Thursday, May 03, 2012

Corbett


Safaris are designed to be frantic so that you increase your exposure to the marquee species of the place. You run from one place to the other alarming some animals and annoying others. They are fun but they are also disingenious in that they misrepresent the forest by turning it into a spectacle it usually is not. For me the truest sense of the rhythms of the Corbett National park came when we were motionless.

The first was on the top of a watch tower where we spent a little over four hours. This was at a distance of less than half a kilometer from where we had earlier spotted a tiger. There were a few dozen deer lazing in the sun and our knowledge of the tiger filled the air with such a sense of anticipation that none of the 20-odd people on the tower dared speak above a whisper for nearly 3 hours. And in that time what happened was what usually happens in a forest, nothing! Some deer moved their ears occassionally and some birds dropped by at the water hole for a drink or two. A couple of bee-eaters would leave their perch excitedly only to return within the same second. Apart from that everything else moved reluctantly. Even time.

The previous night had had a different cadence to it. We were woken up by thunder and lightning threatening to raze our guesthouse down. The winds had slammed our windows so hard that their glass had shattered and the violence had gone on for very long. I can't tell you how long because the experience was just as time-distorting as our stay on the machan but in the other direction.

The most memorable moment was when our guide heard a noise and quickly parked his car, killed the engine and started communicating in sign language. A few seconds later we heard the grunt of a tiger from not more than 300m. Our guide was confident that this was a tigress calling out to her newly independent offsprings and that one or more of them would respond. For an eternity nothing happened. Only the jungle fowl and langur seemed extra chipper. Suddenly, about 50m behind us, a handsome young male crossed our path in the direction of the call. There's nothing quite like seeing a tiger in the wild.
Tiger
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