The gate opened and I streamed in. I could barely wait to see her at the stream. The path cut through a slice of heaven. Dew-drenched leaves were strewn beneath giant, tall trees as brilliant shafts of sun-rays filtered through the gaps in their canopy. Birds chirped and flitted between branches and their songs rang through the air. The path ended at the venue, where the water shimmered. Gentle ripples spread out in the middle, as kingfishers rested on a branch of a sunken tree.
The tigress would always be here, but not today. I pressed hard to know why, but couldn’t possibly tell. She must have been around the corner, amidst the woods, walking gracefully, or seated with much majesty, catching her morning winks, or swimming. Always welcoming, always patient, always obliging the ardent onlooker with aplomb. I strained my eyes, I waited, but today I couldn’t find her.
Suddenly on the forest floor, something shone like a diamond on a coal heap. I walked to it, picked it up and dusted the cover. “Memoirs of a Tawny,” read the title. The first few pages were empty, and then there were some that had a few scribbles. I flipped more, and the text thickened. I stopped on page 730, and read:
“Long ago, Mum read us a chronicle, and it said we came from a cool place. Not Mum, and not hers either, but our ancestors of yore, and so it came that heat was new to us. Winter we loved – all the cool, misty mornings of it, letting us play in bouts of joy. We would lie around in the grass or on the mud paths that men had cut through for us. We would climb trees and I would go up with ease, but of climbing down I knew nothing. While I was all grace and panache on the ground, up in the trees gaucherie was my stable bugbear, and every time I would gravitate from a branch in the manner of a petticoat hung on a clothesline at the hamlet, I would hear giggles let out beneath. And then I would jump off regardless and chase after the rascals. We would stalk each other, pounce, box and wrestle. We had boundless energy, and when thirsty, we simply had to reach out, for water was everywhere.
“But summer was different. It would wear us down. The sun would become very cruel, and Mama would find it hard to get us food. She would pant an awful lot, and we would hardly go out by day. Slowly the water would disappear from our little puddles and ponds, and we would only go so far as to get a drink and have a bath.
“This stream was our favourite place, where there was a dam and the cool shade of low, luxuriant trees. On red-hot scalding days we slunk in demurely and waded in the water for awhile, trying to ward off the heat. And when the sun would go down behind the trees, Mum would leave, and we too would have to go. But on the way out, my sister could never keep a straight face. She would cast at me silly expressions, you know the type that results when you are bursting inside to explode with laughter but detain the mirth with great labour. Then she would drop subtle hints of some mischief in full public view and finding it hard to resist, I would relent. A game of Summer Slam would ensue. A splash or two and the rock on the water bank would become too slippery to even walk on, and I would take great pleasure when, on her way to the stream, she would sometimes slip and slide straight through!
“Then times changed as we grew. And when the summer passed and coolness returned, Summer Slam was only a story, and in the annals of life, we had ourselves become a chronicle. We knew that a next generation would come and the game would repeat. We had now to move on, gracefully like the moon behind a cloud, only to emerge shining, at another place and time.”
Lifting my eyes, I glanced at that old rock, and putting the diary in my pocket, drove on without once looking back.