Human beings going on a jungle safari in a National park is a ridiculous activity.
I have been to quite a few of them myself and trust me I am not particularly proud. We go to Jim Corbett National Park in hopes to see Tigers, Gir forest to see Lions, Kaziranga to see Rhinos and so on. Each state or country is famous for one or the other national park or wildlife sanctuary.
Humans go all dressed in track pants and leather jackets, hats, belts and boots. We carry all sort of fancy bags and rucksacks and water bottles. And of course, we shudder at the thought of not being able to bring back evidence of having seen the animal we went to see, so we carry cameras and tripods and a whole bag full of lenses and so on.
When we reach the jungle we arm ourselves with all sorts of strategies and plans to ensure that we get to see the animal that we came to see. First, our tour guides creates the perfect ambiance of fear and adventure by narrating dramatic stories of how only the night before the deadly animal was seen right next to the quarters we were staying. How it dragged a calf or a lamb or even a human inside the jungle. Then we would be told what not to do while at the safari so that the animal comes right out of its hiding and dances in front of us. And what to do if it happens to chase our safari jeep, instead of dancing.
We love to create so much of drama and suspense around the whole deal. We like to think ourselves as great achievers if we manage to get a glimpse of the animal and feel utterly depressed if the mission fails.
This one time I went to Jim Corbett with some friends. Our guide told us a tigress which has just given birth to three cubs can always be spotted around the fences. These two English gentlemen who shared the dorm with us also said, “We happen to see the tigress and her cubs more often than we get to see our driver.” The English men thought they were being funny but we were absolutely heartbroken with this unforeseen tragedy. “Why, why was the good tigress not interested in appearing before us?” we asked our fate.
The first day we went all around the dry jungle in a jeep. Our guide kept cautioning us to be quiet lest the tigers get scared and go into hiding. But we wouldn’t listen. So no tiger luck. Later, we blamed it on the terrible noise that 1930 jeep made and decided to try elephant safari the next evening.
So there we were on the elephant back all alert and quiet. Our eyes constantly on the look out for the slightest sign – a tail somewhere perhaps or tip of the ears. Suddenly the guide said, “Look there tiger paws” and we all ‘bent over’ to closely see the great wonder that a tiger paw is and then shuddered at the fact that was being established by such marks – that a tiger just walked by this path. “Look tiger paw, whoa tiger paw” we whispered at each other’s ears.
I mean what is the big deal with a tiger paw. Tigers exist and they have feet and paws and when they walk they leave marks. What are we achieving by taking macro photographs of a tiger paw?
What is this fun we have in ‘ogling’ at the animals. Don’t animal have right to privacy? What is this curiosity about how they spend an ordinary day of their lives? Imagine you are sitting in your living room watching that film popping that corn or gum and a bunch of funny looking creatures pointing at you and saying, “Hey look she is eating pop corn.” And the chorus would go, “Where where? There there. Ah yes, she is eating pop corn. Ooh she is eating pop corn.”
This other time when we were driving down from Ooty to Bangalore near Medikeri there was this herd of elephants and all the cars either slowed down or pulled over and every body looked out of the windows and pointed at the elephants saying, “Hey look elephants.”
I couldn’t help doing an imaginary voice over, “Ya I know I am an elephant, enough already now will you move it? Go keep going you morons! You’d cause a traffic jam. And next time come in a limousine. Am sick of seeing these same old cars you people drive.”
I so could feel for that elephant with a disgusted look, really. Not that I know how does a happy face of an elephant look like but still, I could tell it was not happy with the humans.
And don’t even get me started on what might happen if you actually do encounter a fierce animal. I’ll tell you what happened on that elephant safari in Jim Corbett. After spotting tiger paws we were convinced that the owner of those marks was somewhere close. Suddenly, shattering the silence of that evening, we heard a roar. A tiger roar of course. My heart skipped a beat and I quickly inquired our guide if tigers can jump all the way up to the elephant’s back. He assured they can’t.
The tiger roared again and we were half dead. And again. We all looked at each other, around and finally at the guide, “Why is he not reacting to the roars?” we wondered.
Then I saw. The elephant’s tail went up and the roar was heard again. And we all smelled together. The roaring sounds were that of the good elephant farting. That was the closest we got in our mission of seeing tigers in Jim Corbett.
We were out there to nail that tiger safari. Elephant fart made us shit in our pants. Human beings on a jungle safari in a National Park.