SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: A regal looking crested serpent eagle with its beautiful yellow ringed eyes flies silently, almost in stealth, and perches itself on an overhanging branch of a mathi tree, its gaze intent as ever.
A giant Malabar squirrel, with its handsome bushy tail made of glorious russet and brown moves around on the long intertwined branches up on a large canopy of green, high up from the lush green grass covered ground, making a range of metallic calls that seem to carry into the distance.
A family of babblers flit around with their brown tails acting like little aerilons, slowly moving up and down in complete synchronization with their short bursts of take off and landing in the vicinity of a roadside lantana bush with its tiny flowers made of pink.
The swoosh of the bamboo and the swaying of the branches; the wind-swept woods and their rain-swept luxuriance; little flowers of red, blue and yellow glistening in pure freshness at the tip of tender, lithe stalks that grow around a roadside water hole; the grey-black asphalt of the road that snakes through this halo of natural magnificence, a wonderful contrast to a million shades of green.
As I drive past the Murkal area of the Nagarahole National Park, the drone of my jeep intermingles with the sudden trumpeting of a massive tusker, chained to a tree in a state of serious musth.
I recognize him as one of the camp elephants.
Past the famous ‘Chirathe Bande’, a huge outcrop of black dolorite, on which a lucky few have seen a leopard stretched out at various times of the day; and past Kolangere haadi (a tribal settlement), my jeep moves at a steady, slow 20 kmph clip.
My eyes dart to the right and left of the narrow road, in the hope of spotting something interesting. But then, drama is far off the agenda, as nothing, not even the regulation chital come into view.
Where have the elephants gone I wonder; at least they had to be around. Especially with the juicy grass swaying so temptingly by the roadside at this time of the year, soon after the rains. If not a big herd, at least a family of three; the mother, the calf and the aunt. Or a lone tusker. Foraging by the road. But on this day, nothing, no such usual life forms as I have come to bear witness on my innumerable drives into these jungles seem to exist.
I turn towards the Karmad road which eventually takes you into Kodagu, past the tiny village of Balele. The Karmad section of the Kalhalla range is flush with dense green bamboo jungle on either side of the gloriously isolated road, where not too many people venture, not necessarily out of a sense of fear but more because not too many people travel to Coorg from this end, save for those who happen to be resident planters in Balele.
Even on this road, or around it, on this day, not a creature seems to be around.
I’m lost in my solitude; slowly lowered into the depths of my thoughts, in complete isolation from all known forms of civilization; soaking in the sheer sense of seclusion.
I stop by a small bridge in the area as I have a done for so many years; the same bridge on which a big black bear had approached my jeep so closely, that it sniffed at the registration plate in front, a few months ago! I sit inside my vehicle, remembering the excitement that particular incident had created in my heart.
Soon, it is time to head back home. The time on my watch shows a little past six in the evening. As I engage my gear and began to move my jeep slowly, the birds have begun to chirp around. It is roosting time for them. And they are going through the moves, of finding their places to stretch out for the night.
As I touch the Murkal road which will eventually take me to the Veeranahosalli gate and out onto the Hunsur road, some 20 kms away, the jungle around me begins to close in. It is not really dark but grey. As I travel the stretch, I tell myself that this was one of those completely eventless days as far as wildlife sighting went. But then, to be in the jungle was a joy by itself, a bliss. Sightings or not.
And then it happened.
As I turned a regulation bend, I heard a soft thud.
A tiger landed right onto the road, just a few metres in front of my jeep’s grill!
Hugely built and immense, with paws that seemed so densely padded; and an imperial head that stamped a sense of unmistakable authority.
His handsome features glowed magically in the fast ensuing darkness, his tail twitched up and down, as he looked slightly startled by the suddenness of my arrival into his domain.
And then, he composed himself and gave me a look.
A kind of look that only the surest, the most confident, the most unperturbed and one of the greatest of living creatures can gather! “Oh, you’re one of those…mortally inadequate ones,” his expression seemed to convey!
I didn’t mind at all!
In fact I wanted to call out to him; to almost reach out; to want to make contact of the surrealistic kind; to somehow convey to him that I was one of those humans who held him in the highest honour; for the sheer phantasmagoric symmetry of his being as perhaps one of the most intuitive and inspired creations of god!
And then he began to move slowly into a thicket.
I almost said, ‘hey wait… a little while longer’. Moments later he was gone, the slight parting of the leafy undergrowth and its ever so slight stirring, the only indication that he had taken that route.
This is the magic of Nagarahole. The impossible improbability and the million possibilities. Complete hopelessness and a sense of ennui on a drive giving way to sheer heart stopping drama. All in an infinitesimal moment. Leaving you with the memory of a lifetime.
Unlike the more famous Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh, and Kanha national parks in the north of India where foresters talk in terms of zones with names like B1, B2 and B3, with a ridiculous piece of paper that you have to pick determining which route you’ll take for the day; and where tigers have names like ‘Charger’ and ‘Chameli’s daughter’; and where tiger watching has been reduced to a pathetic, orchestrated ‘tamasha’ with hordes of well-heeled men and women and children paying through their up turned noses, and awaiting their turn in a convoy of jeeps in the midst of noxious diesel fumes to be finally presented with a pre-meditated ritual of seeing the big cat.
Photograph: courtesy The Hindu (used for representation purposes only)
Also read: In Nagarahole, tigers are like city buses…
Poachers: forest guards :: Terrorists: Police
5 years = 1,825 days = 43,800 hours = The End?
Don’t tell us you didn’t know this one on Rajnikant
Interesting title to the post. Why did u stop short of adding a ‘their’ towards the end?
It would be of great help if you could you some simple words to convey to the lesser mortals who read churumuri. (Eg: phantasmagoric symmetry)
ಓದಿದ ಮೇಲೆ ನನ್ನನ್ನು ಕಾಡುತ್ತಿರುವ ಕಟ್ಟ ಕಡೆಯ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆ – ಹೀಗೂ ಉಂಟೆ…?
೧ “Oh, you’re one of those…mortally inadequate ones,” his expression seemed to convey!
೨ “the sheer phantasmagoric symmetry of his being as perhaps one of the most intuitive and inspired creations of god! ”
– ತರ್ಕಕ್ಕೆ ನಿಲುಕದ್ದು…
Years ago we had an amazing experience at “Chirate Bande”. We had no idea the name actually meant that leopards frequented the place to rest. We stopped near the rock and leaning against it, we were eating/talking not knowing what was going on around us.
For some reason I looked up and there was the big face of the animal just inches away from my face. Next to it were three or four more resting peacefully. I became cold not knowing what to do.
To my astonishment the animals did not do anything. I took my eyes off the animal and we slowly started to walk toward the motorbike.
We took a few steps first and then ran like crazy to save our lives.
To our amazing luck that day not one was in a mood to attack us.
We got on our bikes took a few pics and did not look back.
This will always be an unforgettable experience.
How about upgrading from this small write-ups to books?
After Jim Corbett, Ken Anderson and handful others, there haven’t been good books on “Indian Jungles,” can you treat us some?
Hmmm…. interesting. Yes, it might be true that Nagarhole provides a better natural habitat for wild animals, but I would also like to bring to notice how horribly inadequate the wildlife safari tours are for the unsuspecting visitor!
IT IS SIMPLY PATHETIC. To start of with, the conductor and driver are totally ignorant about safety! They do not close the safari vehicle’s door (guess, they are unaware of the Bannerghatta tiger accident) unless passengers insist!
The most annoying part, however, is the noise the safari vehicle creates……! MOST ANIMALS CAN HEAR US COMING HALF A KILOMETER AWAY…… :(. THEY DEFINETLY WILL NOT WAIT TO SEE US!
To add to this, imagine driving hours to reach Nagarhole, and you don’t even have usable toilets – no doors, uncleaned for days, no taps,….! Yes, you might be saying “what’s new? It happens everywhere in India!”.
But, I say, how can the public take time off to enjoy the jungle in a vehicle that sounds like a military tank while wondering how they could answer nature’s call decently?
Nagarhole might be paradise for the wild animals, but a hell for its
Quite an interesting article you have there. I am curious though, how many of “their” north Indian parks have you visited? Also what is your stand on the effect of uncontrolled tourism in a national park? Where did you suffer those “Diesel” fumes inside the park?
Like I said, I am curious about these things, as it seems you are well informed about the “orchestrated ‘tamasha’ ” that takes place in the parks like Ranthambhore.
Last time I checked all natural habitats, be it north/south/east/west, have their own charm. I am sure, Nagarahole is a lovely place and I have heard from friends that it is. I hope to spend sometime there soon, however I think Nagrahole or any other park for that matter can not score over anyother park. The reason is a grand scheme called nature. It is beautiful everywhere.
I would have agreed with you, had you been talking about management of a specific issue. However you felt the need to generalize which is not a good thing to do unless you have the facts correct.
I hope you get a chance in life to visit “Indian National Parks” without a prejudice.
It seems you have this “north vs south” and “our tigres rock” mentality. I am not sure how many tiger reserves you’ve visited so far. It would be good to know if you have visited any parks outside of your state.
These tigers belong to India…and all national parks are “ours”…not theirs..of those north indians.
@kartik — couldn’t agree with you more.
Ranthambhore & Nagarahole are in many ways different. The former is smaller in area and the dry, deciduous vegetation not as dense. Some cynics call R’bhore a zoo, given the high sightings rate. But the reason why you have a better chance of sighting a tiger in the wild in R’bhore than in N’hole is because of the density. Even so, I had to do eight trips into the national park in R’bhore to have one sighting!
N’hole is more like Corbett; the overall forest experience is similar. Sightings are hard to come by but the excitement that comes with the dense forest, the alarm calls, the abundance of other animals, the Ramganga river cutting through its territory, the Dhikala camp, etc make Corbett unique. I have loved visiting both N’hole & Corbett.
To dismiss all wildlife sanctuaries outside of South India as being of the same standard as R’bhore is uncalled for. And if you consider Kaziranga in Assam as being part of North India, the “pre-meditated ritual” (of sighting the big cat) charge appears all the more ridiculous. Kaziranga is more famous for its one-horned rhinos but there are tigers there too. Negotiating the tall elephant grass through the forest on elephant back to catch a glimpse of the rhino is no less an experience.
@pappu panther — I am with you. Nature doesn’t respect geographical divides or parochialism.
And all I have said doesn’t make me less of a south Indian and a Kannadiga.
“Nature doesn’t respect geographical divides or parochialism.”
this somehow does not ring my bell. of course all things living are by nature geographical and if you like, pharochial. haven’t you heard of territoriality? does the rose grow in the middle of a desert? the very tigers we love so much will rip each other apart if the “other” gets within the pissing perimeter.
A political debate is pointless here. What I did notice and has caused me some worry is the numerous blatant breaking of norms and even rules. Stopping on the bridge, getting off and resting against the boulder and even being in the park past 6pm are all against rules. Resting agains a boulder with four leopards on it is an amazing story and one not easily swallowed to be honest. By the way, leopard in the area don’t attack- they’re really spooked by humans and vanish as soon as they can.
If we call them ours, let’s respect them and take good care of them. The protected areas we have left are precious few and we need to treat them with utmost respect and care and responsibility.
Ranthambhore is simply AMAZING. No wildlife or nature lover would ever come back without being totally mesmerised. I have been there, four times –at different times of the year (not same year!) and believe you me, EACH and EVERY time I went, the forest presented a different face.
It is sometimes all green, dank and dark. In summer, while the vegetation looks bare and dry, the animals come out and provide excitement which only wildlife can –crocodiles, snakes, elephants, jackals, bears –I have seen them all. And at other times, one should see the terrain –with vegetation in hues of orange and yellow, tall grass so typical of tiger country. Then there is the fort that provides a magnificent and breath-taking backdrop; some tall rocks and caves which house tiger dens and hundreds of langurs hanging from trees!
Amidst all this, it is the TIGER which is elusive, though its presence cannot be challenged. If you don’t see it, someone else in another jeep or canter has had the luck. The call of the barking deer, the pugmarks, the dead nilgai …the tiger just may be round the corner. And when you see it, rejoice for if it chooses to slink away, you will be amazed at how the forest swallows the bright colours in seconds!
But of course, Nagarahole too has its own beauty and mystery. So does Corbett. Or Kanha. Or Sunderbans for that matter. Each is unique and so are experiences. The only ones who I have ever heard criticising a/any wildlife safari experience are the chips-eating tourists who think they are visting a zoo. The thrill is in the sighting, yes. It is doubly so in the quest for a sighting.
Overcrowding, pressure by tourism , blatant flouting of norms , rules etc. These are the problems that affect our parks. Let us address them rather than shoot the messenger.
You really can’t compare two parks, each of them have their own good points. I’ve visited both Bandhavgarh and Nagarhole more than twice each, and love both of them. Your post seems more a case of ‘ours better than theirs’. And here I thought both parks were in India! What’s wrong if tigers are given names like Charger. Do you even know the history of the tiger known as Charger? Why not commend the foresters in Bandhavgarh for keeping the lineage alive and protected unlike in parks like Panna? As for the ‘tamasha’, I’ll agree with you that more often than not it gets reduced to that, but there are more than enough people who go to Bandhavgarh and refuse the ‘elephant shows’, preferring to take a chance at a truly chance encounter; as a matter of fact, I believe the elephant shows have been stopped. Nagarhole is a awesome park, so awesome that it deserves appreciation for being what it is, it doesn’t need to be made to look good by belittling another park. That’s just insecurity speaking.
We’ll you’re in luck, http://www.uread.com/book/veerappan-sunaad-raghuram/9780141005775