I was a sight to behold – folks thronged to gaze at my mounds and ridges wrapped in ethereal greens. Flanked by my friends Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve I, the Bandipur Tiger Reserve exists, wait… meet my bulwark, my buffer, my shock absorber – the eco sensitive zone: she is the hedge which shields and keeps me safe.
I hold woods of yesteryears. Birds sing in my lap, my fragrant air filled with leaves and loam, brushes through the ancient trees. The sound of running waters pass through the rugged rocks, quietly descending into muddy swamps. I am a hotspot, a home to tigers, to elephants and leopards too.
I see a few men inspect me with worry, as the leaves from voluminous trees fall in melancholy. They crunch the leaf litter in agony, as I feel their papery remains crush through me. I hear them talk about the fire line, because that’s how they keep me safe; at least that’s what they say, burn a part of me to keep me safe.
I was feeling warmer, an erratic weather pattern. It was winter still, a warmer winter noon. Suddenly I began to feel a spasmodic amount of heat. I wanted to scream… but how? How can I? I quietly witnessed them set me on fire, stealthily. I felt rage, I wanted to swallow them. Gaunt and immobile I lay there bare, getting naked each moment, as every flora and fauna was stripped off me. A breeze blew and the fire openly blazed; the scorching fire withering tree trunks. Fire here, fire there, then fire was almost everywhere. It spared no bush, no brush nor blood. The bison, elephant, leopard and tiger, I saw them flee with their coats on flames. They ran for a while, then their powerful legs heaved and failed helplessly. I heard a drone of insects thrumming, flickering as they were all set aflame. It spread and spread; I lay there besmirched with blood.
A lot of men tried to save me, fighting the beast with H2O. I even saw a few Air Force choppers flying down, but the leaping flames wouldn’t tame. Air heavy with ash and smoke, greeted all who approached to save. I lost a long-drawn battle, night after night with flames still darting on the fringe. Woods that took decades to grow, now lay in ashes and smoke. I am burnt beyond recognition, my beauty burnt to ashes.
It was a week already. I still saw a crowd of people stooping over me, screaming randomly, each in fatuous interrogation. Did someone drop a burning match? A cigarette butt? Was it a campfire? Or a lit-up dung? Officers march vaguely, activists calm after a month. Then they blamed the leaves – dry blades. But wasn’t it them, fearing the animals that lived on my lap? Now I lay here a waste with my scars that won’t heal; a rubble with burnt species of memories. I know by now I’m long forgotten. Though I am dead with the secrets I only know, I don’t want to hide the truth, I know them… I know those who did this to me.
This map was prepared using the active fire data product provided by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Map shows the fire hotspots in Bandipur and surrounding areas during 21st to 28th February 2019. The color scheme is a smoothly varying set of colors, ranging from low (sparse density of fire location points) to high (high density of fire location points). The density of fire location points was calculated using the kernel density method.
By Blessing Isaiah
Blessing is a Civil engineer by profession and a spatial data enthusiast. She enjoys writing and is a blogger at Bread For Soul. For the past five years she has freelanced content creation for several technical and non technical newsletters. In her free time she likes to engage in gardening. Her heart is at volunteering for meaningful causes.