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For the love of nature

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Th Open_nature  

How a lover of forests and wildlife instilled the passion in his children

Anna, as we used to call our father, was a six footer and loved nature. He chased his dream of studying botany and zoology and secured admission in the prestigious Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. In the 1940s, it was a bold decision for the young man from a traditional family in Kerala to go that far.

A.S. Monie, as his name was, joined the Kerala Forest Department, worked in various places in the State, and became the Chief Conservator of Forests, Kerala. We children stayed with our mother, grandparents, uncles and aunts in Trivandrum, now Thiruvananthapuram. Our grandparents were Appa and Ammai for us — only that my youngest brother wanted to know why his Appa had white hair but those of his friends had it black.

We used to look forward eagerly to our father’s weekend visits, finishing all home work and getting ready for “nature bonding”. Anna would take us to the zoo and make us pet tiger cubs in the nursery and to the aquarium to marvel at fish and corals. We would come home with black mollies, red swordtail and guppies. Visits to the beaches of Shangumughom and Kovalam used to be refreshing and educative as we would see Portuguese man o’ war and jelly fish floating by. He would tell us about the puffer fish lying on their backs and crabs scrambling on the sands.

Ghat drive

Weekend drives through the Western Ghats got etched in our minds with his narratives of the tall Arjun trees, tree ferns, butterflies and the gurgling streams. He would sometimes surprise us by bringing home abandoned baby animals that had to be nurtured. The animals that we looked after ranged from a baby elephant and a bear cub to a giant squirrel and a mouse deer.

Apart from giving lessons in wildlife and forests, Anna used to show films in schools, conduct expeditions and display forest produe in exhibitions. The Wildlife Week in the first week of October used to be fully packed with activities for my father, with full family involvement. When our neighbours chided him for coming home only on the weekends, he would say, “Forest is calling me and house is asking me to go away.”

Father got transferred to Trivandrum when we joined college. His long walks and varied interests helped him live up to 83. In the last two years, his brain used to falter and he seemed to remember the scientific names of trees better than those of his children.

vijayacardio@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 3:37:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/for-the-love-of-nature/article31259381.ece

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