Thursday, May 18, 2017

Searching For Tigers

My First Tiger Sighting


With trepidation, my heart thumping madly I got on to the hawdah tied on the back of the elephant. The contraption made of thin steel rods and a wooden plank was nowhere near to the assurance I needed on my first jungle adventure.   

I was at Kanha National Park sometime back in the early seventies. We were on the way to see a tiger. The ride on the pachyderm was anything but comfortable as it trudged past bushes and grass in the rugged terrain. I had a tough time tackling bamboo clumps that brushed past us like sharp edged swords. The elephant, huge as they come was in intense conversation with the mahaut oblivious of us on its torturous back. 

Tigress - Uday Patel

As a young lad I had been introduced to forests quiet early. My family was in bidi business and every year there was a visit to Central Indian Jungles in order to purchase tendu leaves.   

This was my first ride on an elephant and quiet an unnerving experience it was. The mahuat pointed out to a big cat painted yellow black and white sitting beside a shallow water body in bright sunlight.   “Tigress,” he called out and then went silent. I could feel the fear rising higher within me. The cat sat listlessly and did not even bother to look at us. 

So this was the much touted tiger, the King of the jungle. A terrible roar and a charge was what I was expecting from huge animal. They did not arrive. Man killer, blood thirsty, ferocious all deadly notions started to flood my mind. But the nonchalance and the ease with which the tigress sat amidst the humans grouped around her changed by views. She was at peace with herself and the surroundings. This set to ease trepidation within me and my notions about this magnificent predator changed dramatically. Over the years I came to understand the tiger as part of an ecosystem which was connected to the environment upon which we all depend. That day I had become a tiger lover.   

My brother clicked from his simple black and white camera. The photo was a pride possession and it decorated the walls for a number of years.          


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