“AND SO IT WAS EARTH CALLING”
As is a popular saying- “Allow your passion to become your purpose”.
Radha Sharma, a teacher, a nature and wildlife enthusiast, a photographer, a homemaker, an Entrepreneur, and the co-founder of Earth Calling Expeditions.
Radha’s association with nature and wildlife goes as far as she can remember. As a child, on her summer vacations at her family’s ancestral house in Mussoorie, she would sit countless hours gazing at the foothills of Garwhal ranges totally lost and bedazzled with the wonders of nature around her. Having her roots at Alwar in Rajasthan ,which is just a few kilometers from the Sariska Tiger Reserve, Radha grew up listening to her grandfather’s encounters with tigers. She always had natural liking towards photographs.
As her parents recount, as a child she would just take a magazine and keep looking at the photographs and images again and again. Little did she know that her life would change when she held in her hands, her first DSLR in 2012. She indulged her interest in photography with genre such as travel, landscape, street photography to begin with. Being an avid traveler, she would travel to various international and domestic destinations with her camera as a constant companion.
In 2014, to explore the genre of nature and wildlife photography, she landed at the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. She calls it sheer serendipity. Being very philosophical in nature, she also believes it was God’s Calling. She can never forget her first close encounter with a tiger in the wild. It still gives her goosebumps. It was the tigress Rajbhera with her subadult cubs. She had booked 7 jeep safaris, after all Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve was her first forest she had ever visited. She remembers that others in a group had the privilege of sighting a tiger in their first safari itself, they could not stop gloating about it. And here she was, last day to go, and she had not even sighted the tail of a tiger.
As Radha recounts, “It was an evening safari on 1 May 2014, I could feel something magical was waiting to happen. I met Naresh Singh Gudda. To introduce Gudda, Gudda is the Mowgli of Bandhavgarh, he was born and brought up there. He is a trained Naturalist, a Conservationist, and has spent years in the wild. His knowledge of flora and fauna of central India is absolutely amazing. Gudda drove our jeep to the tala gate and proclaimed that lets go and see a tiger. I was quite perplexed by this statement as he started driving into the forest. He kept on driving non-stop for almost half an hour. Finally I asked him, Gudda you are not stopping anywhere. How will we see a tiger? To which Gudda replied, “You want to see a Tiger , don’t worry .. I will show you.”
Finally the jeep slowed down and Radha could see many jeeps aligned together and people standing holding their cameras. Gudda then said , “See there is a Tigress .. her name is Rajbhera and she is with her subadult cubs” Radha was more amazed with the cacophony of different sounds around her, she came to know later that these were alarm calls by the various denizens of the forest. But she couldnt still see the tiger. She must have spent a few minutes gazing keenly everywhere, while everyone in her view had the cameras out and were clicking in a frenzy. As Radha recounts again, “Gudda took out his binoculars and showed me the direction to look at.. and boom here I could see Rajbhera along with her cubs, her royal highness oblivious and nonchalant to the frenzy she had inspired around her.” The moment has stayed in her conscious and subconscious ever since.
Radha says that it was not just the royal sight of a tiger , it was also the way the jungle welcomes the king that something worth experiencing. The way langurs, peacocks and deer coordinate with one another and alert each other with alarm calls can give goosebumps. Where the forest was quiet and serene a moment ago, the very next moment, with the presence of a tiger, everything changes totally and dramatically, it is bewildering how nature works.
It was a Eureka moment, a moment of enlightenment, and this transformation in Radha’s journey of life has not stopped ever since. She would visit forests whenever she could find time from her vocation as a teacher, and return enriched everytime with her experiences of nature and wildlife.
Radha would always utilize her journeys to the forest, to interact with pend the local people , naturalists and guides, and learn from them, it helped her gain knowledge about the local culture, heritage, way of living and symbiotic relationship with the forest and its denizens.
Little did she know that this was leading her to a bigger purpose in life Radha and Naresh Singh Gudda would have long discussions as how their shared fondness and devotion towards wildlife and nature can help solve many bigger purposes.
Radha, has been a teacher for 15 years, she was convinced that teaching students about Environment, Nature and Wildlife within the 4 walls of a classroom is sub optimal. There is a dire need of having students experience nature, wildlife and local cultures at close quarters, this would enable students to form an empathy towards nature, wildlife, conservation and a love towards these causes. Similarly, it is basic human nature that we cannot protect anything what we have not experienced and not loved. If guests and travelers are given a composite experience of nature, wildlife, heritage, art and culture, they will be forever proponents for nature and wildlife and the places they have visited.
Radha and Gudda thus established Earth Calling Expeditions. Earth Calling Expeditions is an experience travel company with its motto as “Explore Experience Exclusive Earth”. Earth Calling Expeditions believes that travellers may have travelled the world but might have experienced only a few places. Earth Calling Expeditions aims to give back to nature as much as it and its guests can.
Nature and wildlife are threatened, at the same time they are hardy and can eagerly bounce back if given the space and time. What nature needs from us is a tiny amount of compassion and consideration. Earth Calling Expeditions endeavour to engender this empathy, compassion and consideration. Earth Calling Expeditions also firmly believes in giving back to the local community by involving them in Earth Calling Expeditions’ programmes and initiatives, improving their ability and skills, and hence their employability ,educating them about wildlife and conservation. Earth Calling Expeditions believes that this is very significant in their aim of giving back to nature.
Earth Calling Expeditions organizes learning experience tours for Nature and Wildlife enthusiast, guided photography tours for amateurs as well as professionals, nature workshops for school and college students, lectures and webinars on Nature and Wildlife, training and employability programs for local community. Earth Calling Expeditions is also planning to get school students involved in small projects on Nature and Wildlife conservation. This will help them in learning more about issues related to it by doing themselves. It will also inculcate the value of compassion and develop environmental ethics.
Currently, Earth Calling Expeditions is actively involved in helping conduct camps to bring about awareness in the local community regarding Human-Elephant conflict at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Such awareness camps are being organised to help local communities in handling situations of conflict. During the COVID19 pandemic Earth Calling Expeditions did its little bit in organizing rations and house hold items for forest guides and village folk whose employability and means of earning was severely affected because of tiger reserve being closed.
Radha Sharma is one of the few lucky ones whose passion has become her purpose and also a means of giving back to nature and wildlife
Source: Radha Sharma
Date: 14 Jan, 2021