I have just returned from a wonderful morning drive at Gir. Whenever I visit Gir, I always opt for the not-too-popular Route-1, as it always reminds me of the great power that is bestowed upon all us only because we have managed to retain democracy.
Forest on Route-1 is interwoven with revenue land where historic titles are still honoured by the state. If it was China, there is a strong possibility that state would have forced people to shift out; but, in our democratic nation, state is not allowed to prevail upon people and their rights.
While I was savouring the sense of freedom such thoughts evoke, our Gypsy stumbled upon a beautiful pair of sub-adult lions by the road.
When you meet any of the apex predators in an Indian jungle, something magical happens.
Everything, including the time appears to stand still, and a strange silence pregnant with anticipation envelops the scene.
Apart from a tree-pie muttering soft abuses to the mob of magpies chasing it and a Tickell’s blue flycatcher rendered speechless momentarily by a beak-full of moth, the charming pair was enjoying peaceful moments of romance that only young are able to conjure up.
As, both, lion and lioness were really young and in prime condition, it was a sighting worth all the wait that cruel jungle deities demand from the tourists, so we were cherishing the moment, while secretly composing juicy phrases to describe the event to other tourists over the lunch table, who, hopefully, would have returned empty-handed.
Just when everything was looking right with the world, a motorcyclist from nearby farm passed by. Looking at the stupid tourists adulating over the lions that must be defecating near his door every second day, he decided to blast his bike-horn.
With the sound, the spell was instantly broken. The mag and tree-pies, the flycatcher and the lions, they all took different directions for departure. Well before that sound must have travelled 686 meters, the scene was devoid of any players other than us. The wonderful morning at Gir was over.
While the sense of wonder was transformed into sense of frustrated anger, it brought forth a question in my mind that democracies world over are struggling with.
Whose lion is it anyway?
The motorcyclist must be living alongside the lions that tourists had come to view from far and wide. The lions that we enjoy lived there at his cost. All the magic that we sense while watching the lions was alien to him because the lions were dangerous pests that he lived with.
While misty-eyed wild-life lovers may want us to believe that locals simply Love lions, I am perfectly sure that, given a choice, the bike rider would love if Gir turns into Manhattan with trees converted into glistening glass-fronted skyscrapers. But, he can’t expect that to happen because the lions didn’t belong to him.
The Achilles heel of democracy is unresolvable conflict between the local and the global interests. The best kept secret of democracy is that it is a system formulated for small forums where everyone can voice his/her opinion. As democracy gets scaled up, its essence is lost. In a massive nation like India, it is entirely possible that the fate of oil reserves of Arunachal Pradesh gets decided by a MP voted in from Kerala.
The only solution to prevent the global-local conflict is building a sense of cohesion. While we are busy playing various divisive cards, we are being dangerously blind to the global impact of our local greed.
The man on the bike has sounded a warning that we all must take heed of.
The lions belong to all, only if we all are made to feel that way.
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