Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On a tiger trail....


-By Swetha Amit
A three hour drive from Mysore in the frosty morning brought me to the abode of the wild. Bandipur is one of the well renowned national parks situated about 80 km from the city and was the first Tiger reserves in the country.

The cold wave of air engulfed me as I got out of the car. It expelled the tinge of drowsiness that accompanied along with the long drive. As I mounted on to the jeep along with the guide, I eagerly awaited the two hour endeavor with the animal kingdom.

As I reached the woods, the guide’s hawk eyes immediately fell on some freshly made footprints. Apparently it was noted to be left behind by an animal probably out on its early morning stroll. Retrospection discovered that to be of the mighty tiger’s. Alerting the possibility of seeing the royalty perked my excitement and elation. From there began a cat and mouse game on a literal basis.

Following the footprints keenly like a curious child, embarked the beginning of the unforgettable tiger trail. Constant watching out for the striped animal held me with bated breath, leading us to drive further into the dense woods.

The forest world enamored me with their solid placidity. Tall trees stood by with stout bushy shrubs kneeling down at their feet. The glittering morning dew adorned on the fresh leaves giving them the scintillating effect.

Venturing deeper on this untamed mission caused us to bump into our fellow jeepers who were too craving to get a glimpse of the royal specie. In the midst of this wild goose chase provided an opportunity to encounter other fauna of this reserve.

The graceful peacock greeted us with pride as it displayed its elegance and infamous beauty. The Langur family, gathered for breakfast was hanging out on the branches gazing inquisitively at us ‘visitors’. The mongoose was seen scurrying by in search of its first meal. White spotted deer which were reported to be usually found in plenty only seemed a handful. The lovely Samba deer looked at us as it obligingly posed for a photo by which I captured its instant charm. Cruising further provided us a chance meeting with a wild sleepy boar by the lake which opened its eyes to acknowledge our presence.

But to our dismay, our fierce friend was nowhere in sight. It left us with a sinking feeling of being unable of exchanging pleasantries with the royalty. However the presence of fresh prints made my hopes soar along with the adrenalin levels. The big cat seemed to be enjoying this game of hide and seek with us. I looked around vigorously, half expecting the tiger to jump from nowhere and scare me out of my wits.

Chasing after this new found trail made the rumbling jeep echo through the strangely silent jungle. The peculiar stillness portrayed a serenity yet spelt danger lurking about which explained the mediocre amount of fawns. Another reason revealed the recent preying of a boar by the ferocious animal which was dragged mercilessly into the bushes, to be feasted upon.

I could feel the eyes of the unseen big cat on me, all the time as I cast a hopeful glance to exchange at least a smile with the black striped creature. However the dense jungle seemed to lend in their uncanny support by camouflaging the silent glides of its magnificent master.
Our two hour drive was nearing its end and so were our hopes. It was a disappointment to be considered unworthy of being in the company of the ‘elite’. Playing hard -to- get, the animal displayed its haughty demeanor by its invisible act.

I could imagine the tiger chuckling to itself of having gotten the better of us. We must have looked hopeless competing with the swift suavity of the big cat. It must be celebrating its new found victory of putting its guests on a prolonged trail. I silently vowed to myself to get better of the new found ‘friend’ during the next visit to this national park.

As I cast a last hopeful look at the woods behind, I caught sight of a huge shadowy black figure flashing by the trees with agility. For a moment my eyes widened with profuse exuberance as a question crossed my mind like lightening.

Was it the tiger?
Maybe, or maybe not?

Written for www.msn.co.in

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