A Serendipitous Encounter


It wasn’t as though I was blinded by a bout of muscae volitantes but surely, blessed as it is with supreme camouflage, a leopard doesn’t exactly stick out like a red flag from thick vegetation in dying light, especially when you are in the driver’s seat having to concentrate on the road ahead. So I wasn’t to be blamed when I drove right past the panther walking alongside the road in the opposite direction, but my good friend Rajesh ‘Roy’ Nandakumar had with great acuity caught sight of its head emerging from behind a tree, and with a very slight time-lag, announced as much in his archetypal galvanic manner.

Bringing my right foot down to halt the car forthwith and backtracking by a few metres brought us abreast of the spotted cat that had now sat down merely four metres away and was watching us with much interest. His face was chiselled in a rather effeminate way, his marble-eyes were rotund to perfection and his general appearance was scratching the heels of flawlessness.

After posing for a brief outburst of shutter releases, he rose to his feet and moved ahead, where we thought he would cross over to the right side of the road and decamp into the bushes, promptly calling an end to this serendipitous encounter. Preparing for the Houdini act he bounded on to the road but when instead of diving into the understorey he began walking on the road, our astonishment was infinite and the unforeseen rendezvous turned even more propitious.

For the rest of the 300-metre-stretch on which he led us, he did more than just walk. At times he cantered, at times he trotted and for much of the time he progressed with great purpose, delivering the coup de grace when once he lifted his thick, articulate tail to deposit his brand of perfume, when our incredulousness reached unprecedented levels. Mesmerized as we followed his trail, we drowned in the sinewy grace of his spine moving rhythmically like some gentle wave in a tranquil sea, which swept us off our feet and drew us into a great whirlpool of magnetic charm.

Then, as abruptly as he had come, at a blind bend he left the highway and shot into the great wilderness marauding to a place unknown and earning a permanent spot in our hearts.


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