Belonging to God’s Own Country…

The Beautiful Side

Distinct memories of the summer breaks during my childhood are full off beautiful moments spent with my brothers and cousins in our beautiful, more than a century old, ancestral home in Kalliasseri, Kerala. Having been born in Gujarat, these vacations came as a welcome break from the dust and noise that the city brought with it. But then those were times when one didn’t really put too much thought to the spell-binding rustic charm that Kerala was all about.

Now, many years after those joyous summer vacations, every new visit to this beautiful place I call home brings with it a deluge of thoughts which tell me how, for years, I’ve taken so much for granted. It’s now the time to pause and thank my lucky stars for having been born into a house that gave me the right to call one of the world’s most alluring scenic destinations, home. Yes, I belong to Kalliasseri, a small town in the district of Kannur which is beautifully placed on the very scenic northern part of Kerala, God’s Own Country.

When I visited Kalliasseri the last time, it was a little after the monsoons and the place was like a dream with myriad shades of green and the most beautiful music being played by an orchestra of insects and birds. It always amazes me how the place hasn’t changed much in the last couple of decades and has yet managed to deliver all the basic creature comforts that most of its residents have become used to after having had stints of employment in foreign lands. Most of the locals, including my parents, have lived a large part of their lives chasing a dream in either some other part of India or in some foreign country (mostly the Arab nations!). But then, every one of them has always harboured a hidden dream of returning home and settling down amidst the beautiful trees and with clean air for company.

Kalliasseri, Kannur, Kerala

Home in Kerala

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that though this place is aptly called God’s Own Country, a lot of credit must also be given to the people who have doggedly worked at keeping their home as green as it is today. It has always been thought that Malayalis, as the people of Kerala are known, have always taken great pride in the resources that they have been gifted with.

The Ugly Side

But then these last few days have shown the world a side of Kerala that most outsiders wouldn’t believe existed. In a recent well-documented incident, a tiger that had strayed into human territory in Wayanad district was shot dead by forest officials, under pressure from a frenzied mob. As per reports, the tiger which had strayed into a coffee plantation was ‘murdered’ after attempts to tranquilize it ‘failed’. This bit shows the absolute inability of the forest officials to execute a task that they should’ve been good at!

The tiger, shot dead by forest officials in Wayanad, Kerala. Photo Courtesy: The Hindu

The tiger, shot dead by forest officials in Wayanad, Kerala. Photo Courtesy: The Hindu

What is even more appalling though is the fact that investigations into the incident have revealed that the tiger had been captured as a cattle-lifter less than a month ago but was released back into the wild the same day. The fact that it was a ten year old tiger in an emaciated condition and with serious injuries meant that it should have been kept in permanent captivity or should have been euthanized professionally. This is not amateurish opinion but the reaction of Ullas Karanth, arguably India’s most respected expert on tigers. (Read Article here)

The fact that the forest officials reacted in the manner that they did clearly displays the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities towards attempts at tiger conservation.

It is also shameful that the mob, comprising of residents of the area, pressurized the officials and demanded that the tiger be eliminated. According to reports, the dead tiger was kept on display for hours after it had been killed and the locals celebrated the occasion. This kind of behaviour is not only disturbing but also serves as a warning to everyone who believes that are an integral part of the forest ecosystem have a safe home in Kerala. The land that the world loves to call God’s Own Country belongs to people who have little respect or regard for one of nature’s most magnificent creations!

As much as I would like to believe that my affection for my land and the people has only grown in the years that have passed, today my head hangs low in shame as I read about the lack of intelligence and compassion that this so-called most-literate state of India has displayed! 

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