Vijay Cavale was lunching with his boss and a Chinese client at a 5 star restaurant in Bangalore when the conversation veered towards money and motivation. The Chinese contended that man would go to any lengths for money, and Vijay laughed. But the former threw a challenge at him: “The Chinese offered 10 dollars for every salute I made, standing at the door of the restaurant, to any person who walked through” says he. Vijay laughed at him, but the man kept increasing the stake, and when it came to 1000 dollars, Vijay actually started considering the possibility, he says:
“And that made me think – I was willing to drop my shame for money. At 1000 dollars per salute, how far would I be willing to go? Would I stop at 10 salutes, or 100, or 1000?”
“That is when I realised that greed had no limits, and the time to stop was now” says Vijay.
It was the mid 1990s when this happened. A mechanical engineer from RVCE, Bangalore, who got into the IT industry just when it took off hugely in Bangalore and India, Vijay Cavale was discovering that the initial sheen and excitement of it all was wearing off.
In 2001, 40 year old Vijay Cavale dropped the ‘good life’ (an IT pay packet, the high life, travelling around the world, hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, rising up the ranks, security for a lifetime), and called it quits to heed the call of his soul- to enjoy and be one with nature.
Even as a child, Vijay was always fascinated with wildlife, and could often be seen going around nonchalantly with a snake around his neck or a monkey on his shoulder, much to the amusement of his family and friends. When he got into the most prestigious IT startup in India ever as its 43rd employee, in 1987- he did enjoy the variety of jobs he executed for the company- hectic, but exciting. But Vijay increasingly started getting the thought- “I’ll never get to enjoy a sunrise and a sunset again, at this pace”.
Meanwhile, Vijay had kept up his passion for nature alive by creating a micro habitat for birds at his father’s farm on the outskirts of Bangalore. Since 1994, he has planted over 5000 trees here and guarded them religiously. He escapes to this nature’s haven at every given opportunity, photographing birds and nurturing his trees. Now the 10-plus acre land with a small catchment is a habitat for a variety of wildlife including over 200, specie of birds.
“After 14 years in the industry, I was 40 and more or less exceeded my expectations of seeking a fortune” says Vijay. He found that there were no more challenges at work- and the underlining urge was nature. His basic needs were met, and Vijay decided that he would not get into the ‘more-is-less’ syndrome. The nature lover thus took a decision rarely taken by people at that stage of life, and got into full-time nature watch and photography. Start talking about it and Vijay gets ecstatic.
“Getting into nature and enjoying it is a euphoric experience! Every episode you watch is a lesson by itself- hundreds of episodes hit you when you are out there in the wild and tuned in…”
“… an animal is peacefully grazing one moment, and then next moment, a predator catches it and it is dead- that sets you thinking… what is the value for life…”
“Spiders spin their web and wait outside for the prey- the second a perfectly healthy prey gets caught in it, the spider liquefies the prey with its saliva, digests the whole prey in it and sucks in the fluids- it’s truly amazing.”
“…a butterfly is just sitting there in the centre of a flower- just doing its duty of pollination- and a crab spider catches hold if it, just like that…”
“There are birds which don’t build nests at all- they just put their eggs on an open patch- in heavy rains- and the minute the eggs hatch- the young ones run behind the parent.”
Vijay is now fulltime into capturing all this and sharing it with others on India Nature Watch (INW), a web based community he created along with other team members Sudhir Shivaram, Yathin SK, Kalyan Varma (all from the IT industry). The passion first started with an e-group, but soon, that wasn’t enough. Providentially, just when Vijay embarked on this journey, the technology revolution happened, with computer graphics and internet and digital cameras and post processing- and that which would have been so difficult to accomplish a decade ago just fell into place easily. “Everything just fell into place- the only missing link was time- I traded my corporate life to fuel my passion- it was a happy bargain!”
Today INW is used and viewed by nature lovers around the world- it’s a forum for them to share their own photos, exchange notes and discover the wonders of nature. Vijay is amazed at the reach of INW. “…even as we speak, photographs of rare birds, not recorded anywhere else in the world, are being uploaded and downloaded and information shared and comments posted on INW by people across the globe!” says Vijay with awe- he still can’t believe that this passion for nature has caught on so well.
Vijay’s tryst with sharing his passion began with India Birds, a website he basically launched to record the wonderful scenes he captured on camera, and entice the rest of humanity to share the joy nature has on offer. The site basically focuses on birds found in India, because “…we have sent a satellite to the moon, but haven’t photographed all the 1200+ species of birds available in India alone!” For Vijay, nature in India itself is so challenging to capture, that he doesn’t feel the need to travel to other exotic countries in search of wildlife. “Just traveling from point to point in India is exciting enough” he says. He also blogs to express and share his experiences during such exciting trips, and propagate love of nature. ‘Journey of Joy’ is the title of his blog. “Once when I was roaming the deserts near the Indo-Pak border, I had one of my finest moments in nature when I got the opportunity to photograph a desert cat! The whole story, among others, is on my blog” says Vijay.
Typically, in a month, Vijay tours India for ten to fifteen days, sometimes alone, sometime with a couple of friends, and sometimes with family. His wife and son are more than happy with these occasional nature-treats. The rest of the month is spent in processing and uploading photographs on the website, blogging and just being with his family and by himself. The man simply loves the freedom this lifestyle affords. To share some more Vijay-netts from the conversation:
“No routine, no accountability, no boss to report to. It’s just my heart, my passion, my time”
“Why would anyone want to live by a script written by someone else- get up at this time, eat the perfect breakfast, go for yoga etc? No such rules for me. I wake up when I wish and eat what I want- discipline should not be overbearing. Lifestyle should be easy and simple- nature teaches you that. Your body itself will tell you what you need to eat, how much you need to sleep, if you are conscious.”
“I have decided I’ll cover as much of India as possible- it’s a fascinating country- and share what I have seen, with no tags attached to my role.”
“To be a self motivated operator is a huge challenge.”
“I’m not an ornithologist, environmentalist, researcher, or activist. I’m just a nature lover who wants to inculcate the love for nature among people.”
“It’s my belief that I am giving back something and affecting the lives of people- isn’t it wonderful?”
Vijay urges people to take stock of their priorities, and take a decision and pursue their passions. “The lack of will to take a decision is worse than making the wrong decision” he says, “at some point of time, you’ll have to do something for yourself”.
What next? More of the same, of course! “I’ll never get bored doing this for the rest of my life” says Vijay, “India is so fascinating that one lifetime is not enough to cover all its splendors. I’ll continue to pursue this passion without any commercial interest”. “If I can get people to look at the spider web in their own house, a butterfly in their own garden, I’ll have done my bit towards spreading awareness” he adds.
Ask him if he has any regrets, and pat comes the answer- “Only that I should have done this earlier”.
Coming from a true nature lover, not surprising at all!
“There is joy in nature, let us share this joy”! – Vijay Cavale ⊕
You have really taken a very admirable
step. Hope many young Indians follow your footsteps.
I have visited many sites and observed photographs taken by various people but nothing like yours. Yours are absolutely excellent.It’s also wonderful to know that you have created a haven for bird life at your farm.I have been trying to do the same in my little urban backyard.
I would like to extend my invitation to you…please do visit Assam excellent bird country.(especially winter) I will look after your stay in Kaziranga and Guwahati.
Inspiring! Realising one’s calling and daring to take it up against all odds!
I’m really glad that Vijay decided to step out of the herd and take the lone path away from the green pasture. I’m 22; been working for just a year and have contemplated this very proposition more than once. Maybe its a practical option after all!