Hans Dalal – He fought cerebral palsy, now he fights to save tigers!
Society finds it difficult to
accept anyone who deviates even slightly from what is perceived to be the
‘accepted normal'. Hans Dalal developed cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder
caused due to brain malformation in the early stages of birth. The disorder
affected his movement; he only learned to walk at the age of six and even then,
found it difficult to maintain his balance and move freely. He also developed
severe speech impairment.
Cerebral palsy – and the social
stigma surrounding it – made even the most mundane things challenging. He has
been offered a wheelchair at airports several times, despite never having asked
for it. His lack of balance while walking often leads people to think of him as
a disorderly drunk. A mother once even pulled her daughter closer to herself
and away from Hans as he walked by. As a child, he wasn’t allowed on school trips because his teachers
were worried about him losing his balance and hurting himself. His uncle,
however, came to his rescue. He would set off with Hans to the hills, trekking
and helping him get in touch with nature. Hans believes that his numerous treks
to the Himalayas as a growing boy helped him develop love for nature, one that
went on to define his life in his later years. However, Hans never let such
instances deter his optimism.
A love for music saw him learning to play the keyboards. He soon realized,
that he would only be able to achieve his true potential by pursuing a career
in sound engineering. He studied sound engineering in Australia and, after
working with a couple of studios, even set up his own studio in Mumbai. Having
worked with the likes of musician Ankur Tiwari and music directors Vishal and
Shekhar, Hans was a well-established sound engineer. But, destiny had some
"wild" plans for him!
In 2007, Hans’ life changed
forever. He was in the Kanha National Park when he saw a tiger. Instantly, he
fell in love: “It moved me to my core,” he said. He went back to his studio but
found himself constantly thinking of the jungle. Finally, he decided to quit
his well-established career and shut down his studio. Hans began to spend an
increasing amount of time researching and understanding the reasons behind the
declining numbers of tigers in the country. He was driven by a strong desire to
address this alarming problem.
During this period, Hans
attended a Tiger Watch workshop in Ranthambore, once the hunting ground of the
Maharaja of Jaipur. With the government enforced ban on poaching in the 1970s,
communities living in wildlife reserves and forests were left in the lurch. The
aim of the workshop was to provide vocational training to these communities and
help them find alternate employment opportunities.
It was there that Hans met poachers from the Moghiya tribe and
discovered that many of them were extremely talented musicians. Hans roped in
some photographers and put to use his experience as a sound engineer to create
a 30-minute documentary about the lives of these poachers.
As musically talented as Hans is, he’s also an enthusiastic wildlife
photographer. Ask him if he has a particular style and he laughs. “Over
processing images. No, but really, I just click. I am a self-taught
photographer. YouTube has all the tricks you need to know". His hands
tremble a little while clicking pictures but that doesn't give away while
seeing the scenic pictures that he clicks. From being chased by tigers while on
foot patrol to climbing trees to escaping from predators, Hans has come a long
way. He now runs a non-profit organization, PROWL, which stands for
Preservation of Wild Landscapes, with his wife Avantika Chandar.
Through this organisation, projects like a first aid training for forest
guards in the Sundarbans, camera trapping in Umred along with Sanctuary Asia,
self purification water bottles distribution in Ranthambore have been executed.
PROWL is also involved in monitoring the movement of tigers with the help of
camera traps between Maharashtra and Telangana and tracks conflict tigers for
the Maharashtra forest department. They also extend their support to the forest
department by conducting workshops for forest guards in camera trapping and
monitoring. 230 forest guards in Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve, have also been
provided with self purification water bottles to facilitate their work while
patrolling the jungles.
He has also spoken at TEDx gateway, Nature in Focus and Josh Talks as
well as talks at other different seminars on wild life conservation and
importance of protecting our ecosystem. With his unconventional life choices, Hans
Dalal seems to have reached an understanding beyond the general realm. He
continues to motivate and encourage thousands to fight back with his undying
spirit. Maybe, he knows something we have overlooked, or maybe he just took
Einstein’s words to heart — “Look deep into nature, and then you will
understand everything better”.
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