The Jungle Lover

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When the boys of his age were playing with toys, Nazir Malik was observing the behavior of birds that were fed by his mother at their Srinagar house. Now 50, Malik, an internationally recognized mountaineer, has memorized the scientific names of all tress, animals and birds seen in the forests of Kashmir, Junaid Nabi Bazaz reports.

(Nanzir Malik)

Back in 60’s, when Jana Begum went out to feed the birds lazing in the garden of their house in Srinagar’s Harvan area, her son, Nazir Malik, a Class 5 student, anxiously watched the creatures pick up the grains. “I was inspired by the birds and their behavior. It was a passion to observe all kinds of creatures. Now I love to live among trees and wild animals,” says Nazir, 50, who currently works as a Wildlife guard at Dachigam National Park. “If I would not have been here, I would have been living in jungles.”

Nazir has studied till class 10 but he is a living encyclopedia on the forests of Kashmir. He has memorized the scientific names of all the trees and identifies birds and wild animals by their voices and plants by their smell. In 2011, he received International Mountaineering award and is credited for climbing almost all the mountains in Kashmir. Currently, he is writing a book “The Mystical Valley” which is about the relationship between nature, art and religion

“The chirping of birds rouses me every morning before Fajr prayers. The love for forests is in me since childhood. From a very young age, I loved to watch animals, to understand their behavior. To get information about birds, I visited Baratpur when I was in 8th standard. Love sometimes compels you to go to any extent,” he says.

After he cleared Class 10 exam, Malik got a job in wildlife department as a gardener. “I accepted it wholeheartedly because it suited my love for wildlife.” Till date Malik, who sometimes writes poems, has served more than 30 years in different National Parks across the country. On the basis of his knowledge and capability, he was posted in 12 national parks of India including Saraka and Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Over the last three decades, Malik has learnt a lot about natural life by reading a number of books on wildlife by Indian and foreign authors. He identifies 252 migratory birds which are known to visit Kashmir by their voices. “There are many things written about Kashmir’s wildlife which are wrong. The Mystical Valley would rectify these errors and talk about role of nature, art and religion in wild life,” he says.

Malik has survived several attempts on his life by wild animals. In 2008, Malik says he got a new life. “I was on the way to jungle when I saw three black bears. At first, they did nothing and went into bushes. After walking some distance, I sat down to eat food. Suddenly the bears leaped on me from behind. I was helpless and tried every trick to escape but nothing worked. I thought I was going to die.  As a last resort, I grabbed a stick, whipped it on the ground and cried out, ‘I am Nazir Malik, the jungle lover and the wild life guard.’ Miraculously, the bears backed away.”

“It was my mistake. Had I not entered their habitat, the attack would have never occurred,” he says. On another occasion, Malik’s trick saved his colleague, Muzaffar Ahmad who was caught by a black bear but escaped miraculously. “Forests have made huge influence on my life. They have made me artistic, humanistic and religious. However, there is a time when I feel sad. Not because of life but when I fail to educate people about wild life. That is the terrible time of my life,” Malik says.

In his 50 years of life, Malik has barely fallen ill.  “God has created everything in balance and he has tried his best to maintain that. That is why I am fit. Even today, I travel 20 km by foot and know no disease,” he says. His love for nature has not only been gratifying to him but to his mother also. According to Malik, his mother was detected with cancer. “The doctors had said she could not survive beyond three months. However, more than 15 years have passed but she is still alive. Her worship and her kindness to birds saved her life,” Malik says thoughtfully.

Malik is the father of a son and a daughter. “My son sometimes raises questions about my love. He asks me, ‘isn’t it better to raise chicken at home than to be a wild life guard?’ But I don’t mind him. I take his words as a gesture of love. It is his love that makes him to say such words,” Malik says. Over the last decade, Malik has rarely visited home and he prefers to stay in forests even in his leisure time. “What nicotine is to a smoker, jungle is to me,” he says.

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