On a rainy day in Bandipur

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Throughout the journey we were being followed by a heavy cloud… the breeze was carrying a whiff of faraway lands and springs… we could smell the rain all along.

Images: Kaushik Bajibab

Right from the time we set out from Bengaluru, the clouds were flirting with colours endlessly – white, blue, and dark blue… When we reached Chamarajanagar, we were driving parallel to a rain cloud that poured out onto the fields and yet refused to come near us. The breeze now almost a gale was forcing my face and hands into the car. And then she finally gave in, and there was no stopping her. We drove quite blind right into Bandipur – each raindrop, a small crystal ball lashing out, deafening… Since we were driving very slowly, we could easily slow down to allow a civet cat zip-past, which definitely looked late for a rendezvous. When we reached our destination – Kaboom! No rain, no dark skies… the cloud was still being her moody self.

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Bugs, beetles and moths kept us company all night. Kaushik suddenly hushed me up, “I think I heard a tiger.” We held out longer, but nothing happened. Bulbous eyed, I rubbished him. Before we called it a day, a common wolf snake decided to keep us up.

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Comfortably curled up on the door, he refused to move, till we slowly coxed him onto a branch and released him nearby. The next morning a forest guard wanted a drop to a nearby village, he disinterestedly inquired, “Did you guys see the tiger pugmarks outside? There was a tiger here last night.” Arghhh! Kaushik was glaring at me…

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Having driven down this road (Mudhumulai forests) several times in the past, we got lucky this time around. A leopard crossed the road and jumped into a bush! Great start! Through the day, we spotted several wild elephants, and guars.

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Of course, Kaushik was ecstatic after spotting one of his favourites, the crested hawk eagle.

We were driving towards Moyar, when we had to slow down – four jeeps (manned by independent safari drivers with guests) had stalled, revving their loud jeeps. We instantly knew there were elephants around. A small herd of five emerged – there were two sub-adults and the (largest) & oldest female was holding the rear. Very clearly, this nervous, highly anxious herd wanted to cross the road. And the safari drivers wanted some action. Finally, the matriarch mock charged, and the four jeeps moved away – only to come back revving loudly at the elephants again. The matriarch tried again and finally ran to the other side of the road, while the safari drivers continued to laugh. The oldest female, turned around and mock charged – but looks like that’s exactly what these tactless men wanted!

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It was terrible! Watching from a distance, I failed to take a video, I managed a photo from my phone. These insensitive drivers were stressing wildlife offering “better action” to their guests – who on the other hand, are made to believe that it’s absolutely ok to indulge in such an act! There has to be processes put in place before giving out permits to such drivers to hold safaris. This is really terrible – both for animals and the kind of message that’s being communicated to hundreds who opt to go on such safaris.

What was further annoying was how almost everyone honks loudly in the forests (all the way from Mudhumalai to Mansinagudi), even get off their vehicles casually, and scream at wildlife. Yes, we spotted a young tusker feeding by the side of the road, looking confused and shocked. He was subjected to continuous, loud gibberish hurled at him by a few men in a car.

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They kept screaming at the elephant, calling it names even! If this young tusker was anywhere closer to the car, I won’t be surprised if he indulged in a few joyous mocks improving their manners.

It takes all kinds, I tell you! And they call wildlife, unintelligent savages – REALLY???

 

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