Friday, May 31, 2013

World Environment Day 2013 : THINK, EAT, SAVE

Every morning when the clock strikes 9, my mom yells loudly from kitchen in an alarming tone ‘Everybody is invited for the food, do please trouble yourselves and eat.’ We rush towards dining hall as if we are released from the dark dungeon.

My mother has a strange habit, every time she serves food, she always gives us lesser than we need. And I always used to demand her more as I need heavy appetite ;) I would like to quote her saying, “I would prefer to serve lesser food than wasting it carelessly.”

I used to be pissed off often but ironically I always had to eat much, quite full indeed. I was the only child whose stomach is composed of transitional muscles so you can stretch your belly as much you want, while others had quite inflexible ones. Hence, I had many nicknames like Miss. Humpty Dumpty, Miss Baby elephant, Miss Food Almighty, Miss Food rescuer, Miss. Scooby Foodie Doo but the most widely known was “The Living Dustbin”. Here comes the giant the living dustbin who never waste any food, don't worry if you can’t finish your food coz Anisha, comes to the rescue (imagine myself wearing superman’s costume with spoon and forks clinging on my long thick hair).

Do you think it’s cool? Ummmm, maybe or maybe not. I used to give a don't mess with-me look if sometimes any tom, dick and harry start teasing me. But, I agree that I love to devour like a hungry lion and I had no control over this feeling. When I see the sweet, salty, sour, spicy multi-colored, multi-flavored dishes spreading their arms (I mean smell) and calling me so gently. I just can't say no, it would be so rude, right?And this became my habit or say addiction. I am happy for my love for food since the day I came to know about this: 

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO),every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.

Not only that, if food is wasted, it means that all the resources and inputs used in the production of all the foods are also lost. It is really frustrating to see the facts indeed. On one hand, people are dying just because they don't have food to eat and on the other hand people are throwing food like its nothing.

Do you know how much hard work, patience does it require to produce a single grain?
Only the farmer can better understand the value of the grain he produces. only a starving person knows the value of food. While people of Humla and Jumla have to wait for a helicopter loaded with some bags of food to fulfill their hunger, we the Kathmandians have problems with our waste. The situation is very very dire and we gotta act very soon.

Stressed? Of course, after such eyebrows raising dialogues  everyone should feel guilty. But does it suit for the most so called 'intelligent' creature of the earth to be mute spectators and stare the whole self created problems with the hands crossed? Or are we waiting for the problems to be overwhelming?

We have a habit of taking chill when the problem can be addressed and later when everything slips out of our hands, we start trumpeting far and wide. The issue will get a political attention and turn out to be another burning issue.

"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little- do what you can"- Sydney Smith(1771-1845) Writer, Clergyman.

And I am really happy to be called whatsoever coz I have been doing what I can do from my side. C'mon I am not asking to do hunger-strike or stop eating foods you love. That's rubbish if you expect so. The thing is why we don't turn ourselves into our own dustbins rather than turning this earth into a massive dump site. We can reduce our diet little bit rather than throwing it in the bin which ultimately mixes with the environment. One grain reduced is hundred saved, and see we can also control famine. If we wait until all is perfect to move, we'll never move ahead.

So, are you ready to share my nickname? For that, Think before you Eat and help Save our environment!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Dark Side

The tusks that clashed in great battles are just showcases
And no more wild as the wilderness is gone
Have turned to living specimens with nothing own
Compelled to live behind the bars
And hear the human’s noise and tease.
The legendary is dead and gone.

Yes, this is the plight of almost all the captivated elephants in the Chitwan. Recently, I had a chance to visit Sauraha through WEPA. Altogether there are around 80 elephants in captivity including private owners, elephant breeding center, hattisar and NTNC. Elephant riding, bathing etc have been one of the major tourist attractions contributing in the Nepalese tourism industry.

Elephants had been close to human since ages. Airawat, the vehicle of Lord Indra was an elephant. In Shri Swasthani, story of selection of a king by elephant is quite famous. Likewise, most importantly, Elephant is regarded as a symbol of Lord Ganesha too.

Similarly, elephants are also linked with the monarchy as we have heard that kings used to ride on elephants around the city and hunting was done riding on elephants. This clearly shows that elephants were captivated since time immemorial.

Still many of us would love to visit Sauraha just for the elephants. But, do we all know how the wild, strongest, largest mammal on land would follow simple instructions by the tiny man? They are so intelligent creatures but still how are they compelled to work like slaves?  The story is very frightening.
Being the most intelligent and knowledgeable species of the planet, humans have established their supremacies. It’s their mind and their discoveries that have made them most powerful. As per Hakku kale’s dialogue ‘Bal hoina pasa buddhi laga’ we have used our mind.

However, the job of training an elephant is not so simple and easy. These magnificent creatures are accustomed to browsing in forest, mud baths in the river banks. But, young tusker about 2-3 years old, is trapped; he is tortured, left to starve for many days, beaten severely, pulled with rope from the opposite sides, threatened with fire or smoke, and applied all the harsh and inhumane ideas. He is isolated, frightened. At the end, his spirit is shattered and is made to surrender. Once, a cub was killed during the training in Chitwan. There are many such horrifying stories.

We may not have seen all the procedures but if anyone of you has done the elephant ride or bath, have you noticed the scars in the body? The mahout continuously hit the elephant with the sharp metal i.e. ankush or bill hook. . Some even have their ears torn, bruises on the skin.
There are approximately 15,000-16,000 working elephants in dozen countries of Asia. Mahouts often do have a deep and genuine care for the well being of their elephants. For example, traditional mahout culture includes Tharus, who are known widely for their strong bond with nature and animals. But still they are compelled to treat them with cruelty because of the widespread misconception that pain and fear are necessary for controlling an elephant. And the main reason for using pain-inflicting methods is not cruelty, but an unawareness of the existence of an efficient, animal-friendly alternative.

The traditional training mechanism also causes safety issues for mahouts. Elephants with painful memories occasionally attack their handlers, resulting in hundreds of deaths per year across Asia. Hence, new, improved training method is being implemented by WEPA in Chitwan and Bardia. This training procedure, often called “Positive Learning Method” has been designed to combine a maximal reliability of elephants at work with well-being of the elephants and safety of staffs. This is achieved through a detailed understanding of an elephant’s brain functions related to learning.

The advantages of Positive Learning method over the traditional pain inflicting methods is that detailed attention is paid on the clarity and timing of the signals the trainer gives to the elephant and another element is an understanding on how to motivate the animal to follow each command in any circumstances like providing awards. With these skills, the trainer can control the elephant without harsh behaviors. The elephant also learns faster compared to traditionally trained elephants, and carries out its tasks with reliability and precision along with mutual relation with the mahout.

Whether in the wild or at work, elephants are among the most intelligent of all land mammals, and are capable of complex social behavior and communication. And to sustain our elephant based tourism, we need to replace the traditional inhumane approach as the tourists are also very much concerned about animal welfare these days. Hence, positive learning method is to be implemented, tested and verified for the betterment of elephants, mahouts as well as nation as a whole.