Phony Feline (pertaining to a cat) Adventure (Part One)
Settings – GIR NATIONAL PARK AND SANCTUARY. October 2004
Aap kya rechars(research) karne aye ho? asked.
(Are u here for research work)? This was the first question asked of me by the big moustache bearing guard as I entered the Gir National park and Sanctuary.
Nahin Ghumne (no for tourism). I answered warily having pushed all kinds of research out of my mind.
Yahaan ek ladki aayi thi sher ki moos pe rechars karne ke liye.
(A girl had come here to do research on the whiskers of the lions. )
On the whiskers!!!!!! I sneered. I thought I should confirm about the anatomy of the lions’s face but having procured the entrance to the sanctuary a week before the official opening time(15 october), I had more ambitious plans. I was leaving the same day for my present job at Udaipur to join on 10th of October.
(My friends’ friends father was conservator of forests for the park so as a parting gift the friend had arranged a special free entry for me to the park.)
For a brief moment I also went down the memory lane to the horrendous act that I had carried out on my pet bitch a year ago. She was already in the twilight of her age (15 years to be precise). I had brought her home when I was barely 3 feet and my hair were touching my mom’s(5feet 10 inch) elbows.
Now my mom’s hair as well as my own hair were touching my shoulder. (I am now 6 feet two). Since the dog did not look young enough in her white whiskers I had clipped them off, not in the least aware that they could be subjects of such important research.
For the present I decided to keep my mouth shut and proceed to the ticket counter. A minute later the mini bus came to escort us to a short safari. Having faced allegations of the disappearing lions the part authorities of the last surviving abode of the Asiatic lion had decided to build an enclosure that could keep the lions confined long enough for people to be confident that lions are still not extinct.
As per the claim they were 325 in number. I had heard of the so called over dense teak forests of junagadh which has restricted the free hunting of these felines and hence they had migrated to the coastal areas of Kodinar (My residence Ambuja Cements’ HQ)as well as the more luxurious outskirts of Diu. The foundation had reported cases of Lions chasing away people at night or just blocking the roads for fun in the interior areas. But I was unfortunate enough never to have seen them as I always needed to catch up with the Jungle book episode at 6.30 in my furnished flat.
At last I got to see the pride who were in a situation that could be anything but worth taking pride of. Four of them were crouching in an undignified manner as if they were posing for crouching tiger hidden dragon.
I mumbled (Jhukela sher, Thakela sher) to the chagrin of the guide.
Secondly they were trapped between the steel wiring and the more hideous body of the canter leaving them no choice but to pose for amateurs like me with more amateur equipment like camera on a mobile etc.( This camera is not capable of distinguishing a jungle cat from house cat if the snap is taken from more than two feet away.) I was anyways keeping a distance of 20 feet to be on the safer side.
The way one of them turned their head back reminded me of Kate(read CAT) Winslet in Titanic. At least these cats were gracious enough to show their faces. (The forest department people at Ranthambore and Sariska I think are these days looking for hiding their faces)
Phony Feline (pertaining to a cat)Adventure (Part TWO)
Settings – RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK AND SANCTUARY. Feb 2005
The gigantic gates erected half a millenium ago stood like sentinels before the santuary. It seemed to me as if the gates were forbidding the visitors to respect the dignity of the Tigers.
Caravan after Caravan of Vehicles stormed through the gates bypassing Mighty Ganeshji as well as Monumental Ranthambore fort. The tourists entered the santuary as if they were possesssed. Their single point agenda was to shoot either the tiger or his tail. If not at least to trace his toe or tooth marks.
Ranthambore Sanctuary is dotted with water bodies that serve as biodiversity hotspots as well as water points for the thirsty animals. For tigers and Crocs they were nothing more than bathing joints. But with so much visitors I guess they were getting ashamed of their cavorting ways.
A herd of ubiquitous neelgais caught my fancy and I decided to flaunt my mobile. But the Parsi community on my canter were more interested in shooting birds. I felt like shooing all of them away with some stone or camera.( both were in plenty around).
There were various routes that were being alloted for the safari vehicles and I could not get head and tail about the fight that took place at the registration counter about route no 5 and 6. To me tigers were not involved in match fixing anyways. I did not know that the honorable PM Shri Manmohan Singhji shall prove me wrong within two months.
To keep a long story short, the whole day we had to be content with watching neelgais going green with envy at us. Nothing was heard about the Tigers or his tales for the whole day. One Pug mark was the only saving grace that I could show for my 12 hour journey from Udaipur – Bundee – Ranthambore.
I cursed the panchayats of Jhadol for keeping their elections at such an inauspicious moment.
But my anger turned into happiness the very next day when I read the local newspaper at the Kota railway station.The news read – TIGER DOES NOT RESPECT THE VICE ADMIRAL. I was grateful to it for having shown equal contempt for all and sundry.
( To add insult to Injury I missed the train for Udaipur as well and passed the night chatting with a new acquaintance I made at Ranthambore. This guy turned out to be a carpenter from Plymouth and a backpacker on a tight budget at that. Having intially ignored him in the canter during the safari I could not resist having a shoulder to cry upon regarding my misadventure.( He too was frustrated at having missed the Tiger by a Whisker). I advised him to instead go to Rudyard Kiplings dream place called Bundi.( After all Rudyard Kipling had some inkling of what is going to become of ranthambore one day so he kept himself fruitfully occupied with Bundee’s Fort rather than the Ganeshji wala fort of Ranthambore.)
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