Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kanha A glimpse of natural history

Ashok looked at me and smiled, a recognition of our years of association. We had explored the infinite corridors of Kanha together as young over enthusiastic nature lovers. We have experienced the depth of the forests unraveled its mysteries, and learned about the intrigue of animal behavior.   

The imprint of numerous adventures at Kanha still recall instances which have been narrated thousands of time. Kanha is an exemplary display of fragile chain of life hinged together and constantly evolving. The bitter occurance of violence erupts unexpectedly amidst the stillness of the magnificent stands, gushing rivers and breezing meadows. Yes the forest offer an unbridled element of surprise that shatters the silence in one eye flip. 

The Courtyard House guests are expectant, for them the forests are an unfathomable mystery. They listen rapt with attention as to what to expect. 

"Keep you eyes glued on the forests and your ears always alert, " I said. "Tigers lurk surreptitiously in the depth of the canopy and you should not miss."      

The forest appears to them as diaphanous veil of secrecy, an exotic abode of mythical creatures. The tiger appears to be a huge blood thirsty creature along with equally rapacious animals that inhabit his kingdom. I turn around an look at them. They are Germans but surprisingly well versed in English. Ashok is busy delivering a lecture on the park in his own broken English. I do not interfere, he is a knowledgeable guide and experienced, he will certainly make them more informed.    

In the early morning just after dawn we could see the sun breaking over the horizon. The gold orange hue of ball of fire rises over the table top mountains impressing upon our guests to stop the vehicle. They are busy taking photographs of a magnificent spectacle that unfolds every day in Kanha. We are bit uneasy for we wish to come across the big cat before the sun goes up and an intolerable heats descends on the land of the tiger.

"We will go for Munna," I tell the guide.He nods in affirmation.We have crossed the Kisli barrier and proceeding towards the Dig Dola Road. The mesmerizing landscape of Kanha is ever changing from insipid grassland to rugged mountains that gain height gradually but are densely forested. We are on high alert for this is Munna's territory.  The road twists an turns as we climb up, I cling to the bar as the jeep turns sharply throwing us all around.

Finally we arrive at the top, the road here is straight and level. All the time we look for the tiger or expect the cacophony of raucous alarm cries. Nothing happens, we come across a herd of sambar and stop for a while. They are relaxed, forgotten are the days when they used to be hunted down mercilessly. They do not perceive humans and their contraption as threat anymore at least in the protected area.   

"Largest deer in Asia," I tell the guests busy taking photographs, they are impressed by the gentle creatures.  The majestic antlers of the leading male swell out disproportionately creating an appearance of diabolic proportions. Naturally he is the cynosure of the lot. "Beautiful," our guests utter as we proceed further.      

"Tiger! I whisper as we reach the water body. The large creature is absolutely camouflaged in the thick curtain of bamboo and shrub. The majestic proportion of the beast are strikingly evident, the most prominent is the foreleg hanging in mid air. The massive paw is being dropped very gently on the ground."He is going to ambush the deer at some distance," I whisper.

For  a long time the tiger is frozen in mid air, we watch intently at the natural history drama being enacted before us. Oblivious of us the deadly gaze is well focused on the deer who is unaware of death lurking at close quarters. The proximity makes the whole episode nerve wrecking...the tiger appears to be of extraordinary proportions.     

We watch with baited breath and then a rush and a scuffle. Well no, the tiger misses the query. The drama is over, the dried branches of the impeding shrubs has given the game away. In frustration the tiger  continues across the shore of the water body glaring angrily at the stupefied prey. The jungle is abuzz with petrified alarm cries as the deer, langur and sambar scurry away to maintain  a safe distance.

The tiger crosses over the lake, arrives right in front of us on the road and then sulks into the hidden creek on the other side. "That's it," I
exclaim. The guests appear to be thrown into throes of frenzy as they twist an turn to unwind themselves after an acrobatic rendering of their mind and body getting the tiger in full frame.   

We are all relaxed now...the tiger has been seen. We continue with the safari exploring the stunning features of the tiger reserve. The sunlight filters sharply through the tall stands of Sal in a well defined geometric pattern. It breaks through and strikes the ground with evangelical divinity creating a haloed spectacle, a curtain of grandeur no less impressive and spell binding as the big cat that enthralled us few minutes back.

All across on the soft jungle road the deer, monkey, wild boar and dancing peacock invoke a mild degree of thrill...for we have experienced the utmost thrill in terms of black, yellow and white.