27 December, 2016

Kanha Tiger Reserve

I remember reading about Secret Service Agents. You know the ones whom would sit in a corner and scan the entire room while being focused on everything that was happening. They’d notice every movement and every conversation each person was making and would be the first ones to react to any change.

I am different. I can barely focus on the task I’m working on for more than 5 minutes even when it is the only thing I have to do. I never quite understood these mavericks who had that broad vision and yet attention to everything.

And that brings me to my recent trip to Kanha. Kanha National Park is one of the tiger reserves of India. Stretching over 1,945 sqkm expanding over forests and meadows, Kanha is big. BIG. In fact it took our jeep over 4 hours to cover every track inside the forest in hopes of seeing the Royal Bengal Tiger. But more on that later.

As the jeep goes through the jungle, it offers a sight unimaginable for eyes born and brought up in cities. The vast jungle is accompanied by stretches of meadows or open grasslands which expand as far as the eyes can see. You may compare it to looking at the ocean from a beach, but this is different. There may be signs of activity far off. You might mistake a deer for a tree or a far-off bison for a rock. You can never be too careful about what you might miss. For as far as you can see, you better be attentive? Because no rules that you can think of apply in the jungle. Animals are good at blending in with their surroundings and you never know where they might come out of and when they might attack you, much like they don’t know when they might have to fight or take flight for their own lives. Your eyes show you more than you’ve ever seen. No walls or buildings block your vision. There’s nothing to focus on. And yet one moment of complacence might mean the difference between life and death. You’re always ready, yet you have nothing particular to be ready for. So you are focused on nothing, except the entire jungle.

The perspective widens. To me, it opened a new way of “seeing” things. As if my mind didn’t know that my eyes were even capable of seeing something like this. It was a very literal rendition of the words “the complete picture”, when you have something to see for as far as it is possible to see. After a while it didn’t remain about spotting a tiger. I admired the forest itself rather than the deer, elephants, bulls, and monkeys crossing our path every so often.

Time and again we’d stop to see an elephant crossing, or a bison drinking from a lake, or monkeys just hanging out and being monkeys. One very captivating scene we stopped for was a bunch of deer and monkeys hanging out together. They were intermingling, lying on the ground together, sharing a drink from the pond, chewing leaves… basically they were being buds. It was like seeing my company’s IT team mingling with the marketing guys in a company picnic. But it also showed that this was a place where they had no fear, for the jungle is a place where you always live in fear of predators. But they seemed to have found a nice spot for themselves to hang out and feel free. And it was a little ironic to see monkeys being more relaxed in life in general than I was. Made me doubt if human evolution was really such a good idea.

I’m back at home now, reminiscing about the trip. Part of me wants to go back and see that beautiful expanse again (the rest of me is thinking about lunch). Maybe I’ll go back. Maybe I won’t. Most probably I’ll go somewhere else and find something even more stupendous. Till then, my mind keeps going back to those Secret Service Agents. Sometimes you need to experience a perspective to understand it. Sometimes it comes in the form of advanced military training. Sometimes, it comes in sitting in an open jeep going through a jungle trying to spot a Royal Bengal Tiger.