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A Publication
on The Status of
Adivasi Populations
of India




The wildlife photographer who is a part of the forests and Nature

By Sukumaran C. V

13 December, 2014

N. A. Naseer is a wildlife photographer par excellence. What makes his photographs different from the usual wildlife photography is that he does not visit the forest only for photographing the wildlife. He himself is a part of the forests. His photographs show the serene bond between him and the animals. He has wandered through the forests for years together without camera in hand and has become a part of the forest as the animals, birds, reptiles, butterflies and insects are. Only after being a part of it, he started to photograph the forest and its children.

Now he has published a wonderful book in Malayalam titled Kaadine Chennu Thodumbole (When we Touch the Forest).

It is a book which shatters all our anthropocentric attitude and knowledge about forests and the wildlife. Usually the books on forest and wildlife are written from the perspective of the humans. But Naseer writes from the perspective of the forest and wildlife. He writes: “We should see forest as we look at a rainbow. We should touch the forest as if we touch a flower. We should glide through the forest as if we are in a dream. We should merge in and melt into the green of the forest. Then forest will take us with its thousand hands as if we are its children.” (My own translation from Malayalam).

Naseer, who can rightly be called the Rachel Carson of Kerala, says in the book: “Everything should change and change is needed for everything. But the only thing that should not be changed is forest. I don't know how we can call those who kill trees and mountains and marshes humans….”

We can see poetry in Naseer's photography and Naseer's prose is also poetic. He poignantly and poetically shows us that the Western Ghats and the forests are the precious sources of bio-diversity and they are the forces of nature which sustain us.

“The fact that the greatness of a small ant or a small worm is greater than that of the humans will be known to us only when we sit beside them. Daily, we prove that the only creature that sows destruction on Earth is the humans. While each small creature works hard to sustain Planet Earth, all the activities of the humans contribute to the destruction of the planet. We are travelling on the road of self destruction without recognizing the report of the WGEEP.”

In his long years of forest life, he has encountered almost all animals and reptiles, in the wild, face to face. But no animal (the carnivore or herbivore) or reptile has ever attacked him. He says that the wild animals can perfectly differentiate the humans who are their friends, who see them with reverence from those who come to kill them, who see them as something dangerous. “If the wild animals come just in front of us and if we reach very close to them, it is because of an intimate language, the language of heart, which is recognized by both the photographer and the photographed animals. We commit grave mistake when we consider it as adventure.”

The following photographs of Naseer show the bond between the animals and the photographer: (When I have let him know my intention of writing an article on him and his book, he himself sent me the photographs to attach with the article)

This language of intimacy is the thing which makes Naseer the only wildlife photographer of his kind.

And the following insight makes his book the most important one of our times: “The roots of our indigenous trees have the power to sustain the coolness of the earth and collect water in them. It seems that those who pull out the roots don't know that our small state which lies in a slanting position from the south to the west is sustained and protected by the power of the roots of the still remaining green patches….When the vapour that rises in the west from the Arabian Sea travels south on the wings of the winds, Western Ghats and its greenery are needed to block and cool it. Only then we will have drinking water through rains, only then there will be rivers, only then the atmospheric temperature will come down…But we are not interested in protecting the forest or the soil or the rivers. We are organizing seminars and meetings to wipe out the still remaining green patches in the name of development, and for the ‘farmers' and the estate owners”

Naseer shows us the pristine, pure, serene, beautiful and wonderful world of not only the big animals, but of the insects, butterflies, flowers, birds and even of the leaves and roots too. When he describes the different music of the forest, the music you hear when it rains in the forest and the music you hear when it doesn't rain, the music of the winds, the music of the innumerable insects; we really experience the ecstasy.

Those of us, who see ‘eco tourism' as an enjoyment in which we bring the plastic waste and the din and clamour of the cities into the calm and serene abode of the animals who are really more cultured than we the ‘civilised' humans, may not be literate enough to grasp this unique wildlife photographer and writer who says: “Two or three steps would lead me to the Shola forests, and my mind didn't allow me to return from there, and yet NO. This is the place which should not be defiled with the touch of our foot steps in the name of photography or research or tourism. This is the serene and divine sylvan place and man doesn't deserve even to touch it. The only thing to be done is to supplicate keeping a distance and return.”

Let me conclude by translating a story with which he concludes the chapter on birds and their music: “Once, a Zen teacher (Zen Guru) entered into his class room. When the students were respectfully waiting to hear his words, a small bird started to sing sitting near the window. The class room fell into silence. After a while, the bird stopped singing and flew away. Then the Guru said: ‘Today's class is over.'”

Sukumaran C. V., a former JNU student, is a writer based in Kerala. His writings deal with the communalisation of our polity, the inbuilt gender bias of the patriarchal world and the human onslaught against the Environment.







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