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Kalyan Varma – Wildlife Activist

24 March 2011 5 Comments

Hi All,

Hope you enjoyed the first part and the second part of the interview with Kalyan Varma. Today we have the final part. Here is a brief intro about Kalyan Varma! Mr. Kalyan Varma is an award winning Wildlife Photographer from Bangalore! He freelances with BBC and National Geographic Channel! What is even more fascinating is the fact that he worked in Yahoo! as a security expert.. decided to quit what one would call “comfortable & well settled” job.. only to chase his dreams..

Coffee With Kalyan Varma – Wildlife Activist
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
KV: Kalyan Varma

Me: Your photo – the one on jumping ants.. won you the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award in 2005. Can you speak about it..

Jumping Ant

KV: Sanctuary magazine is the largest wildlife magazine in Asia.. I was always fascinated by those ants.. I didnt really expect to win the award.. I was working in B R hills when I clicked that photograph.. I would have been very happy even if I had got a consolation award.. But winning the award gave me the reassurance.. It was a boost in confidence.. and I began to believe that I am going in the right track..

Me: How did you distribute your work.. What channels did you use for popularizing your photographs..


KV: Mainly the photos are used for publishing in books.. They also feature regularly in articles of journals & news papers.. My strength is using the power of the internet.. I can better leverage the social media.. rallying people.. communicating better.. I believe that photography is an art.. and as more people see it.. more is its value.. I post my work through creative commons & wikipedia.. They are not monetary directly, but they do give you a lot of viewers for you work…

Me: You have won a number of awards… What are you 3 big achievements..

KV: Well, the way I view achievements is very different from what people think achievements are… Awards dont particularly count as an achievement for me.. What matters for me is that I am really doing what I want to be doing.. Never in my life.. did I think that I would be doing this.. You must know where you come from.. before you know where you are going.. If I can make a difference to wildlife & photography.. I would be consider it a big achievement..


Me: In part 2 you shared your pic about the “face-to-face” with tiger.. How did you feel.. Can you elaborate..

Tiger in the night

KV: It was amazing.. you live for those kind of experiences.. nothing in the life matters compared to the emotions you go through there.. It is not just tigers.. Even in grass lands.. I spend a lot of time alone.. It really changes life and the perspective towards life.. I wish I could capture the emotions which I go through.. Staying in the night, in the forest.. you live for these experiences.. In fact.. tigers not that scary.. At times I am more worried abut people in the forest.. than tigers..

Me: You spent a lot of time in the jungle.. What did you learn from there that life did not teach you outside..

Grey Langur

KV: I don’t really know.. Its a very difficult question.. It changes you.. It changes your life and what matters in life.. Probably you start to think about the role of the individual on this planet.. I also had personal spiritual experiences.. there is no message.. but it is a spiritual experience to be there and to experience it..

Me: When did you start working on wild life conservation and other activities of yours like workshops..

KV: After working for so long in the jungle.. I saw that animal life was dwindling.. That was when I started working with a Wildlife conservation ngos.. It was a 6 months long project on conserving wildlife.. Also it was difficult to be a just a photographer.. I had to do lot of things.. In those 6 months time I was also working on photography, workshops and safari..

Me: How does photography help in wild life conservation..

Turtle Conservation

KV: Photography can make a positive change.. In fact, I had very satisfying experiences in influencing a change.. For example, there is a highway through the rain forest at Valparai.. In the nights, a number of critically endangered species were getting killed.. A local NGO was working for a long time.. They sent a number of letters to the authorities, but that didnt help.. Eventually we showed the pictures to the authorities, which visually woke them up.. They started putting speed breakers & monitoring the speed limits…

KV: We had a similar story in Bandipur, the tiger reserve.. The issue was about night time traffic.. And the case went up to supreme court.. The pictures about the impact of traffic sealed the case.. Pictures can be a very strong tool.. They can evoke human emotions and can be very strong tools for wild life conservation..
Me: What are the mediums, apart from photography, which you choose for wild life conservation..

KV: I also do open source programming and set up information websites.. design information centres.. booklets… slide shows.. Whatever it takes to make it happen..

Me: How can we contribute towards wild life conservation..

Pretty Bush Frog

KV: Well.. living a conscious life helps.. do your home work on every company product you buy.. hotel you stay in etc.. See how are they dealing with water.. electricity.. etc.. If people base their decisions each day based on conscious thoughts, it would be good.. For e.g., organic food.. not using plastic etc can go a long way.. Once people know what the problem is.. people change lifestyle.. For example.. In rain forest of Borneo in Malaysia.. trees are cut for plam oil.. they are coming to India to the ration shops.. we dont realize the implications… Once people are aware.. people can make alternative choices.. e.g. groundnut oil.. which are locally grown food

Improving awareness and making the right choices will help in conserving the environment in a long way.. In fact, India as a country.. so much population.. poverty etc.. we still have fairly good wild life.. India is way ahead of western country.. we have to done really well.. we are having globalization pressures.. 9% GDP comes at the cost of the destroying the nature.. we need to take a look at the balances… how can people have a better way of life, at the same time keep in environment in mind..

Me: Finally, last but not the least.. What is your advise for fellow youngsters who have big dreams.. but struggling to find a way to achieve it..

KV: Just chase the dream and do not give up.. people tend to give up too early.. if you really like something.. you should strive to become the best person in that industry.. and you eventually will do it.. you will work 20 hours and still feel great.. so go all out.. 🙂

Me: Thank you very much for your time Kalyan. It was privilege to host you CWS! Good luck in your future endeavours.

KV: Thanks sundar! Happy to be on the show!

Readers, who you enjoyed this edition of Coffee With Experts. All the Coffee With Sundar interviews can be found here.




  • Subha said:

    🙂 Atlast! The conservation of nature said by Kalyan Varma is so true. and Photos really make a difference.

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:


  • Nitin said:

    very nice.. really inspirational….!!

  • Sundar Rajan G S said:

    Absolutely Nitin, Agree with you!

  • Akhil said:

    This interview reminds me of the movie 3 Idiots with R. Madhavan finally following his ‘calling’ to become a wildlife photographer.

    Very inspirational interview Sundar!

    One thought that comes to mind after reading “It really changes life and the perspective towards life.. I wish I could capture the emotions which I go through.. ” is that similar to discovery channel, Kalyan could film/record his experience and share it with his followers/fans through social media.

    Enjoyed the interview, thanks.