet the ‘Ghost of the Jungle’ remained the most elusive.
August 6, 2017 would be etched in golden letters in my memory. My family and a few friends were on our last Morning Safari of our holiday at Kabini, which had been a great one for the previous days were filled with action including the elusive Tigers and Dholes. 
The morning was a bit cloudy as we set out on a Jeep Safari into Zone A of the jungle. Hardly 10 minutes in, we heard a clear Langur warning call. Switching off the engines, checking for the direction of the call and the wind direction, we waited in silence, when a message from the jeep ahead confirmed the call and the spotting of BLACK !!! the infamous code for the Black Pant…

Dad’s lessons – after death!!

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If there ever is a word called ‘Telephobia’ it was all over me during the last weeks of December 2016. Dad was seriously ill at the hospital. The ringtone on my mobile (coincidently the theme music from the Good the bad the ugly) gave me the goose bumps every time it went on. 

The writing was on the wall when the docs told me and my brother that it was ‘a matter of a few days’ and I was steeling myself for that dreaded day. I was pushing myself to stay strong as I spent time with him during the last few days of his life as he battled his illness bravely – strong as a pillar, an epitome of grace, courage and faith – as he always was. At some points, I was not sure of how to cope up with the impending loss. The gloom was scary. 

That dreaded call came just past midnight on the 28th of December 2016. My wife who had stayed by his side at the hospital for four days along with my mom, called to break the news.

Yet, when it actually happened and the call came in, something inside me just snapp…

Chasing the Brigand

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For decades, Mr.Vijaykumar IPS, a decorated officer from the Tamil Nadu cadre has been the scourge of the law breakers in any form in the Indian sub continent. Be it the organized Maoists on the borders, the don’s of the city of Chennai or the poachers / smugglers on the western ghats – he was the omnipresent ‘Ghost who walks’ for them (in line with the various Phantom quotes in his book).
An autobiography of Mr.Vijaykumar IPS and a Biography of the iconic forest brigand – Koose Munuswamy Veerapan are the two distinct aspects of his latest book “Chasing the Brigand” – a concise summary of events over a few decades along with a virtual walk through of the last 20 minutes of the famous encounter “Operation Cocoon”. It is a captivating read of the life and times of the dreaded bandit, while at the same time it serves as an essential piece of truth-telling about one of the murkiest events in recent history - the death of Veerapan (though the politics behind his emergence, survival &…

OPS (Other Person’s Shadow) Syndrome

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Stepping into the shoes of a towering, historic leader is no easy task – especially if those are the shoes of a Charismatic, Legendary, Towering demigoddess who had created history in life (and death).
Yet, a person who was never perceived as an independent decision maker, always known as a trusted lieutenant, a humble loyalist, a stop gap leader – has silently played a very important role in supporting the historic student movement to preserve the cultural identity of the Tamil community. 
In the current harsh, sensitive political scenario, filling the void left by a legendary leader, amidst burning cultural issues and sensitive youth ideologies, walking a tightrope balancing the Centre, State & party politics is almost like skating on thin ice or walking a minefield. One wrong move and things could spiral out of control.
Sensing the mood of the student rising, understanding emotions, meeting them the very evening, flying out to Delhi, meeting the PM, convincing the various depar…
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The Big Five Oh!
Turning 50 (The Big Five Oh!) was supposed to be a momentous occasion – a milestone of sorts. My parents called in to advice a visit to the family deity (for an Ayushomam, which was supposed to ensure a smooth passage for the next 50), Wifey and daughter had planned a secret party rounding up quite a few of my close friends and relatives for an eventful evening and dinner.  
Honestly, for me, 50 was just another number.  Agreed, fifty may be too late to embark on a career as a F1 driver or aspire to win the Wimbledon, but it’s quite a good age to think about establishing a new business, spending more time in the wilderness with my photo gear, a great age to pursue flying, writing more for blogs & magazines.
Incidentally there are some great perks that come with that age . . . secrets are safe with my friends (unless I post them on FB or whatsaap) because they can’t remember them either. Kidnappers are not very interested in people of my age, for all you know, they ma…

Bear Truth

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The jungles have always been my second home and we were at Masinagudi that summer of 2006. On a late afternoon early March, my friend and fellow photographer Ravi, our local guide Mari and I set off towards the Moyar River at Masinagudi.
A family of Malabar hornbills greeted us as we parked near the Electricity Board guest house and began our short trek overlooking the magnificent mountains. A mongrel from the guest house accompanied us for a few Kms. He was friendly, walking ahead of us as though taking on himself to lead us. Nearing a clearing, he stopped abruptly, started sniffing the air and began growling. Baring his teeth, he looked closely towards the bushes and suddenly turned tail and bolted the way we had come.
“I hope it is not an elephant”, I remember telling Ravi as I raised my Camera mounted with a Tele Zoom to my eyes carefully scanning the bushes. Finding nothing I was about to move forward, when a movement to my right on the far side caught my eye. There, about 150 yard…

When a tripod saved my life!!

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In my decades of roaming around the forests of India filming wildlife, I have been at the wrong end of the barrel more than a dozen times, with a few very close encounters – like the incident detailed below.

If I remember right, it was 2009. I was on a photo shoot at Masinagudi, looking for Sloth Bears along with Sundar, another wildlife phtographer. A friend had a home stay inside deep jungle where a few bears were reported to be frequenting a clearing near the place and we decided to stay there. It was a wonderful home, right at the foot hills of the mountains, unfenced and in the middle of the wilderness. After breakfast, we set out along with the Cook (our guide for the day, an excellent tracker himself) to the clearing, hardly 500 meters away where we had decided to wait for the bears to make their appearance.

It was nearing noon when we walked to the clearing, Sundar and the cook were almost 50 meters behind me. Nearing the clearing, I heard branches being torn apart. Moving cl…

From the Jaws of Death . . . .

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At the Pearly gates!!!!
In hindsight, I must say, that trip to Hyderabad in November over two decades ago was Jinxed from the start. It was a last minute one, it had to be planned on the sly, been postponed once and meeting times rescheduled twice over.
Honestly, an interview call from the top management of Oracle in 1990’s was a dream chance - a great career opportunity and I had to make sure that my current employer (Nexus – erstwhile Aurelec) did not catch wind of it. It was normal for my office team to stop by at home to help parents for my wedding preparations (which was around the corner). I had to ensure none knew of the trip and so had to work it on the sly. With travel banned at home with the wedding a few days away, the story was a very close high ranking IAS official, a family friend, was at an ICU at Pondicherry and hence the last minute travel.
There were no direct flights from Coimbatore to Hyderabad and so had to get to Chennai which meant an overnight stay to get on to I…

The Dangerous Gentlemanly game

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It was all over in a blink of the eye. That regular short pitched ball from Abbot, a lifting bouncer was climbing on the swivelling Hughes, who in a momentary rush of blood took his eyes of the ball, went for the hook, played early, ended up exposing his left ear and neck. The 160 gm red cherry thudded into the area below the ear and neck which had no protection from the helmet. What followed was a tragic on field event which is a blotch on the once aristocratic Gentleman’s game. (To be fair to Abbot and lend a consoling hand, the replay will tell you, it wasn't a menacing missile, rising from an uncomfortable length, but a rank short ball which was a mere 80 mph run of the mill short pitch delivery)

Debates on forums, blogs and cyberspace have sprung up by the millions dissecting, analyzing, discussing the event from multiple views. From the technique, safety, rules of the game, new laws every possible view point and aspect are in for a detailed scrutiny. There are even calls for …
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A Slice of TIME Ever felt like a vamp at a black tie dinner? Ask me, for it was one such gathering of early Baby Boomers, which I had inadvertently strayed into. I was flummoxed by the topic, terminologies and convictions being thrown around on a subject being passionately discussed – NADI JYOSIUM (or palm leaf reading form of astrology).
A thumb impression smeared with a black cream, scanned on a non-biometric piece of leaf, was able to throw up a precise data file, from a huge data farm of clustered palm leaves, which contained transcripts of your past and a peek into your future – phew!!
I know, it is foolish to try to ‘Rationalize’ or ‘Scientify’ everything in life, but as part of a unique ‘Cusp Cult’ -born between the last year of the Baby Boomer and first year of the Generation X categorization, further compounded by the fact that I was one of the early riders of the IT Era – embracing technology, it was really hard on me for my right sided brain was refusing to accept any of thei…