His generous smile went with him everywhere.
I recall meeting Shashank Srinivasan the first time. I had reached out to him to learn about Technology for Wildlife Foundation’s efforts in an attempt to explore conservation-related opportunities. I had not expected that the founder of a niche organisation would have time to spare but Shashank was more than willing to meet over a cuppa even as Goa was emerging from the pall of Covid’s second wave. We met at a cafe close to the Campal grounds in Panjim in early 2021. He was big and beamed his generous smile as we first shook hands. Instead of a conversation about gizmos, drone software and my tech proficiency, we spoke about where we had each grown up, how we ended up in Goa, where was ‘home’, and how most of our life stories are really maps.
And how the effort of making maps makes us. Shapes us. And remakes the world we live in.
Shashank spoke about being a map-maker at heart. He spoke about how maps help us make sense of the world around us; of remote and unnavigable terrains; of others who inhabit these spaces besides us; how we, humans, navigate spaces, or rather how we ought to… these were the conversations we meandered through that January afternoon.
He told me about Technology for Wildlife (TfW) Foundation’s efforts in aiding researchers for population studies of various species, of the shortcomings of the drone insurance in the market, of his personal interest in drone photography to map heritage homes or a larger call to document the critical role that maps play in clearances for big-budget infrastructure projects.
Shashank considered drones, satellites and satellite data as tools in the conservation project. He deeply understood the value of such imagery, and leveraged these instruments with enthusiasm and commitment to conservation. All the same, he did not believe that the tools held all the answers to conservation challenges. And yet Shashank and the TfW team have been ardent champions who have conducted drone workshops with forest departments and nurtured drone enthusiasts.
I am able to recall that first conversation because Shashank spoke with a steady, soft voice, but mostly because our chat was laced with his humour and laughter. From that first conversation to the last one, earlier this month as part of the Rainmatter Foundation team, what I’ll miss the most about Shashank are his affable demeanour and his generous smile.
We hope for strength for his family and the TfW team.