It was a nippy December morning… and it found me, unlike other mornings, in the very heart of Kaziranga wildlife park – a safari ride onboard an open jeep! Came out a much wiser and thoroughly exhausted chap..hey, i had just fought off about a hundred tigers in the space of what, three eternal hours !!!
Hang on, i have jumped the gun here…the seeds for this fantastic adventure were actually sown before that…lets go back a few hours in time – the previous night the Park Ranger animatedly described a tiger attack when he was atop an elephant and how lucky he was to recount his daring tale with us, considering the mahout on that occasion actually lost one of his arms! A vivid description like that and the incorrigible storyteller in me was wide awake!
Ok, so back to business…the next morning,we were about eight of us on that vehicle, self manning the left-rear flank…and then came a challenging assignment – the leader announced we have to undertake a maunam (complete silence) during the entire trip….just observe Nature silently and see what you can learn from Her wild side !!! Now ordinarily i wouldn’t classify Rohit Hegde in the chatterbox category…left to themselves the Hegdes generally keep to themselves and love observing Nature but this enforced silence did seem..well, unnatural !
Ever tried being alone with yourself ? just you and your mind? oh yeah, add an overactive imagination with a ‘natural’ storyteller to the party…and what d’you get?
well, to begin with – nothing really – i actually enjoyed the solitude..relished the fact that i did not have to make polite conversation with anybody!
but as time dragged on, the monotonous droning of the engine did get boring and i felt my eyelids drooping….and then She attacked – (an idle mind seized the opportunity to come up with an enterprising script at lightning speed and the er..horrifying drama unfolded) – literally out of nowhere, she swiftly covers the distance between us…the ground thundering beneath her huge paws…with an almighty leap she launches herself at the vehicle…
the scene slows down – its my entry now, you see…
in one fluid motion, i take out my jacket and thrust it on her bared fangs….a voice at the back of my head – “WHAT? you paid a fortune for that jacket, you know”….But we Hegdes genuinely believe in the greater good and heroically i brush off that selfish notion….
i valiantly struggle…our tug-of-war now increasing her frustration and finally she backs off defeated yet grinning maliciously with the shredded remains of my brand-new jacket between her jaws….
A shrill “oh look” cry jolts me back to reality and the next thing, this girl is excitedly searching my face,
“Did you see that? that elephant over there?”
“No (dont you realize i was just saving all our lives from that monster out there) didn’t see..er..busy changing camera settings”
thankfully she leaves it at that and relapses into silence …self quite relieved and trying to piece together that last encounter…glad to have my jacket quite snugly abaft my shoulders!
“Take out the trash, there is never nothing going on” – i remember these lines from ‘The Peaceful Warrior” and vow to stop daydreaming….Pay Attention, i tell myself!
i manage to actually stop thinking for a few minutes and get duly rewarded- a lovely pair of leaves just shed from a remorseless tree, slowly winding their way ever so gracefully towards the forest floor….hmm…so thats what it feels like…this is what they call poetry in motion? must be… for no physics, no science can describe the utterly reckless yet dignified flight of those two leaves…its their final journey but they want to make every moment count!
Savouring this moment for some time, i then look around eagerly for more action……Nothing…….Nothing……there is Nothing going on..
And then She attacked…huge paws…bared fangs..
************Post script – At last count i had sparred with over a hundred tigers and with minor variations came out victorious every single time..of course my trusted brand-new jacket featuring prominently in every encounter! Come to think of it, confronting a bloodthirsty tiger isn’t a pleasant task (‘course i had had enough practice to last me a lifetime and probably a couple more!)…but upon my word, it certainly is a cakewalk when compared to the art of keeping this untamed mind quiet for a goodish length of time and to dwell in that silence blissfully !!!