Dr. P U Antony
Professor of Zoology, Christ University
Director- Forest Watch: A conservation initiative at the foothills of Western Ghats
Q1. Please share your educational and professional journey?
I was born and brought up in a remote village in Wayanad district of Kerala. Thus I was not very fortunate to have my basic education in reputed institutions. For my high school study I walked seven km.a day to the nearest government high school. I enjoyed that walk with my friends or alone through the long stretches of paddy fields and country side. This exposure to the nature daily for three continuous years in different seasons, have expanded my horizon more than the classroom learning in those years. My further education from higher secondary to Ph.D was in Calicut town at St. Joseph’s college, Devagiri. It was a boys’ only college under the University of Calicut. This institution and the life in Calicut taught me several empowering lessons. Student union activities, Long walks with lodge mates during weekends-resting and sleeping in bus waiting sheds, forests etc. moulded my youth years in a unique way. I started my professional life teaching first standard students in a government muslim school, then I shifted to a few other schools on temporary assignments and finally reached Christ University, Bangalore.
Q2. What did attract you towards Zoology?
Answer to this question may be clear by now. Wayanad is a hill district with forests, rivers, tribals and varied landscapes. Naturally a boy who’s exposed to such a place with all problems of sustenance due to financial backwardness has to take solace in the life of birds, butterflies, reptiles and all such life forms around him. I developed an interest in such abundant life around me from my childhood. Though we have a strong christian foundation in my upbringing, I couldn’t digest the biblical teaching that human beings are supreme creatures and all other life forms are for him to rule over. I sensed the presence of the almighty in all creatures around me. When reached College my passionate Zoology professor further inspired me to choose this subject for my higher studies.
Q3. You are a Director of Forest Watch. Please share something about it?
During the course of my teaching career at Christ University, Bangalore I was appointed as the National service Scheme Program Officer. Under this Program we had several camps organised in remote villages for duration of 1-2 weeks. Along with manual work in the villages and fields we used to go on trekking expeditions too as part of such camps. Staying, working and walking together for many days; I just watched how the students develop a great bonding between them and also with the teacher. So when my tenure was over, I decided to start a new organisation called ‘Green Army’ for the students. Through this student forum I exposed children to nature camps in forests, wildlife surveys, birdwatching, adventure treks, lake rejuvenation works, bus- stand cleaning, padayatras etc. These activities have resulted in the emergence of multitudes of environmentally sensitive youngsters and many of them went to reputed institutions both inside and outside the country to specialise in wildlife and environmental studies. I wanted to initiate an organisation for these students to continue their work and also to motivate new children to the same field. Thus ‘Forest Watch’ was started as a formal registered NGO in Wayanad. Visit www.forestwatchindia.org for further information.
Q4. What kind of hurdles did you face in your journey?
While many of my colleagues are able to complete 35 to 40 years in their teaching career and enjoy service benefits financially and in other aspects I was little unlucky to enter into service very late with a gap of about 5-6 years after my post graduation due to the kind of corruption prevailing in career appointments. For the same reason I had to work in Bangalore away from my wife who was employed in our native village. More than 30 years I lived sacrificing proper family life. But both of these turned to be stepping stones to victory. I used the years in service very productively taking maximum benefit out of it. Still I don’t know what is my last basic pay. I am not bothered about it. Because I am honestly happy about the perks and the duration I was blessed with in my teaching career. Being educated in vernacular language in my initial years, my English proficiency and accent always bothered me too.
Q5. What was your Thesis topic in Ph.D? Please share some brief about it?
My Ph. D is in Ornithology specifically on the the ‘Ecology of the bird communities in the forests of Wayanad’. I was fascinated by these winged creatures since my childhood and there was always that craving in me to know them deeper.
Q6. Which one thing do you want to change in yourself and why?
I am very sensitive to situations and am short tempered.I feel I should not indulge in over reacting to situations out of immediate impulse. I should have learnt better diplomatics .
Q7. Who is your source of motivation?
My mother (though I never valued this influence when she was alive) and my professor Dr K. T. Vijayamadhvan who had consistently fought for various environmental issues.
Q8. Tell us about one of the moments which changed your perspective towards life?
My mother struggled hard to bring up 9 children in the midst of various adversities especially poverty. One day returning home from school after seven km walk, I cried and fought at home over the quality of food served to me. I refused to eat .When other family members were away that evening my mother shared an incident of how she fed my third eldest brother by collecting the top portion of the rice spilled on road side as a neighbour lady carrying food for workers in her field slipped and fell on the road on a rainy day. This sharing made me cautious throughout my life to value the resources and to avoid extravaganza.
Q9. Which one skill do you like most about yourself?
I can adjust reasonably well to all situations when I am away from home.
Q10. What are your views on present education system of the country?
Education is becoming more and more entertainment oriented. Parents and students are increasingly get attracted to palatial buildings and landscaping.Technology is gaining upper hand in education than scientific and logical thinking. Rather than creating show case babies we should concentrate on molding youth with critical thinking, questioning mind and moral values.
Get more about Dr. P U Antony @
Website (Forest Watch): http://www.forestwatchindia.org
Twitter (Forest Watch): https://twitter.com/ForestWatch4