5 to 9 - Adventure

It all started one winter evening in Sariska. I had enrolled for the school's 'wild life club', not because I had any soft corner for the furry animals, but simply because the other  classes either sounded boring (woodcraft) or girlish (batik printing.)

At Sariska that evening, I expected all of us to have dinner and go off to sleep, like all good children should. But Mahendra Vyas had other ideas. We were going for a drive in the jungle – in the night. I was convinced that everyone around was insane and that this would be my last trip with them. After trundling along in the darkness, the van lurched to a halt. A female nilgai stood by the side, sharply etched against the dark forest in our searchlight. She stared at us for about four seconds and bounded off, but those four seconds changed my life forever. The realization that the world outside was so beautiful was a knockout blow.

The next year was a dream come true. I was selected to work as a honorary warden at Delhi zoo with 10-15 other students.  We would help the keepers clean the cages, feed the animals, and generally be on the lookout for miscreants (like tourists trying to make the crocodile move by chucking stones at it.) Playing with a baby bear or having a white tiger cub nibble at your toes were the fringe benefits of the job. When not in the zoo, I would be in Lodi Gardens, Ridge forest and other such places, never separated from my binoculars and that birdwatchers' bible - Salim Ali's 'Book of Indian Birds.'

We moved to Pune, a great place for outdoors and adventure. Half an hour on the bicycle in any direction and you were out of town. A two day trek to Rajgad-Torna could be done in about 30 rupees. There was no dearth of forest trails, hill forts and lakes. Friends of Animals Society, College Nature Club, Institute of Adventure Sports were all avenues to pursue these hobbies. It was also the time to realize that the line between adventure and stupidity can be very hazy. But the ignorance of youth also made me attempt things like trying to catch a python single-handed. If I had not let go in time, I would have remained single-handed for the rest of my life.

From birds and snakes to cliffs and mountains. One of the forts that caught my imagination was Rajgad. I went there repeatedly for two years and captured the changes in the landscape with changing seasons.

One of the most memorable phases came in 1988, when I was part of the film unit for an expedition to Mt. Kanchenjunga.

© 2012 Pushkaraj Apte Website By MAARICH