I have not met many people who don’t know about this great man. Many of us affectionately love Sir David Attenborough and shared numerous on-screen magic moments as he opened our hearts and mind to all the wild wonders of this world.
My first encounter with that familiar voice came from ‘Echo of the Elephants’, one of my all time favourite documentaries about elephants. At that stage, I too had no clue who he was except for the fact that he had a very nice voice. Since then, I have never escaped his grip as I encountered each different documentary teaching me things I never knew, making me care about things which I would have never thought about and taught me that this world is so much more than what we allow ourselves to see every day.
When I first decided to embark on a crazy journey to throw everything away and dedicate my life to wildlife conservation, naturally, Sir Attenborough was a big influence. Somehow I wanted him to know that he has been an integral part of my decision and I wanted him to be proud of me. This man had no clue who I was, where I came from or how on earth did I look like. Why would he care? Did that stop me? No way.
I started searching high and low for a way to write to him. I finally found an address to post fan mails and decided to take the risk to pour out my heart on paper. I sat down and wrote this 5 page letter (front to back) and excitedly sent it on its way.
To be honest, after posting the letter I was not expecting anything in return. I guess all I wanted was to write to him and tell him how important he was to me. Two weeks later, the big moment arrived.
Three days prior to this big moment, I had just received my confirmation to start my Masters course in Wildlife Management and Population Management accompanied with very strict conditions. With no prior science degree, I was nervous and started doubting my decision. I was to study in a class full of younger and highly talented Biology and Veterinary students. All I had was my love and determination to play a part in saving our wildlife in any small way I could. With a heavy heart and three weeks to go before I started my class, I found this airmail envelope with three UK marked stamps waiting in my mailbox. Although I had no idea what it could be, instinctively something told me that I needed to sit down to open this. So, I ran home and locked myself in my room.
When I finally opened the envelope, I found a beautiful piece of heavy set paper. I unfolded this slowly only to see Sir David Attenborough’s address on the header accompanied with four sentences written in black ink with a signature which temporarily stopped my heartbeat. I did not scream, I did not feel excited but I was overcome with an overwhelming feeling of love and quiet happiness. This moment will stay with me forever. Words cannot describe how special it was. This letter traveled everywhere with me for two years. In my hardest moments, I held it and reminded myself that I was going to be OK and it helped me pull through my two years of studies.
I have written a few more letters to him since then, but with no further replies until this crazy moment. I had just started my career and started feeling so lost in the conservation world experiencing the brunt of not finding paid employment and constantly exposed to competition. It was hard. I felt I needed to talk to somebody and get some guidance, like a mentor. So I came up with a brilliant idea to write to my favourite man to ask if he would be my mentor. I know, what was I thinking right?
The moment I posted the letter, the impossibility of my actions daunted on me. I remember standing in front of the red post box and laughing to myself thinking…I cannot believe I just did that! I was even embarrassed. Did I just write to one of the most famous man in the world and asked him if he would be my mentor?
Lo and behold, three weeks later I got a reply from Sir David Attenborough politely declining my request. In that letter, he humbly stated that he was primarily a filmmaker and believes he would not have made a suitable mentor for me. At this point, my love for him doubled. He could have simply ignored my request as I am sure he receives so many similar requests. But he did not, he wrote back.
There are so many reasons why I love this man so much and I always will have a very special place for him in my life and my heart. My deepest regret is that I have never seen him in person. Every time he came to Australia for an event, I was too broke to afford the ticket. To this day, this is something which makes me very sad. But I will always have these two letters to keep close to my heart as my journey continues to make this world a better place for wildlife. Now, all I need is a khaki coloured pants and a light blue shirt.
Photo Credit: Main Page - JrScientist via Foter.com / CC BY Header - diana_robinson via Foter.com /CC BY-ND