False dawn. Light hues married to waking shadows. The early birds and jungle fowls kept their tryst. Heralding the march of time and the message of daylight. Almost second nature. The light lit itself for a minute or two before the darkness melted in. Confusion reigns. It happens every day in the mighty jungle. Time in pause before the real dawn breaks free.
Filtered rays from a nascent sun seeks succor among the green tendrils that betray no emotion as they play the perfect parasite on an aged orchid. The langur monkeys seem to shred itself of sleep induced lethargy as they awaken. The tired eyes of the sentinel langur watchmen reflect no emotion. Just cold concentration. The slight rustle of the dried leaves was not just a faded dream. Striped contours pad below in tired preamble. All hell breaks loose. The watchman shrieks in throated calls. Jungle fowls cackle as they crash into the thickets. The langurs climb higher in haste, a cacophony in tremulous haste.
The king of the jungle is on the move. Feline grace merged into the lightened shadows, tired pugs shorn of purpose. The night hunt was an abject failure. Maybe the deer had wings on their feet. Maybe the lone sambar in the thickets had a premonition of danger that allowed it time to pre-empt the final spring. Causes many, excuses none. The tiger is searching for a cool landscape to rest. Recharge. And start the hunt in the late afternoon. This time it won’t fail. Nay. It cannot afford to fail. Hunger pangs need to be sated. As soon as possible.
Some lantana bushes pricked the glossy skin. Shrugging off painful scratches, the majestic animal picked up pace. Memory cells jogged. Close to the fire lines on the north, maybe a couple of miles skirting damp game paths lay some inviting grasslands affording perfect cover and patented shade. That would be an ideal place to rest. Powerful paws etched perfect pugmarks in wake as the tiger picked pace.
It was time to rest. Rest. Welcome Rest. Rest of its reverie never did complete. A frightening painful roar echoed in its depths. Wrenching pain hit its gut and hammered its lungs. A crude man made wench snapped shut on its forepaw. The tiger bellowed and roared in pulsating pain. Man made traps don’t break free as easily. The animal’s legendary strength pulled the trap from its cleverly attached fixtures. The tiger lashed out, rolled furiously, dug chunks of earth and roared in agony, yet it would not give way.
The jungle became deathly still, all animals hidden in fear. A strong wind in haunted howl rose in the early morning heralding a flash storm common to these parts. Yet, the tiger’s roars continued. Hideous in pain. Thunderous in the rain. Thrashing through the outgrowths, the tiger hobbled, racked in agony throes that echoed with the distant thunder. Blood flowed on the damp earth merging into the little rivulets. Ebbed in strength, the king of the jungle laid himself in the hollows of a banyan tree in limp defeat. The rain bore and tore through the canopy of the thick forest. Finally spent after a little while, the skies cleared, yet pock mocked in anger with ashen clouds that seethed in anger.
What happens next needs no words to be wasted. Still I might. The poachers make their entry. An impassive bullet speaks no language of mercy on the trapped tiger except that it puts it out of its misery. Patient hands clean the majestic creature’s mortal hide and other parts that come in handy for misplaced mythical use.
Well, history has a habit of repeating itself in this jungle’s geography. And when it does, a Sariska happens. It keeps happening everywhere.
The tiger didn’t live to tell its story. I do. In the fond hope that it brings an awakening inside. In the deep trust that it kick starts people to seek accountability for the nameless tiger. In the blind faith that it makes the Government cringe in shame that the most important entity in the food pyramid of nature is so easily put away.
I still dream that the tiger will still rule the jungles of India. I simply believe. Do you?
We need to back the Indian tiger in its desperate fight for survival. Only a few thousands remain, shorn of support and threatened by man’s selfish pursuits. You and I can do our wee bit to help the magnificent animal walk with unalloyed pride. Let’s make a start by spreading awareness about tiger conservation. Let’s help restore its natural habitat by backing afforestation and eco conservation measures. It is still not too late…