She Grabs You!

 
 
 

I have always believed in the power of dreams. I dreamed in school, for example, snoozing in class and it saved me the uptake. I then dreamed straight through the laboratory periods at college and that did me a lot of good too; saved me the malodours. When my liaison with tigers began, I naturally dreamed of a lot of things, chiefly among which was of an encounter with cubs – not adolescents, but proper young ones. But it seemed destined not to happen, for despite six trips to the tiger’s lair, the smallest model I could manage to meet was a 10-month-old Kallu in April 2008.

But in the pursuit of the tiger, the greatest of all big cats that “commands a deep involvement from those who pursue it”, like Valmik Thapar said, I learned that patience wasn’t just a virtue but a desideratum, and a necessary companion to dreams was the ability to keep the mind open and discard anything resembling set notions or obdurate rules. I also figured that attempts to wrestle dreams into reality were futile and that while in the city the best policy may be honesty, here in the tiger’s world, it is laissez faire.

For, Bandhavgarh taught me that despite all the ugly manipulation by man, Nature doesn’t run to his rhythm and whim, but levels him squarely with her divine mandate. I learned that one doesn’t make sightings happen as much as one lets them happen to one, and that the biggest cause of good sightings were the tigers themselves.

So it’s true that one can’t dictate terms to this great park. Bandhavgarh does what she wishes, and when she wishes. It is not possible to hold her to ransom. Just the way one cannot coerce a flower out of meadowsweet, it is unwise to attempt to bring her by force to heat. It is not a fist that can be muscled open; it is a fruit that the tree must come by will to bear. So while there, I don’t try to flex my brain. I put it to bed, let go and allow the park to do its thing and weave its magic. A man called Mukesh Burman does the rest.

When he is around, things seem to happen. Some of my finest moments with my beloved tigers have been courtesy of this man. You see, the bloke thinks. He gets his information, processes, analyzes, concludes, strategizes and executes. But more than all that, he trusts his instinct. By all means he lets his brain do its day job, but just as well, he knows when to end the mental chatter and let the stream of haunches flow freely, and when to tune in to the subtle channel of Nature’s radio. He is guided by intelligence and driven by intuition but overwhelmed by neither. And when the devil of belief has ingressed him, he backs himself through all the way.

And despite all the fatalism endorsed earlier, it is necessary to recognize a fox-hole when you see one. This, Mukesh does exceedingly well. So when the ethereal magic plays out on the great canvas of tiger-land, and there takes place a confluence of what you want and what is meant to be, when the event of dreams comes at the time that the tiger has chosen, when luck and Mukesh have put you in the right seat at the theatre, and you stop trying to grab at things and sit back and let things happen, a cub comes from a blind corner and descends an embankment.

And then she grabs you.

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