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Second attempt at photographing Horses.

My second attempt at photographing horses was dominated by a lovely grey stallion. He turned out to be quite a poser who could give a professional model as run for his money.

This shoot was more satisfying as I tried a few new things and I am beginning to understand my subject better. The third shoot should be better .

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A Different approach.

Yesterday I tried a different approach to still life. This was an attempt to avoid the orange tint under artificial light and to try taking high key photographs. This time I used white light (tube) and a white wall as a background. I customised the white balance using the white wall as a reference.

To get a high key image I used a lamp to light up the wall and kept the subject away from the light. I used evaluative metering and over exposed by 2 stops. Here are the results. One photograph is not an high key image, I took that just to see the difference. I prefer the high key ones. Overall I was quite pleased with myself.


The image on top is not the high keys ones . the ones below are.








Still Life.

This morning I tried my hand at still life photography. Which, truth be told, was actually a substitute for a live model. I had to make do with whatever lighting that was available at home which finally boiled down to a single table lamp. To bring in some variety I also used natural light that came in through one of the windows. Unfortunately I had no control over the backgrounds and so I request you to kindly try and ignore the same.

I have wanted to try my hand at fashion / glamour / lifestyle photography and I even tried to get Anushka Menon


to take me on as an intern. My usp was that it would be quite an interesting experience for her to take on a predominantly wildlife photographer as an intern , to her credit she did write back and said that at present she did not require one but should she ever require an intern in the future she would consider me . I thought it would make a nice photographic essay – the travails and tribulations of a wildlife photographer in the glamour world, hell it could even make a nice David Dhavan movie!

I live in hope but in the meantime I decided to try my hand so that I could be ready when called , unfortunately the only model I could get to pose for me was a porcelain lady from our collection of nick - knacks . As an afterthought I also requisitioned a horse .

I am going to burden you with most of the shots I took this morning ( they do look very similar ) I hope you will indulge me and take a look.

































The Horse .

A horse is a thing of beauty... none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor.

I had a brief affair with the horse when I was in college. It was my good friend Loku who introduced us and while he went to make a name for himself in the world of Polo, I unfortunately had to dismount soon after .I was not able to master the art in spite of all my efforts.

I have , from time to time , paused to admire them whenever I got the chance , which unfortunately was not often enough . However recently with my daughter Tara starting her own affair with the horse ( she is learning how to ride ) , I have been more in touch with them than before . Yesterday I decided to try capture their beauty and grace with my camera. Here are the results. Please keep in mind that I am not as familiar with them as I am with elephants while you cast a critical eye over them.





























Moving on.

The trade unions in India are on a two day strike and things have more or less slowed down in the country. We know that a strike of this nature can turn ugly at a moment’s notice (it did so in NOIDA) and so I decided to play safe and take two days off from work. This left me with a bit of free time and I decided to play around with my camera.

Off late I have been flirting with the other genres of photography that I am interested in but did not really indulge in for various reasons. I have been influenced by many photographers, mostly I must admit, wildlife photographers - however the other photographer that I am influenced by is David Hamilton. In fact in my collection of photographic works by eminent photographers, his works dominate. I am not sure how many readers of my journal are familiar with David Hamilton, this being a predominantly wildlife blog and all that. Also the fact that he specializes in nudes and this being a rather prudish nation, he and his works are not widely known or discussed. In fact his name has not even come up once in any discussion, forum or blog on photography that I have followed read or been a part of. No one seems to have been influenced by him or at least don’t say so in public. I hope the readers of my blog don’t turn their noses up at me after checking the links below !



Contrary to the prevalent public stereotype of a wildlife photographer / conservationist / naturalist / environmentalist ( not that I claim to be or like to be called any of those but unfortunately I seem to have been labeled as one), I am extremely interested in the world of glamour and fashion and take great effort and pride in my wardrobe etc. I can even say with a lot of confidence that I have an inherent feel for fashion and style, as much or even greater than my feel for wildlife. So don’t be surprised if one day you suddenly see me metamorphose into a glamour photographer. It’s not so sudden, believe me.
Anyway I seem to be rambling. What I wanted to express is that I am now preparing to spend time and effort in learning the art of glamour photography. I need to learn about artificial lighting etc. (I have a confession to make – I don’t know how to use a flash!). And so yesterday I pulled out my camera manual and learned to operate the built in flash of my 7 D. A couple of hours and a few internet tutorials later, I now have a fair idea on how to operate an external flash. I now need to learn lighting techniques for which a practical workshop seems to be the best bet. Can anyone suggest one in Bangalore? I also stumbled upon an advert for a two day photography symposium that is to be held in Bangalore in March.


It has professionals from the world of travel, fashion / glamour and wildlife photography besides editors etc. It is being billed as ‘your red carpet entry into the world of professional photography ‘. Just what the doctor ordered or is it just wishful thinking on my part? Wildlife photography seems to be dominated by people based out of Bangalore and we have, dare I call them the usual suspects? , present at this symposium too. In fact day two is dominated by them. This allows me to kill two or rather three birds with one stone – learn a bit , test the waters and network with old friends.
After these signs from the Gods and a bit of heavy thinking I decided to step out and try something different. My luck being what it is, the first subject that came my way was a Shikra and I decided to warm up with it.



Street photography is the other genre I am interested in and I did spend a weekend trying my hand at it but the streets were more or less deserted yesterday except for one painter working away.


I don’t think it would be out of place to mention that the off late I have come under the influence of Scott Schuman who photographs street fashion. Check out his blog .


Doing that kind of work in India is probably more dangerous than wildlife photography! But it’s on my wish list. In fact my foray into street photography was my way to test the waters in a safer way. Here are the results. I switched to the black and white format after the first few shots, just to be different, not that switching to black and white make the photographs better.






















After sometime I decided to move indoor and spent some time in my study. While doing so I glanced upon my golf trophies which are displayed under a table lamp and so I did a little still life, I guess you can call it that. Golf dominated my life for a long time, especially during my planting days.



In the evening I moved outdoors again and while looking for subjects, I glanced heaven wards for inspiration and saw the moon. I took these shots of the moon and used the Black Kites flying around as an additional element. I hope you like them.




I am seriously contemplating a move, wish me luck.

The Amphitheatre of Life ..... and death.

Every year the gates of the Kabini dam are opened to let water out to irrigate the crop downstream and as the waters bring life to the thirsty crops downstream, the levels in the reservoir dip and wide vistas open up. A huge bowl shaped plain ringed by giant bamboo is created . Whenever I see this bowl the great Colosseum in Rome comes to mind. And much like the Colosseum here too the game of life and death is played out in front of a paying audience, I call it the amphitheatre of life ….. and of death.

I first saw the family late one evening. Two females and a calf. The calf was sleeping or resting among the boulders while the two females grazed peacefully besides it. It was a peaceful scene as I sped away in the boat, I slowed down to take a few photographs, a beautiful moment.



A few days later I chanced upon the family again and decided to spend some time with them. I was able to photograph them together as the calf suckled from his mother with his aunt or elder sister close by. It was a typical elephant family moment and all seemed well with their world. The family seemed a bit too protective and even charged the boat. This was a bit unusual as they generally do not charge the boat. I was troubled because I don’t like being charged by elephants, a charge equates to failure. The failure to properly judge an elephant’s private space and for a naturalist that is the ultimate failure. Encroaching onto an animal’s private space can be disastrous and the consequences fatal. I was a bit down in the dumps the rest of the evening.




The family remained on the banks of the Kabini and I would leave them alone as I knew that they did not want to be approached as closely as the other elephants. A few days later I noticed the calf all alone. This was unusual, calves are never left alone. The two females had swum across the river to an island and were grazing there. I waited and watched. A crow caught my attention; it was harassing the calf and seemed to be pecking it on its head. I scanned the calf with my binoculars and noticed that the calf had a series of deep wounds on its head. The crow was attempting to pick the flesh from the wound.


The calf eventually came very close to the water and started splashing the wound with water. It was obviously in a lot of pain and was using the water to try and get some relief. It even rubbed its wound against a tree stump for relief and finally exhausted it lay down to rest. All this was happening a few meters away from the boat.






My attention was focused on the two females; I did not want a repeat of the previous incident. However I was in for a shock. All my previous experience with elephants, all the knowledge that I thought I had acquired was about to be turned on its head. The females were unconcerned. Those who have lived with elephants will realize the gravity of that last sentence. An elephant mother and aunt unconcerned about a calf? Impossible, I have seen an elephant mother and aunt spend days near the body of a stillborn calf. Their agony and pain was there for the entire world to see. It was one of the most painful experiences and I have watched a pack of wild dogs devour a deer, while its life ebbed away with each bite, more than once.

I turned the boat in the direction of the two females and this time they allowed me to approach closely without a hint of aggression. This was a bit much for me and I subjected them to a critical examination. It was while I was doing so that I noticed a deep gash on the trunk of one of the females. The wound had healed but it was a nasty one.


I tried to piece together their story …. That the family had been subject to a deadly assault was obvious. And by comparing the wounds I guessed that the calf was the target as its wounds were far worse. But who was or who were the perpetrators? Man? It seemed unlikely, only the foolish would attack an elephant calf with its family. But it could be possible that they could have got injured while being driven away from a village or crop field. The wound on the adult elephant’s trunk could have been inflicted with a machete by someone from the safety of a machan but the wounds on the calf’s head? They had to be inflicted from close range.

The only other plausible explanation that came to mind was a Tiger attack. Tigers are known to attack and kill elephant calves and this could be one of those rare instances. The gash on the female’s trunk could also have been inflicted by a Tiger when she came to her calf’s rescue. The fact that this was a small family also led a bit of credulence to the Tiger theory. The Tiger would have been more circumspect if it was a larger herd. However I was not fully satisfied with either explanation. The wounds on the calf were very bad and I was not certain that a Tiger could inflict such wounds, I have never seen a elephant calf kill.

The forest department was informed about the calf and they did come and rescue it but were unable to save its life.

The most troubling part about this entire episode was the behavior of the two females. They seemed to have given up on the calf .I was unable to bring myself to accept this and to this day I am disturbed by it . I have never been able to come up with a satisfactory explanation. Or maybe I was just not willing to consider or acknowledge it. It was one of those instances when nature confounds you, when you realize that nature can be extremely cruel. But who are we to judge? The females must have realized that the calf was doomed and that it was not worth investing any more time and effort on it. It’s the only explanation but it turns what I have learnt about elephants on its head.

I am penning this story after a gap of three years. It shook my faith. The audience in the Colosseum enjoyed the spectacle of gore and death. I did not enjoy this.
And SO the story continues:

Enter college and we suddenly discover that one half of our wardrobe, the uniform – our pride and joy, was now useless. That beautiful Blue Blazer and grey flannel trouser, those lovely white shirts – all had to be consigned to the far reaches of our cupboards. We were devastated but we rallied.

American Gigolo

The saviour enters our world in the form of Richard Greer wearing Armani. The blazer gets pulled out with the school crest removed and we are back in action. Some of us hit the gym and try out dumbbells for the first time. Fortunately none of us actually try to sell our services, though it did cross the minds of some of us. Money was not the motive.

Mohan Singh Place

Mohan Singh Place near CP was a maze of cheap tailors where one could allow their designer fantasies to run riot. Jeans, trousers, you name it, of any size, design, cut one could get made within a couple of days. This is where we converged, GQ magazine in hand, like flies during our first term. We were still new and had not quite adjusted to the fashion scene in a city college. Many a faux pas and plenty of fashion disasters later, we collectively vowed never to go back. It’s the only promise I have never broken in my whole life.


From Mohan Singh Place we graduated to K.Nags or Kamala Nagar. This was a locality near the campus and it had a shop, owned by an enterprising sardar, who sold ‘smuggled’ clothes from Hong Kong / Singapore. Sanity returned and we went back to the loving arms, sorry should that be legs? of Levi Strauss originally of the US but lately of Hong Kong .
There was also a choice of T – Shirts and Lacoste was a favourite, with Jordache and FILA coming in a close second. All of them reaching our shores after a brief stopover at Hong Kong. During their stopover in Hong Kong they seemed to have acquired some of the local flavour but somehow managed to retain their essence. It was enough for us.


The GQ magazine was our bible. We borrowed them from Bassy (the best dressed guy on campus) or got old copies from second hand book shops. I still remember the ads. – Armani, Guess, Gap ... all distant fantasies. Incidentally GQ is still a staple in my house; I have been faithful all these years.

VIP Frenchie Brief

I will skip this part for obvious reasons but it was an important milestone, a game changer. Interested parties may PM me. All I am willing to say in public is that they took some getting used to and added colour.

Sunday Market at Red Fort

Every Sunday there would be a market at the Red Fort where they would sell second hand clothes. We went there on a lark but struck oil! To our delight we found jackets and sport jackets from around the world. We acquired Buckskin jackets and Sheepskin coats that we had only seen in the Marlboro ads. The sport jackets were from the top international design houses. It was a treasure trove. We had stumbled across thrift shopping. It was kept a well guarded secret as it was considered infra dig to get your clothes second hand but what a bonanza! One wash and no one could tell the difference in fact we started to stand out, well that might be wishful thinking, but we certainly stood apart from the crowd. Anybody wearing buckskin jackets and sheepskin coats in Delhi would! One of us added a Stetson and a string tie just to make sure but we won’t get into that.

The three S’s

Sweaters, shirts and shoes. Action shoes replaced the Golas, the brogue made its appearance and has stayed put till date. Jodhpur boots were acquired from Jodhpur. Yes they were handmade there. Some of us slipped into cowboy boots but there were hard to get , though you could get the Indian version in one shop in CP. Dress shoes were acquired from Trend in Calcutta . Sadly the shop went out of business recently. Pierre Cardin shoes were launched in Delhi but remained out of reach.
Dress shirts made their debut. We got them from Intershoppe with matching ties. Newman was a brand that was also popular. I got my first Arrow dress shirt, a very expensive gift from my father. Cotswool check shirts were another staple.
Sweaters were another change that we had to make. The grey school sweater no longer sufficed and a major part of our pocket money went into getting new ones. By then my parents had moved to Delhi and I moved out of the hostel. My mother would get my sweaters knitted for me from the patterns I chose from GQ.

The Pride and Joy

On a visit to a friend’s place in Bhopal, while flipping through a copy of Life magazine, I stumbled upon an article on Princess Stephanie of Monaco and was immediately struck by her sense of style. There were a few photographs of her wearing leather and I was hooked. After a thorough study of the photos followed by discussions and deliberations it was finally decided. A fawn suede leather sports jacket needed to be added to my wardrobe. Easier said than done, how was I to get hold of one? On my return to Delhi an exhaustive search was undertaken (no internet those days) and finally a shop was located that made leather garments on order.
It took a little work but I managed to persuade my long suffering parents and I got one made. It was the pride of my wardrobe and my most cherished possession. I wore it for many many years , it was the most versatile garment I have ever owned . Ever since then sport jackets have been my weakness. Unfortunately, some ten years later, it lost the battle. I am ashamed to say that rats got to it during the monsoon. I have never replaced that jacket, but I think finally the time has come. Come winter and I am going to get myself a new one. Let the search begin.
And so life comes full circle ....the story continues.

A Personal Style Journey - Part -1

I dedicate these entries to my daughter Tara who is my greatest style/ fashion critic. During the past two years we have had a lot of memorable discussions on fashion and style and also many shopping and window shopping excursions together. My wife, Gowri, usually opts out as she does not have the patience to spend hours looking at clothes that we have no intention of buying!
Watching Tara’s evolving sense of style and seeing the incredible number of choices in front of her, I remembered the limited choices that I had as a child. In India, in those days we never had so many choices when it came to clothes. But being with her and experiencing firsthand the various factors that influenced her choices, I began to reflect on the various factors that influenced me when it came to matters of fashion. That’s when I realised that it would be a nice idea to document my journey by the changing trends and fashion that I went through while growing up. After giving it a lot of thought I realised that this is a never ending process , that I was still evolving and that my recent choices were now being influenced by an incredibly fashion conscious 14 year old ! I also realised that Gowri seemed to approve of the changes! So here goes..... Of course the mists of time have played their part and I might not be too accurate with regards to dates etc and I am sure that there are a number of gaps in my memory but this is my journey as I remember it.

The Early Years.

The early years are the years when I really don’t remember what I wore! My guess is that I was happy wearing whatever my parents bought me and that I never really gave my clothes much thought. This phase probably lasted till I was about six or seven years old.

The First Fashion Choice.

As far as I can remember the first fashion choice I made was sometime in the seventies. I am sure that this was not a choice made by me but by that time I was old enough to come under peer pressure and thus be influenced by the choices other people made. Remember this was the seventies and I jumped onto the bandwagon! That’s right my pants began to flare out at the bottom and my shoes acquired heels! All I can remember from this time is that we (the boys in my housing colony) would compete with each other in having the longest, hope that’s the right word or maybe widest would be more appropriate, flares on our trousers. I remember the high heeled shoes as well and I think I had two pairs. I don’t really remember the shirts or T Shirts I used to wear but the trousers and shoes are vividly etched in my memory. Another thing that I remember was acquiring my first pair of Bata “Wayfinder “shoes to wear to school. These shoes had a compass imbedded in the insoles. I wonder if any of you remember these shoes. Bata does not make them anymore.

First Change

In 1975 I joined boarding school and acquired my first Blue Blazer, Grey Flannel Trousers, Tie and Scarf. These four garments would play, and still play, a big role in my life though I did not realise it then. In school we were allowed to wear “home clothes “on Sunday and if I remember correctly the flares and high heeled shoes continued to hold sway. I am not sure when the first change took place but it was probably a few years later say late 1977 or early 1978.
This was a major change – the arrival of denim and the Jean. My first jeans were stitched for me, yes stitched! There was a shop in the New Market of Calcutta called “ Jean Junction “ and you could chose you denim and style and they would make them for you. If I remember correctly the flares remained but a lot of Zips made their appearance. On the pockets as well as on the fly! Once again I have no recollection of the shirts or T-shirts but I think the high heeled shoes continued. Also a point to note that up to now there was no fashion style icon that I would relate too, it all sort of just happened.

Levi Strauss & Co.- Red Tab Jeans and the American West

The next major change was the arrival of a pair of Levi Red Tab jeans from the US, a gift from my mother’s brother. Levis had already made sporadic appearances in the wardrobes of my seniors in school, this must have been 1979 or 1980. The flares did the vanishing act and the high heels disappeared. The red full sleeved shirt also made its debut. For any self respecting Mayoite, it was the combination of choice.

The high heeled leather shoes were replaced by white ‘ PT ‘ shoes and leather ‘moccasins’ procured from Chinese shoe shops in Calcutta. The ‘moccasins’, available only in Calcutta, became objects of desire! This also was the time when we discovered the world of the American West through the books of Louis Lamour and fell for the cowboys look. My first fashion icon – the all American Cowboy. Gradually the red shirt was replaced by checked shirts. Cowboy boots, Stetsons and buckskin trousers were unattainable goals almost a fantasy.
Enter Clint Eastwood through the Dollar series and blankets were cut and transformed into ponchos. The denim jacket makes its appearance; a buckskin jacket enters the list of unattainable goals.

And so it remained, with a few minor changes, for a long long time.

Double Barrels

The wardrobe in school was divided into two parts – school clothes and home clothes, and both parts evolved, style and fashion wise, parallel – together but apart. The school uniform, as all uniforms go was pretty much standard, but being a boarding school we had various uniforms for different occasions.

As we got into the senior classes (around 1980) we began to experiment with the uniform. After all we wore it six days a week and suddenly felt that it needed to be spruced up. This led, in the future, to all of us dividing our wardrobes into formal and informal wear, a habit that persists to this day but more on this later. The school uniform was formal wear. The way we wore our uniforms separated us from our juniors, a very important distinction in a boarding school. This phase coincided with the screening of The Great Gatsby in school.

The School Blazer – The school blazer was the focus of our attention, we became aware of cut, style and fit. Good tailoring was the game changer. Blazers were no longer ill fitting Double Breasted affairs made by the school tailor that kept you warm in winter. The style of choice was two button single breast, notch lapels, single vent and patch pockets – tailored at home and made with the best fabrics we could afford. My father, being a boarding school product himself, understood and spared no expense as far as my blazer was concerned.
The Tweed Coat – The blazer found its echo in our home clothes in the Tweed Coat. My first tweed coat was made of Harris Tweed, my father’s old one altered for me as Tweed was difficult to get those days. It was a hacking jacket three buttons, ticket pocket, single vent and cut pockets – to distinguish it from the blazer in style and fabric.

The Jodhpuri Coat aka Bandgala – This was a standard white and there was not much we could do to it except change the fabric – those of us who could switched to a fabric called Sharkskin . The epitome of traditional formal wear was white or cream Sharkskin Jodhpuri, as we called it then. Sharkskin was very difficult to get even then and I was unable to join the Sharkskin club. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the fabric:

The White Shirt – Another staple, usually a short sleeved one. The short sleeves were replaced with full sleeves and suddenly collar size and width became important. If I remember correctly were wore small narrow collars. Along with the full sleeves we discovered cuff links and both were worn with the blazer during the winter. In summer we were forced back into half sleeves. All of us had one or two special shirts which we wore on Saturday evenings – cream coloured and in a silk like material.

Shoes – The simple black school shoes was now no longer the Bata school shoe , it was from the slightly higher range from Bata ( there was only Bata then ) . The width of the toe took on an importance of its own and was usually medium to narrow. We had a couple of fancy pairs that we called “Party Shoes “which were loafers (without laces) in suede or preferably Sambar skin if you could get your hands on one. Yes, surprising as it may seem Sambar skin shoes were widely available then esp. in Rajasthan and Delhi. For the members of Gen X, Y or Z who read this blog you might be shocked to hear that Tiger Claw lockets were the height of personal adornment, influenced by the dacoit from Hindi movies. The PT shoes had by now been replaced by a version of the modern sneaker called Gola which in turn had been replaced by Power , but now they were used only for games.

Trousers – Our trousers echoed the cut and fit of our Levi jeans for a long time. Then suddenly sometime in 1982 or so we went in for a change. Cross pockets, single pleats and drainpipes. I can’t remember what caused these changes but this style continued for a long time (till Gowri decided, years later, to take matters into her own hands). The trouser cuff made guest appearances once in a while. The trouser found its echo in our home clothes by appearing in cotton corduroy, the same in all respects except the pleats. Chinos were an unknown quantity then. Don’t know why we never had pleats in our ‘cords ‘but I think it was something to do with the material. The Levis had by then worn out and I was awaiting replenishment from the US! In the meantime we made do with a brand called fus!

In 1983 we discovered Calvin Klein or rather Brooke Shields in one. Till then only the Marlboro man looked good in jeans.

Ties and Scarves or rather Cravats – The narrow collars of our shirts created problems for the school tie which had a broad width so we dumped the tie. When compelled to wear one we would tie it in reverse order so that the narrow part would be visible and wide part would be tucked into our shirts and safely hidden from view. To solve this problem we went in for the scarf, however scarves were not open to all (only for monitors) and so we adopted the cravat, which all of us had a couple.

Saturday Night

Every Saturday night, after dinner, the school would screen a film at the Bikaner Pavilion. This was an open air pavilion and as you can guess it was freezing cold in winters. As a concession to the weather we were allowed to wear our warm home clothes with our uniforms for the movie. It was like opening the flood gates. All our special clothes would come out – the silky shirt, the party shoes, the cravat and when it was really cold – that example of eternal sublime elegance – the white Polo neck Sweater worn under the silky shirt topped by the blazer! Brand of choice - St. Michaels. Now better known as Marks & Spencer’s. Among the other notables would be woollen mufflers and leather gloves (black).

And So

And so I left school with a John Travolta haircut as in Saturday Night Fever – till then we thought that only women could wear their hair without a parting -having learnt how to twist ( which was a rage - why I have no idea ) and getting used to the feel of a razor on my chin to enter the big bad world of a Delhi College. To come face to face with the opposite sex , till then represented by Brooke Shields in her Calvin’s , to my first exposure to GQ magazine and to Richard Greer in the American Gigolo - it was a great time only the women were a disappointment but then who could measure up to Brooke Shields ? . The story continues.
Nature Lounge in association with IndiaSocial presents "IMPRINTS" -- a photo exhibition showcasing nature and wildlife. - one of my photographs has been selected for exhibition and sale.

The showcase will host approximately 50 Limited Edition frames printed on Archival canvas. Each frame will be up for sale accompanied by a certificate of authentication personally signed by the artist.

Part of the proceeds from sale of artwork will be used by IndiaSocial for uplifting lives of underprivileged people in India.

The exhibition is expected to be attended by friends, photographers, celebrities, bureaucrats, art buyers, art collectors. All the major media houses would be covering the event and helping us in raising awareness about nature and its conservation.

There would be interactive sessions with photographers and naturalists during the showcase.

Time Friday, July 1 at 10:30am - July 5 at 7:00pm

Location Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Art Complex
Kumarakrupa Road, Shivananda Circle

Elephant Marriappan - a true story.

This is the true story of Marriappan, an elephant from Tamil Nadu. Marriappan is a huge male elephant with lovely long tusks. His tusks are his pride and joy, milky white in colour and running parallel to each other. If Veerapan had his moustache, Marriapan has his tusks.
Marriappan was born in the tranquil surroundings of the Kozhikamudhi Elephant Camp located in the pristine forests better known as Top Slip in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, near Pollachi, Tamil Nadu. The camp is situated in a lovely valley with a perennial river (Varagaliyar) flowing nearby. There is a settlement for elephant-men (mahouts/cawadis) within the camp, who were a part and parcel of his upbringing.
While everyone knew who is mother was there were some doubts as to the identity of his father. His mother Sivagami would interact with wild elephants, and so there was the possibility that Marriappan’s father was a wild male. The two camp elephants, Kaleem and IG-1 could also have been his father especially IG-1 who was often seen with Sivagami. However such mundane matters did not seem to bother Marriappan as he grew up in these idyllic surroundings. He did not want for company as he had a large family in the other camp elephants and an extended family comprising of the mahouts and cawadis all of whom he knew well and who in turned cared for him. It was all a baby elephant born in captivity could ask for. He lived in natural surroundings, enjoyed long and frequent walks in the forest along with his mother and other members of his family and he especially enjoyed playing and frolicking in the river.
This idyllic childhood was interrupted for a short period when he was around two years old. Like all children Marriappan had to attend school! He was separated from his mother and began to be conditioned to lead an independent life as well as to be trained to be part of a work force. After this initial period of schooling, Marriappan returned to live with his mother and the rest of his family and all seemed right with his world.
At the age of seven Marriappan was moved to the Arulmighu Mariamman temple in Samayapuram, Trichy and he found himself, for the first time in his life, in unfamiliar surroundings. Gone were the beautiful forest that was his home. He now lived in an urban jungle. The soft ground was replaced by hard cement and he was no longer able to go for long leisurely walks in the forest nor was he able to frolic in the river. Instead he was assailed by strange rumbling and honking sounds – his new home was located along the busy Trichy-Chennai National Highway.
However, like most children, after an initial period of uncertainty what with the pain of separation from his family, a different diet and daily routine, Marriappan seemed to adjust to his new home and even made friends with his new mahout and his family. He was cheerful and playful by nature and this worked to his advantage. Soon he became one of the more popular members of the temple community, especially among the many visitors, and was allowed to roam free within the temple compound. In 2003, at the age of fourteen, Marriapan took his first official holiday - to the elephant Rejuvenation Camp in the Mudumalai Forest camp.
However by this time Marriappan had grown into adulthood. He was a magnificent specimen; he had developed a large tall body and his now famous tusks. All this made him look quite intimidating and he began to initiate fear among the public and even his mahout. At around this time Marriappan began to show a change in behaviour which was bought about his change in lifestyle. The consequences were severe. To ensure safety for the public and the mahout’s lack of confidence in handling the animal, Mariappan was chained. His unintentional behaviour was considered a threat and he was condemned to a life in chains. He would serve seven years.
For seven years he was isolated from everything and everyone and kept constantly chained. He was totally neglected and his cell would not be cleaned, dung and urine would pile up. His diet changed and he was given monotonously repetitive food. Water was provided through hose pipes- a far cry from the river he was used to. To add insult to injury he would be tranquilised on yearly bases to enable his mahout to either tighten his chains or to clean out his cell. It was the worst form of solitary confinement ever melted out to anybody. A living hell.
After being subjected to such treatment for seven years the temple authorities decided that they could not handle him anymore and requested the Forest Department to shift Marriappan from the temple. The department came up with various options but for various reasons these failed. It was at this time that a Court directive was issued with regard to temple elephants. Mariappan was to be transferred to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park or the Vandalur zoo in Chennai. His sentence was coming to an end.
Careful arrangements were made to shift Marriappan which included a through medical check-up, which was long overdue. His new home was prepared to accommodate him, special attention was paid to making him feel comfortable and to familiarise him with his new handlers. A female elephant form the temple, who was known to Marriappan, helped him make the transition.
In his new home, in infinitely better suuroundings and with better treatment Marriappan responded positively. He accepted his new handlers and was soon allowed them to touch his tusks and was in turn allowed to graze by tying a single chain. A far cry from the dangerous beast he was made out to be! Soon he was socialising with an adult female and five juveniles. He was revitalized, allowed to roam freely and given small work such as lifting and carrying fodder, walking around the zoo; this improved Marriappan’s physical and mental health. Eventually he resumed his education by attending a week long crash course!
The icing on the cake and the happy ending to his story was soon to follow. After spending two months at the zoo, it was decided that Marriappan should return home- to the very place where he was born and spent the best days of his life – the elephant camp at Top Slip, where he would be reunited with his mother.
Marriappan now lives in Top Slip where he spends his day roaming in the forests of his childhood. He is allowed to graze free in the forest from 9.300 AM to 4.00 Pm, in the company of his mother Sivagami and her female companions. During the night he is tied to a tree with a ten meter long chain, with grass and mud as bedding in contrast to being chained within a concrete room for seven years without any opportunity to walk or move out of its confinement. He receives two sumptuous meals a day which takes care of his nutritional requirements.
At present Marriappan does no work but is being trained to be a koonkie. The Anamalai forest camp specialises in koonkie operations and Mariappan’s height and tusks make him a potential candidate. Any male elephant born in this camp or any tusker brought to this camp is trained to be a koonkie. Mariappan too is being considered for this task and this could well be his future calling in life.
Mariappan only fault seemed to be his size and intimidating appearance. Due to this and the reluctance of his then mahout, reluctance born out of ignorance and fear, he was put through seven years in hell. It is a credit to him and his kind that despite such cruelty at the hands of man, Marriappan shows no trace of animosity. He is now as docile as can be and even allows his mahouts young son , a mere toddler , to handle him.