baiju1

Dear Baiju,

Wonder where you are…but somewhere  inside the minds of some of your friends we know that you are there walking your gentle and quick steps like the swift barking deer  in the dense undergrowth of the cool evergreens of Vazhachal along the Chalakkudy River close to your family –  your mother, wife and 3 children you gifted to  Mother Earth.

I can count the number of times I saw you – thrice and the number of times / sentences we spoke. But is that not enough to feel that I have known you for years? But I cannot assess the countless times news about the wonder forest-man you were that reached me long before I met you… so there you are closest to my heart much more than people who are part of my daily life.

It is because of the dreams and passion that so many of us shared that we came close so quickly and so intensely. Our bond was for life and there was no need to meet and talk, or deliberate or argue … because you and me and many others who were with us during that short but committed crusade – Meena, Uthara, Praween, Divya… we were bound by our love for the wild and free, the beautiful life giving Nature that abounds all around. We came together and met for one of the most significant and truthful of campaigns in Kerala in the past decade – the attempt we made to protect the precious space –Santhivanam in North Paravur (https://countercurrents.org/2019/04/anitha-s-protecting-santhivanam/) from the greedy and corrupt hands that emerged as a 110 KV line that raped and fragmented that precious green grove.

We were bound not by lifeless scientific data and numbers to prove if Santhivanam is primary forest or human made, whether there are studies on alternate ways to produce electricity or whether it was for the hapless villages that this supply would light up. We were bound by our love for the green and wild, the saplings and snakes, the butterflies and birds that were coexisting with a mother and daughter who had carefully nurtured this taking only a small space for themselves. We were joined by the hopefilled message that after a few years, clean air, water, green spaces and learning areas like Santhivanam would be more precious than a few megawatts of electricity, a few ice plants and factories and roads and KV lines. We still do not need arguments and counter arguments, strategies and plans to say aloud that this invaluable haven should be preserved for posterity – we were convinced that Meena and her daughter Uthara should be given all support as stewards and caretakers for the future. At a time when awards are being given for protecting trees and planting forests, we came together to share this dream.

The last time we met in May2019, you came up to me with your innocent smile – you had the rare capacity by which the smile would sparkle for long in your clear eyes and told me “ I want to walk a Tree Walk with you”. I nodded with all certainty and absolute clarity that we will soon walk together and Tree Walk could learn from your vast knowledge as a forest wanderer.

baiju2

Yes, dear and bold forest wanderer who nurtured a female Hornbill trapped inside with her fledglings like her male companion for weeks – who but you could have spotted the dead male bird on the path with food in his mouth, who but you would have immediately taken on the risky task of locating the nesting tree, scaling its tall heights every day, researching on the food items to be taken for the female bird and assuring that she will survive along with her chicks? Your story is an incredible fable that will reach many tiny ears and tender hearts and inspire them to be care givers and protectors of Mother Nature. You had become a legend while you were alive.

Who but you, Baiju could appear on a popular Malayalam channel regularly airing mimicry programmes of film stars by amateur artists and do a real life portrayal of the sounds of the forest, the elusive secret life of wild animals and make a bold statement on why we should protect and conserve forests and rivers, biodiversity and a way of life close to Nature?

Who but you had the courage to worship forests and trees, locate and visit the hiding places of King Cobras and pythons with a spiritual courage born out of years of living in communion with Nature and understanding her silence and ways? Your ways and habits were not narrow and conservative but it was pagan and tribalic, with a vision about how human beings should live and walk with the softest of footprints and life style on Earth…

As we realise with a shudder that one year has passed since that fatal wrong step, a small slip,  took you away from us, as we sit helpless during one of the worst phases in human history and modern life, we cannot but turn to you, Baiju… You had discovered with clarity and simplicity how best to live and how best to contribute one’s best to the world.

We miss you when terrible news about deliberate killing of elephants and tigers, burning of nests of birds and whole forests reaches our ears. We miss you when we know that lakhs and lakhs of trees will soon be felled for super highways and railways. We miss you when we realise that what humankind needs is a St.Francis of Assissi , the patron Saint of Ecology and Animals. We wonder if you would have worn the King Solomon’s Ring (in your mind) and communicated to the birds and animals and help them stay away from the violent pathways of human beings.From fatal traps set in the forests, from pineapples filled with bombs that explode and mutilate a being’s innards …we wonder if this cruelty would have made you speechless in anger and sorrow. Or would you have rushed to the spot and intervened with your innate positive energy and solutions…

As the decision makers announce to revive the Athirappilly Project across the river Chalakkudy at one of the most valuable and beautiful parts of its course, submerging precious forests that are home to rare biodiversity, denying the basic rights of the Kadar tribes, we miss your presence, dear friend…

Yes, we miss the likes of people like you who were clear and sure, strong and committed.

You are the epitome of what Aldo Leopold wrote in his classic Sand County Almanac –

‘There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.

For the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television

And the chance to find a pasque flower is a right as inalienable as free speech”

You will remain in the minds of future generations as a person who realised and fulfilled this basic survival right which made you a true human being, dear Baiju…

 

(Baiju Vasudevan who lived in Vazhachal area near the famed waterfalls Athirappilly on the Chalakkudy River in Thrissur district led a tumultuous life – of a hunter turned wild life lover and conservationist. He was a free and committed person who dedicated his knowledge about forests and wild life for conserving Nature. His dedication to conservation was best expressed during the SAVE SANTHIVANAM crusade ( North Paravur, Ernakulam district)  when people and youth from all walks of life came together to save a sacred grove under private ownership that was marked by the Electricity Board to pull a high tension line when alternate paths were available.

In 2019 June, Baiju met with an accident that took his life away on June 16th. He is survived by his mother, wife and 3 small children. His friends rallied financial support for the family which is still helping them tide over the irreparable loss.)

Anitha.S in conversation with M.N. Praween Kumar.


SIGN UP FOR COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWSLETTER


 


Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B. Subscribe to our Telegram channel


GET COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWSLETTER STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX


One Comment

  1. S.Santhi says:

    What a wild and incredible human being Baiju was…but why did fate snuff out such a wonderful life-flame so early? Can’t imagine he is no more roaming the hills and rainforests he loved…Rest in Peace in the heart of wilderness dear soul-brother…Thank you Anitha for the heartbreaking and moving tribute to a special human being.