Public Misdemeanour

In May 2009, my dear friend and tigging cohort whom I’ve christened ‘Scotchie’ for such perfectly unimaginative reasons as his singular love for scotch and Kenneth Anderson, was scheduled to accompany me to Bandhavgarh for what would have been a third time.  But thanks to official summons, Scotchie instead ended up more northwest, as the crow flies, at the Irish capital of Dublin.  Here, of how his body pulled off the unlikely feat of circulating blood to his vital organs I am emphatically oblivious, for his heart remained firmly entrenched in Tigland.  It must have been dreadfully harrowing but he never condescended to confessing so, he being never given to effusive emotional exhibition.  Therefore, being the proactive philanthropist that I am never known to be, I devised a method to put him on life support by administering on him a diet of reports of my sightings and experiences after every ride, twice a day. 
Incidentally, this sort of reportage, served up as repasts at regular intervals by his unsolicited correspondent, had a profoundly opposite effect to the intended one, with the poor embattled Scotchie feeling all the more wistful at the end of it, but anyway, here is what I wrote on the morning of 7th May, soon after returning from the morning ride. 

“This report will be even shorter than last evening’s, for there was tremendous simplicity to what happened today.

“I took along on this morning’s ride a very sweet boy who works here at the hotel, for he made to me the astounding confession that he had never seen a tiger – not even in a zoo. Now, you very well know that I’m never the kind of person who relinquishes an opportunity to set someone’s tail on fire with tiger-mania when possible, so the time had come for me to stand up and take the responsibility of ending this chap’s tiger-drought. Since he had no clue what he was missing, I had to help him find out, and while it is true that one never misses what one has never had or seen, I consider it a felony to be living just outside the park and never have seen its guardian and god, and I didn’t want this innocent chap to be marked in my book as a juvenile delinquent.

“We reached the gate a tad late, thanks to the multiple trips back to the hotel we had to make when both the driver and I remembered, one at a time, the multiple things that we had left behind (the safari entry form in the driver’s case and a CF card in mine!), and had to fetch. This thoroughly unpunctual start left us eating our way through clouds of dust (which later transformed to medium-sized mountains) raised for free by our charitable fellow tiggers, with the result that by the time we arrived at Rajbehra, our stomachs were quite full with this unintended breakfast. Chital alarm calls were served as dessert when we reached the road behind Rajbehra, where everybody expected the Jhurjhura family to cross the road to reach the caves in the woodland.

“Mukesh showed his extraordinary dexterity and experience yet again to position me for a grandstand view. An absolutely outstanding effort by him to ensure that we would be the front-most watchers of the tigs with the light directly behind us set us up for the occasion. Soon, they came in a single file and duly crossed the path before us one behind the other in glorious morning light that can only be described as orgasmic by even the most prudish of narrators.

“There was no hope, though, of achieving clean shots, choked as the background was with gypsies of all colours and compositions, and the distance to the tigs being awkwardly near for my 300 prime, but in that virgin sunlight, watching these tawny bodies aflame with natural resplendence pass by so close to us was an experience that I will take to my grave. The scrawny posterior of the first to cross, the Jhurjhura female, which she stood by the road-side showing off to all and sundry perhaps desiring a sun-tan, only received a whack from a mischievous cub, who chose to take the tempting prospect of an early morning spank in full view of the public. This action attracted a surprised growl from the ‘spanquished’ mother, who made weirdly contorted faces at the aggressor, who but showed no remorse for her unconformity to societal etiquette. Disgusted by such public misdemeanour, Jhurjhura moved off, with the naughty lass trailing her closely for more such cheap laughs. Meanwhile a second cub had crossed behind us and this paved the way for the third and final one to cross uneventfully, with traces of blood on her cheek hair and forearms, thus confirming our conjecture about a recent kill.

“Absolutely agog with this breathtaking encounter, we drove off to Hardiha and then to Mirchahni to check on the cubs, which haven’t been seen since my first ride. Although persistent and very near calls from a barking deer just before the Damnar bridge stopped us in our tracks, they failed to turn up there, and then we found that they were right in, up the Damnar nallah, on the high embankment on the left. We waited it out there for the rest of the morning without efficacy, and drove back with delightful yellow blurs filling our enthused mind’s-eyes all the way back.


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