Written by Nishand Venugopal

Trying to stay afloat with unfulfilled wishes,
But can’t forget those that went into the drain while washing dishes,
Almost a year ago we felt the entire world is in our grasps,
In the last few months people are struggling for gasps,
A disease that took a toll on nations,
And razed down all equations,
Not only bodies but minds and economies too suffered,
An answer to this crisis remains deferred,
Some have given up while some still keep on the fight,
But the dividing line is thinning and we can’t find the path that is right,
All have to be careful to not make a mistake,
A callous move can destroy all that is at stake.
Maybe this is a test of will power for the entire humanity,
A situation that needs to be dealt with equanimity,
Right now it seems like we are staring at an abyss,
Trying to figure out what we have given a miss,
The world awaits a miracle,
To free itself from the grip of a vicious tentacle,
Missing those exhilarating walks with nature,
Who knows when it will happen without restrictions in the future,
Live with it is easy to say,
But there is a lot for which we have to pay,
People who fret over the inconvenience of masks,
Know that without it there are risks in our daily tasks,
To survive in a phase which is quite abnormal,
Physical distancing has become the new ‘normal’,
I guess everyone’s feelings about this resonates,
The struggle to keep us safe is now entwined with our fates,
Between the household chores and washes,
Waiting for our dreams to rise up from the ashes…

Yes, that’s true. Almost a year ago, I wrote an article titled the ‘Journey of a Wildlife Enthusiast’ on this website. There was a plan to execute. Things were moving according to it. I had enough time to explore nature. Travelling through various terrains in India and understanding them was an exhilarating experience. Even if it was about butterflies, moths or dragonflies, all the festivals, group talks and walks in their habitats near Delhi brought immense satisfaction in me. The best part was interacting with like-minded people and sharing knowledge. As a nature enthusiast, it was an amazing learning experience for me.

Then things started falling apart like a castle of cards. I planned trips but was constantly presented with one or the other hurdle. I was trying hard to not let these challenges overwhelm me. I tried to focus on my objective and that is to be in a position to create awareness about nature and share respect for the wild. And then the Covid Crisis happened. Unexpected, inexplicable and totally unpredictable, it became like a great wall between me and my work and aspirations. No one expected something like this will put a sudden halt to this ultra fast 21st century lifestyle.

When I look back, I feel that for me the transition from freedom to lock-down was step by step. Life was preparing me for this. First was the death of my mother in November last year. She had been my pillar of strength, the one who supported my endeavors. She was always there to hear me, to listen to my fears and doubts. Her voice used to give me courage and one day she was no more.

Her assurance kept me firm in my path,
Which really seemed hard after her death,
What was her’s had left us in that pyre,
Nature took back everything through fire,
Memories are the only things left for now,
To continue with them is what I have to figure out how…

This sudden tragedy took me off my path, but in nature, that abound around my home in Kerala, I found solace. I knew things are never going to be same but life goes on. While staying in my hometown I tried to get back on track. I did online courses, took photos and recorded information about the biodiversity around my house, and read books.

The second blow came right after that. I planned to go for two courses in Karnataka. One which gave me an opportunity to be in a field station near a Wildlife Sanctuary, and another that would have taught me about conservation writing. It would have been a perfect combination—much-needed exposure to wildlife and the chance to learn more about nature writing. Then again, life took an ugly turn in the form of an ankle fracture just a few days before the commencement of the courses. This accident put my wildlife travelling and trekking dreams to rest for a long period. Courses got cancelled and I got held up in bed. This time reading was my greatest source of knowledge and solace. I was also able to review and improve the photographs I had taken during journeys undertaken in the past. The internet and social media helped me gain more knowledge. I used my recuperation time to retrospect and rearrange my approach. While I did this, I never knew living cooped up inside a house for more reasons than a fracture was going to be my way of life for months to come, thanks to the Covid crisis.

I somehow managed to reach Delhi but the injury kept me at home. In a way it prevented me from venturing out and when the lock-down was declared I felt like I was mentally and physically prepared for this eventuality. My observation for home biodiversity and recording them developed into writing regularly. This kept me busy. Reading nature related articles gave me confidence to work on my own blogs. Webinars and social media chats have been a great source of information. This crisis would have been quite hard on me if I would have faced it first. In retrospect, I feel that whatever I went through in the months before Covid hit India, helped me acclimatize to what was to follow. I think back to my first sighting of Olive Ridley hatchlings trying to move towards the sea. It was an unknown world out there for them. The water tested their perseverance, throwing them back on the shore again and again, but they kept trying. The baby turtles which were fit enough swam and continued their journey… this was nature, teaching everyone in its own way

And thus, I gather that lock-down time was about learning from nature. It was during the lock-down that I was able to watch the metamorphosis of a caterpillar on my balcony plant. I discovered some visitors like the Rosy Starlings and Blyth’s Reed Warbler near my home too. The situation still continues to be grim but I try to stay focused on my objective. The journey of the wildlife enthusiast continues. I am sure everyone is trying their best to overcome this crisis. As a species, we need to adapt to the changes put forward by time. And I strongly believe that hope is still there, especially when we decide work along with nature, and not against it…

I end this blog with a quote I’ve loved: ‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’ – Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

For more of Nishand, check out his first blog or on @nishandvenugopal on Instagram