Anand Vishwanadha has been hard of hearing for almost all of his adult life and identifies as hearing-impaired. But that didn’t come in the way of him becoming a nature photographer, poet, motorcyclist, cyclist and the Chief Sustainability Officer of Chitrak Eco Ventures. A resident of Alwal in Secunderabad, the 47-year-old has a Wilderness Camp and Jungle-living destination in the Jawai region of Rajasthan, famous for its leopards.
For five or so years prior to that, he has been a full-time poet and photographer of nature and been involved in various biodiversity conservation projects. “I think I must have been around 11-12 when there were complaints from my school that I didn’t pay attention in class. I remember the hearing loss was around 40 decibels (in the better ear) when I was around 18. I don’t know how… but I managed all my education up to MBA. Unfortunately for me, my hearing condition (the term for which is Binaural Progressive Sensorineural Hearing Loss) is degenerative, and though I have used a succession of hearing aids, for the last five years, none of them have worked for me. Since then, I have a hearing loss of around 100 decibels in both my ears and I cannot hear at all when someone speaks to me,” informs Vishwanadha.
His poetic journey and fascination with nature — trees, rivers, hills and mountains, birds and wildlife — are all from his boyhood days in Odisha. “I have always wanted to be a writer and I’m fortunate that writing comes easily to me… when I need to write, I need to write. This love for the written word (I find the smell of ink intoxicating) and urge for self-expression have seen me bring out three books of English poetry — Moving On, Ink Dries, and Stray Birds, the second edition of which was relaunched at Hyderabad Literary Festival 2020,” he adds.
So, how did photography happen to him? “I started with a simple Point and Shoot, when I was 14 or so. That was when I began to explore the outdoors and started going on long motorcycle rides to the small provincial outposts around Rourkela. Photography happened to me because of my fascination with the natural world. I rarely shoot people but do a little bit of food photography. I absolutely love macro photography, but lack the patience for it. I think it’s the poet in me who pushed me into becoming a photographer. There is a lot of similarity in the way I approach both my photography and poetry and sometimes it’s tough to say which of these influences the other,” he answers.
He currently uses a Nikon D610 and his lens of choice is his Nikkor 600 mm f/4, but he also has a 105 mm f/2.8.
He has had a long and eventful association with motorcycling as well. He has ridden extensively to places in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. “I’m probably one of the first (from the Telugu States) to ride solo through Ladakh in 2005,” says Vishwanadha who got back to cycling “when I was bringing out my first book (Moving On, in 2009)”. “I think cycling is a good way to stay fit and have fun, and I find it rather thrilling to undertake centuries on my Schwinn. Just imagine how much of a sea change it would be if it had dedicated bicycling infrastructure and “Only Cycles Allowed” zones across even 10% of Hyderabad,” he shares.
He started Chitrak to make innovative approaches bear fruit — in the fields of rewilding terms and biodiversity conservation. “Though we started with a camp in Rajasthan, we have always been on the lookout to do good work in Telangana too. Our focus is on securing the wildernesses in the area where we are active… and achieve business sustainability through responsible eco-tourism activities. Almost everyone who has visited our camp has left a happy person, and a better person, because of having experienced nature’s curative balm,” says Vishwanadha.
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