As I sat down to write on this month’s theme of wilderness in the city, I decided to take a moment and close my eyes to consider just what would pop into my head. As it turned out, it was a surprising lot!
Images of dark sinuous cobras in my Bangalore backyard; the bright eyed face of a mongoose popping up midst the very populated Hanging Gardens in Mumbai; the magical grey hornbill on a leafless plumeria silhouetted against the evening sky in Delhi’s Lodhi gardens; the pair of red wattled lapwings with their chicks and the golden flameback woodpeckers that were my regular companions in IIM Ahmedabad; the nesting painted storks with their tall grey juveniles at the Kukkarahalli Lake in Mysore – to name a few.
I frankly should not have been surprised. I don’t think I feel quite at home anywhere till I find my wild companions. When I share my finds with others, people often ask me how I entice these creatures to emerge for me and lament not having ever spotted any of them. Yet the truth is that before it was ever a city this land was wild and unique in its own special way, remains of which still hide within its nooks and crannies despite the enthusiastic effort to sanitize and exterminate. Even now owls hoot during crepuscular hours, the gentle wide-eyed slender loris hides in dwindling forest patches, turtles are birthed on city beaches and leopards sometimes like their cat cousins, sneak into gardens or green campuses – reminding us ever so quietly that we are the colonizers, the occupiers.
As catastrophic outcomes of the human induced mass extinction of species alongside the climate crisis begin to unfold, we are discovering that this relationship with the wild is untenable. Yet if not this then what? How do we begin to reconsider our own and our city’s relationship with the wild? Should the wild be relegated only to national parks and sanctuaries or is it possible to re-imagine cities with pockets and corridors of wilderness?
These are the questions at the heart of this month’s campaign. We hope you’ll continue to stay connected and join us in pondering and responding to these urgent questions!