By Siddharth Prasad
It isn’t easy being a nature lover. People expect so much more from you. If you haven’t hugged a couple of trees before breakfast and knocked off a poacher or two by midafternoon, people think you aren’t doing the job right. The list of Recommended Activities alone is enough to kill you dead.
For starters, you’re expected to go white-water rafting in Shivpuri. This is a very popular activity conducted from camps which you reach after hours of being bounced around in a badly sprung vehicle on a road that will soon be constructed, only to be thrown right back downstream in a raging torrent surrounded by jagged rocks.
If you survive, you can go trekking over terrain a mountain goat would baulk at. Then there’s rock climbing, camping and parasailing, all fraught with danger and physical fatigue.
Isn’t there any way of being a nature lover without tearing a ligament every other day? Yes, there is. I hit upon it while I was doing a stint of bird watching. Bird watching is itself a substantial improvement over the aforementioned atrocities – if you have a powerful pair of binoculars, you can even do a lot of it from a strategically located hammock. However, it suffers from the drawback that to be a proper birder you must have a bird to watch, otherwise you’re just gawking around at the trees waiting for a bird to show up.
And that’s when it hit me: why not become a treewatcher instead? Treewatching is the perfect nature activity for those who are soft in the butt, not in the head.
Just look at the advantages it has over other nature-oriented hobbies: First of all, treewatching makes no unreasonable demands from your physique. You can have a beer belly, adventure phobia and couch affinity, and still be a successful treewatcher. In fact, all you need are a pair of eyes and a gentle disposition. And the eyes don’t have to be open all the time either.
Secondly, unlike in bird watching, where you have to go out and actually find a bird before you can meaningfully watch it, a tree is always there – ready to be watched at your convenience.
And if you feel a bit tired after a hectic hour of lying in a hammock with a glass of lemonade while avidly studying the foliage, take a break. You can always turn over for a restful nap and continue watching when you wake up. It’s not like the tree’s going anywhere.
Also, treewatching is an inclusive activity. You can enjoy it with the entire family – youngsters, older folk, pets, even neighbours. No nonsense about treading softly and screaming in a hushed whisper if you twist your ankle. Trees are not easily frightened, so noise isn’t an issue at all. In fact, you could have treewatching parties if you like. Call your friends over to the chosen tree, bring along some beer and pizzas, and you can have a nice time watching the tree and singing tree-watching songs.
Finally, while most other nature-hobbies have rigidly defined ‘seasons’, you can treewatch round the year. And I say this from personal experience. There’s a very nice Silk-Cotton tree right outside the office window that I have watched regularly for over ten months now, through rain and shine, autumn and spring, winter and summer. I have amassed considerable photographic documentation of its foliage, flowers, fruit and fauna, and am probably a global expert now on this particular tree.
That’s a lot of work, and I’m happy to tell you it is being managed with minimal physical effort. In fact, I conduct most of the research from a horizontal position on a squashy beanbag and the air-conditioning is set at a comfortable 18 degrees. All of which makes treewatching the world’s number 1 hobby in terms of Return on Effort.