Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Palamau Story: Day 3...

It was again a cold foggy morning..around 4:30 a.m. The birds were chirping endlessly and we were all set for our first elephant-ride. Anarkali was waiting for us. I found the elephant-ride to be one of the most comfortable rides on earth (if you donot have slipped discs!) but at the same time it was lazy and sleepy. Above all, as soon as I made myself comfortable on Anarkali’s back, I felt almost like a “Maharani”!
:-) There was a touch of royalty.
The routes for elephant rides were completely different from that of jeep-routes. I must say they were wilder! As we started off, Anarkali was moving with a “rock the cradle” rhythm, breaking all the tree branches in her way with her mighty trunk, following Mahaut’s instructions. The Mahaut was tapping his feet behind her ears, uttering specific words. She picked them up fast and moved accordingly. We kept on looking thoroughly around us. The forest was denser and greener. I was screening the tree branches as Forest Uncle told me to remain cautious about the presence of leopards. The aroma of leaves of a diverse vegetation was soothing and refreshing. The path was evidently trodden only by these giants. We finally reached at the base of a stony hill. A stream was flowing nearby silently and its water was crystal-clear and sparkling like jewels with the first rays of the sun. As I was not expecting Anarkali to climb up, she forwarded her feet. O my God! It was quite a steep slope and we all got scared. The Mahaut said seriously, “hold on tightly!” I whispered, “God, I wanna see more in life..hope this is not the end..” Anarkali was very flexible and cautious and took us to a natural stony cave. The Mahaut said, “it is the tiger’s den”. Suddenly, a troupe of langurs started shouting..”The tiger may be nearby..the langurs are giving alarm calls”, we were informed. Anarkali was made to stand there for few minutes stealthily but she behaved to be cool and calm eating away the leaves of a tree close to her. The langurs stopped calling within minutes indicating “the course is clear”. Though we considered ourselves to be unfortunate of not having the king’s glimpse but I loved every moment of anxiousness and fear as we waited for his arrival with baited breath. The only sounds I heard at that time were “Lubb..Dupp” :-)

I can describe it as a “happy ride” in few words. We were going to stay at the tourist lodge of the Forest Department that day. We took few of the necessities from Naihar, had awesome bath in the purest warm waters and were extremely hungry. Viru, the care-taker cum cook of the lodge, surprised us with yummy chicken curry made from ‘desi murga’ brought from the nearby village. Not a single rice grain was left on my plate! Meri tummy khush huyi.. :-) (Hope the ‘Hindlish’ was right.)
After a tasty meal, I sat on one of the chairs at the verandah and was getting warmed up in the afternoon sun. A herd of spotted deer was about thirty feet away down the slope. I found them quite acclimatized with human presence. They were least bothered about me and carried out their activities normally. Many of them were busy in salt replenishment at the salt-licks. Two males were testing their strengths after sharpening their antlers against tree trunks. Another group of three to four were standing beneath a big tree, all of them were staring upwards (seemed like they were watching an interesting soap opera!). I kept on wondering what could be up there on the tree. All of a sudden, the tree shook vigorously and few broken branches full of tender leaves fell from it. The deer-group started munching. ‘Patience’ was the key word that I remembered (Biswanath’s first lessons) every time when I got impatient. Few minutes later, I discovered to my utter surprise, that there was a troupe of langurs who were helping them out by breaking off the branches and throwing them down as the upper tree branches were inaccessible for the deer. Thus, I summed up two significant roles of langurs in the survival of the deer-race: giving alarm calls when a predator is nearby and providing them with food when needed. The harmonious interaction between these two species was a delightful sight.
As I became a little thoughtful about it, I heard an intermittent barking sound. Looking around, there was no dog nearby! After sometime, Viru knocked to come in to serve tea. When asked, he said, “Those are the barking deer (Indian Muntjac), Munni. They all remain together and move together for safety while foraging. They bark during fights and when they sense a predator.” Ahh! Deer that almost bark like dogs! Viru added, “The jeep for your jungle-safari is almost ready. The last trip is around 4:30 p.m. It will be dark and cold by the time you return.”

Get, set, go..That was our last trip to the jungle.

The sun was looking like egg-yolk in the plate of sky; its rays were making the best of their efforts to reach the ground through the gaps of sal forests. A jeep was returning from its trip and stopped by our side. The driver told, “do number mein haati mila aaj” (“we saw elephants in No.2”). No.2 referred to one of the road branches that I clarified later. “Haati!!!”..My eyes sparkled with joy.. :-) Mom was getting hinted about the budding ‘wildlife lover’ inside me and smiled. The afternoon breeze was like a soothing balm. I still have the smell of those was heavenly. Our driver, being informed, was driving stealthily. As I was looking at the anonymous white flowers in the bushes by the side, the jeep stopped suddenly. My head made its way to the front-glass of the jeep and my eyes startled at what I saw. A massive lone tusker stood blocking the jeep route. What a magnificent sight! But the male elephant didn’t seem to be alone as we felt movements and rumbling trumpets in the bamboo bushes on both sides. Our driver was quite nervous and was afraid to put off the engine. “In case of an engine failure, we will be smashed by these giants”, he said. But I felt the elephants getting more alarmed by our presence because of the jeep sounds. Biswanath told Zakir (the driver’s name), “engine bandh karo..hum sab abhi mare jayenge”..Seemed like we were stuck in the middle…there were two elephant groups on either sides in the bamboo bushes with the guarding leader standing in front of us. As those big fellows were having feast, we heard the sounds of breaking bamboo stems and felt the vibrations reaching all our senses. There was feeble light and Papa was about to click the tusker. Biswanath told, “Dada, aap flash use na kare to achha hoga.” Thinking about the impending danger, papa clicked without the flash. We stood still for about thirty minutes when the male finally went into the forest clearing our way.

I was so overwhelmed that I remained occupied with the thoughts quite for sometime. The sun was about to set. There were chirps all around as the birds were returning their homes too. On our way back, I suddenly saw a deep brown shadow at the distance in the woods. “I think there is something out there,” I said. The driver slowed down. To my utter surprise, it was a massive Indian Bison or Gaur (locally they called it a ‘bison’) !! As the temperatures went down, it was already cold. Vapors were being emitted along with loads of mucous from its nostrils.. :-) Its fur-coat was shining and the horns were quite thick with sharp ends. Leaving the gaur undisturbed, we headed back. God heard me at last. The last trip strengthened my jungle-love..which grew stronger and stronger..with each passing day of my life..


  1. maharani on trail but king time may be;another one will be shot but beware lest it not pounce on you...:}

  2. Beautifully expressed! Encouraging your acumen of writing about wildlife I can only say ------- Keep on writing, try to publish in print media. One correction only - the name Indian Gaur is not right. It should be Gaur only, which is also known as Indian Bison.

    1. Corrected. :-) Thank you very much but i think the standard of writing is not eligible enough for print media, do you really think so? I shall continue to write though.. :-)

    2. I do think so. I wrote so many articles in ABP,Anandamela, Bhraman,Sc. Reporter etc etc. From that exp. I can only say you have that capacity.

  3. beautiful article! plz keep it up!