The Hunt

Sandeep Tambe

The night is dark, -- pitch dark and silent, just the lapping of the waves at Padam Talao. The silence is occasionally broken by the shrill and eerie did he do it --- did he do it of the Red Wattled Lapwing. The air is heavy with dew, the tall trees surrounding the lake are swaying and murmuring in hushed tones. You are in Tiger country, Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve - Rajasthan, one of the last strongholds of the Tiger, beautiful, concealed and at its fascinating best.

Hardly discernible is a shadow, a striped shadow as it glides past. A herd of spotted deer make their way towards the lake. Ears pricked, tails upright, sensing the air, darting glances- caution personified. Each step is taken with utmost care as it could make that small difference which separates precious life from death. A mother shields and caresses her one week old fawn who playfully, mischievously, frolics along. The journey to the life giving water is fraught with danger, some may not make it !

This is the struggle between the prey and the predator, perfected over eons, replayed countlessly- fierce, tense and sudden. Untouched, unspoilt and preserved in the amber of time. The shadow inches forward, belly sticking to the ground. An ingenuous display of stealth, ambush and guile. The distance between the prey and predator is thinning. For a brief moment the fawn leaves its mother side, the shadow senses its kill, the rippling muscles grow taut and then suddenly there is a blinding flash followed by a thunder-clap.

The shrieks of the peafowls, the deep booming of the langurs, the alarm calls of the Sambhar and a heart rending roar pierce the stillness of the night. The smell of death is in the air. The shadow, the unstriped shadow, reloads the Kalashnikov, climbs down from the Machan and admires the booty.

You can still find the tiger, in parts albeit. Its beautiful skin adorning the wardrobe of some Arabian princess. Its bones, crushed and mixed with honey, along with the saliva of snake providing the recipe to eternal bliss in some Chinese medicines shop. Its gall stones, the prized possessions in the downtown herbal medicine center in Taiwan.

The Tiger - the light of the Indian forests is no more. Its last roar echoing in the valley growing goes unheard. As long as the stock market is bullish and the forex reserves are increasing who cares ? That's what really matters -- right ?

Last modified on: Tue Apr 5 15:37:03 2005