The National Park from Kombai, an area a little off from Vilpatti and Mattupatti in Kodaikanal to the pristine forests near the Palani dam was and maybe still is on fire. We watch this from the little piece of land we have come to call our ‘own property’- BASE Yoga Art NAture- across the hill. It is a massive destruction of nature and wildlife. The discussion about who lit the fire is on. The argument that a beedi or something small lit the fire is a myth though. Our rational minds may want to believe that in all probability, the person who lit the fire intended to burn some rubbish, or some twigs or same grass, to make it grow anew. An old custom, as some claim- if it is an old custom at all, is that this seemingly innocent act must have been embedded in a ritual. It is said that lots of people get together and choose a day , a day which suits the horoscope, moon-phases and the weather, in order to set the great Fire, to burn.

The Man of our times has become arrogant . He thinks, with two companions, he can light a fire any day, any time and control it. In fact it has become a game, a male challenging another male- “Can we control the fire?” they say to each other. The game begins.

Here is the proof that fires are man-made: yesterday three old men were given instructions by the ‘owner’ of the land adjacent to ours, standing next to them, to light a fire at 10 o’ clock in the morning on a hot day with strong winds to help, aid and stoke the raging fire.

Before this very recent incident the owner, Mahendra his name, had with him a bulldozer- with this machine representative of modernity, power, money and arrogance, he had felled old Shola trees, Jackfruit trees , surely some rose-wood trees too- a large- scale ecological disaster. He intends to start a lucrative Avocado farm in order to eventually earn lots of money. As ‘owners’ of the adjacent piece ofland at BASE- Yoga Art Nature- when we complained in the local Forest Office we were told, “On revenue land in the Kombai area outside the national park it is possible to to cut any tree on your private property.” According to a lawyer of renown & standing in Kodaikanal, one is not allowed to cut keystone trees. Is the forest officer already corrupt? Already here, we have the beginnings of a disaster!

Yesterday this owner burned all the ‘waste’ leaf, twigs, branches and barks that he had not already transported away in what he thought was a ‘
controlled’ fire. When the fire became mighty and we at BASE saw it at 10. 30 p.m., we ran up to the road to witness four men standing in awe at the fire. One will never forget the expressions on their faces. In five minutes a forest fire was created and it had burned down three acres of our property with lots of young sandalwood trees and other species, some three- hundred newly planted saplings & plants and some old trees. As the wind turned uphill by 11 o’ clock our lives and our houses were safe.

THe fundamental question really is: where is law and order? And where are the people running around in the cities with slogans like ‘save the rainforests’? Nobody seems to care! We went to the police to complain against the abysmal apathy and lack of understanding among our neighbours. They registered a complaint and we returned with a complainant- number. This neighbour of ours, a landowner of twenty acres lives on a ship and works abroad. The next day he sent his manager to say : “We are sorry, we will never do it again.” Also, the policeman advised us against picking a fight with our neighbours, suggesting instead that we refrain from filing an FIR on humanitarian grounds. “Even if the landowner will be jailed, he will bail himself out and be an enemy to us lifelong, in a lonely region.”, the policemen said. Every waking moment since then I have wondered what humanity is there in this thought. Neither is it a solace nor is it peace for the trees and life that died that dreadful night.