Sunday, May 17, 2009

Elephants in the Mist

It's been a little while. Vacation actually makes you busy, especially if you are parenting alone! This piece is overdue by three weeks and I always agree when someone tells me, "Better late than never".

Bandipur, in April, is really sweltering. The waterholes are empty, the grass is dry as tinder and fires are not uncommon. The elephants and gaur prefer to migrate to greener pastures in Kabini and Wyanad. It is therefore very nice to go out into the jungle and be enveloped in a pleasant mist in the middle of summer.

Summer showers follow me and when I drove into Bandipur Safari Lodge my friend Gangaswamy was there to greet me. He had a wry smile as he commented, "You got the rain with you again sir?". Then he added, "It's good for tourism, the waterholes will fill up and the grass will sprout again. The elephants and gaur will stay". I was glad he acknowledged my contribution to the tourism industry. If not anything, at least I'd have contributed to a pleasant stay.

So when we went out into the jungle the following morning I was not expecting much by way of wildlife. After all summer was peaking and the herbivores would have migrated. The clouds that followed me was still overhead. I would probably not have to take my camera out this morning. The mist had cut visibilty to less than 50 meters and the light wasn't too good. That was till we came across this herd. 

Next to a tree by a salt lick were two ladies. The weather seemed to have affected them too. Looking very unhappy, the only movement was their waving ears.

Then one of them woke up from the stupor hearing the rumble of the jeep's engine. As she realized that we were not moving she became annoyed at the disturbance. She started towards us.

As she came forward she seemed to remember something and halted in mid stride; then she wheeled around and ran off into the trees squealing in protest.

The outstretched trunk was desperately signaling to someone or something hidden in the copse of trees she was running towards.

Almost as if she was telling someone, "Go away! Scram! There's danger here".

Once she reached the cover of the trees she signalled her companion to also return to her side. The companion too appeared disturbed when she realized the reason for the agitation.

Then the real reason for the commotion appeared on the scene. A calf, perhaps a year old and undoubtedly curious. No wonder the adults were going berserk.

It was the turn for another one to take up the charge, and she did. Like others, she too wheeled around at the last minute and returned to the safety of the herd.

Finally, after they realized that we were not budging, wisdom prevailed. The herd gathered together and wandered off into the mist. Mother, aunts, cousins and all.

After all, summer has it's own share of surprises. Bandipur never disappoints. It never has & never will. My favourite pilgrimage spot in the world.

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