Will You Be My Valentine?
Hi! I live in Marihan forests of Mirzapur. We have been living here since centuries and relishing the rich fruits, honey and occasionally feasting on the bees, termites and ants. But situations are very different since last decade. Many of my friends had dispersed to other forests. I chose to live here with few of my patriotic friends due to our love for our ancestral land, but it seems we won’t be able to survive here for long. Humans have invaded our ancestral land. Now our drinking water sources are also invaded and the important watersheds lost. With no place to go elsewhere, I took shelter in a small hillock in an isolated patch of forest. After spending about a year in this area, few people came with hammers and started breaking my house. Few days later someone blasted off my roof by a dynamite and broke the big rock into pieces. I was sleeping beneath the rock-shed when that loud sound and vibration nearly killed me. I survived somehow but I lost my hearing since then with several bruises on my back. There were two Bel trees near my house and one big Mahua tree near the Belwa Pahari which used to be our favourite hang-out place. Valentine’s day usually used to mark the beginning of fruiting season. I met my wife there 3 years ago during our early-morning walk and then we dated for 2 months enjoying the delicious fruits. And then she gave me the good news in June-end. I remember celebrating the day with fresh honeys which I gathered from the Jogia-dari. All of those trees are now gone with some small shrubs of ‘ber’ and Lantana remaining on the hills. Every year, during dry seasons we used to visit my relatives in neighbouring forests of Sukrit and Chunar. Last year was exceptional, and most of the drinking water sources in our neighbouring forests became dry with not a single drop of water to drink.
We thought of travelling down-hill towards the big river flowing through the city. I heard in the city there are other types of forests made up of buildings and it is nearly impossible to navigate through them by animals like us. Evolution has been so partial to human beings. We decided we will move to a nearby dam where we might get some water to quench our thirst. There is a small green corridor scattered by agricultural fields which we decided to cross overnight without getting noticed by the human beings. Whenever there was some light, we would hide ourselves behind a rock or just lie down on the surface. We were very careful since the beginning of the journey. We soon became tired and felt hungry. Then we spotted one Mahua tree in a field. Earlier they were plenty in our native forest, but now they are found only in some agricultural field. My wife couldn’t hold her excitement and rushed towards the tree, when suddenly the shining string like thing touched her and she just fell down. I am stupid that I didn’t warn her to keep away from those shiny metal wires. Given your very less understanding of our lives, I don’t blame you for her loss. In fact, we should have been little more careful.
Now most of our connectivity with neighbouring forests are lost. Most of our streams have become dry due to encroachments of the watershed areas. Humans have built big buildings & roads, they have even created walls, they have even placed electric wires to keep us away, they have done everything to destroy the way we used to live and enjoy our territory.
Forests of Marihan is my territory, my ancestral land and my home. I love my territory as much as you like your state and nation. We have been never a threat to you and in fact we like to keep our activities far away from you as possible. But now our life has become miserable-all thanks to you and we are finding it very challenging to survive here. This is the reason no female bears want to have their family with us in Marihan forests. We have no Mahua trees to lure them now. Most of my friends are still bachelors though they have attained their puberty long back. Those who were lucky to find their soulmate are refraining from producing offspring due to stress and insecurities of parenthood. Valentine’s day just reminds us how miserable our destiny has become now.
We still do have hope from you. My friends told me that your government do care about animals like us. I do not know how to communicate our pain to your government. But one thing I can assure is that I do have the eligibility certificate from your government where our community is recognized under Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. This means we should be entitled to highest level of protection by your government. This gives us a hope that someday somewhere few human beings will also love us as they do with other animals perhaps like tiger in the forests. And if you have any communication with your government, please share our story with them.
May you get the vigour of a bear!
Inspired by true incidents and stories. Sloth Bears are one of the most unique among all bear species and is endemic to Indian subcontinent. Mirzapur is a district in eastern Uttar Pradesh dominated by tropical dry decidous forests and Vindhyan mountain range.