“I will tell you the story of Vetnai. Many years ago there was grassland surrounded by a small village. Due to lack of rain, villagers were disabled to fertile the land and they had to depend on the other villages for their survival. One day, some of my family members, by losing their natural habitat, visited this beautiful grassland and chose this as their new habitat. And fortunately, that year, The God blissed and fixed a rendezvous point on the sky of Vetnai for the clouds. Rain… Rain and it was raining. Villagers were truly happy and looked at us as their God of Rain. They fertilized the grassland, turned that in to a good agricultural land and that was up to their satisfaction. We also found our own land. From that day, the villagers and we stay together peacefully, they protect us, they care about us and above all, they love us and so do we….The Black-Bucks.”
If you want to pronounce “Orissa” and “Black-Bucks” together, the only word is “Vetnai”. It is a small village in Ganjam district, near Berhampur town. To us it was a pre-planned tour. Subhamoy da and I reached Howrah station to catch the Yasbantpur Express on a Friday evening. We had reserved our berth up to Berhampur. It was planned that Subhankar will hire a car from Puri and will peak up us from Berhampur station.
So, Saturday morning, we got down from train and Subhankar was waiting with car just outside the station. Finally the three members were together. We freshen up in a small hotel and started our journey towards Aska village, which was 50 km from Berhampur.
We informed Mr. Nanda Kishore Upadhaye, the Secretary of Black Buck Protection Committee, that we will reach Aska by 9.00 hrs. and got the bad news, his father was hospitalized and for that he had to leave Vetnai. But he arranged a nice guy, named Manoj, to help us. We reached Aska, had our breakfast (typical Orian breakfast, do not ask for the name) and travelled 15 km to reach Vetnai village. Manoj was waiting for us on the road, we peaked him up and he leaded us to the field. We parked our car nearby.
We had to cross a Nullah (not much deep) and reached at the edge of a vast grassland, partly cultivated and partly barren field. Just walked for five to seven minutes and we located the Black-Beauties, a herd of Black-Backs. Suddenly we lost our mind and ran towards them to take snaps, and they vanished into the horizon in no time. Again and again we chased, they ran into the deep and deepest. We forgot that, it is impossible to chase world’s fastest mammal. We learned that over enthusiasm will spoil everything. Manoj told us that if we move, everything would go in vain and we would not be able to click a single snap.
So, we spread out and took cover behind some large and dense grass/ bush. The black beauties were vanished. Tough it was a weekend in early January, The Sun had no sign to the kindness, we were waiting under the bold and hot Sun to be accepted by them, so that they can allow us to explore their Kingdom. We dried up and tired and fully exhausted. After a long time, they came back, not one or two or three… hundreds of them gathered together, roamed freely around us, kids were playing and jumping around. Males were watching the area for the safety of its family. Sometimes we were so spellbound that we forgot to release the shutter and missed some unique pose. Okay, we took photographs and observed the beauties almost from 100/120 ft. Manoj helped us a lot to take snaps of their beloved God. After 2 to 2 and half hrs. we were seriously tired due to scorching heat of sun and we had to leave that place, also we had to reach Mongalajodi by evening. We spent around 3 / 4 hrs in the middle of the field and enjoyed the outing with Black Bucks, we leaved Vetnai around 2.30 hrs and started our journey towards Mongalajodi.
In Vetnai village, there are no place where you can take your lunch or any type of food. So, carry your food and water to remain alive under the kindles sun.
If you do not have your own transport, you have to depend on local transport system. There are public buses from Berhampur to Aska, and then you have to take Auto to reach Vetnai village.
Recently some outsiders disturbed the Black-Bucks in the name of photography, so if you want to visit Vetnai, it is better, inform Mr.Upadhaye, so that he or his boys can assist you in the field, otherwise you may face some problems.
We learned a new thing in photography while we taking photos of bucks. Due to heavy and burning sunlight and yellow coloured field, camera sensor could not focus the golden coloured females and the kids, subject were too low contrasting to the camera sensor. Methinks, if we changed the “K” value and used grey filter, we could manage much better images.
"If you want to see us, come with patience, love and care."