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The Pointlessness Of Jungle Safaris

24/08/2016 8:56 AM IST | Updated 28/08/2016 9:06 AM IST
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Jerry Redfern via Getty Images

Human beings going on a jungle safari in a national park... what a ridiculous activity it is. I have been on quite a few of them myself and trust me I am not particularly proud.

We go to Jim Corbett National Park in hopes of seeing tigers, Gir Forest to see lions, Kaziranga to see rhinos and so on. Each state is famous for one or the other national park or wildlife sanctuary.

We go all dressed in track pants and leather jackets, hats, belts and boots. We carry all sort of fancy bags and rucksacks and water bottles. And of course, we shudder at the thought of not being able to bring back evidence, so we carry cameras and tripods and a whole bag full of lenses.

I mean, what is the big deal with a tiger paw? Tigers exist and they have paws and when they walk they leave marks.

When we reach the jungle we arm ourselves with all sorts of strategies to ensure that we get to spot the animal that we came to see. First, our tour guides create the perfect ambience of fear and adventure by narrating dramatic stories of how only the night before the deadly animal dragged a calf or a lamb or even a human inside the jungle. Then we are told what not to do while on the safari so that the animal comes right out of hiding and dances in front of us. And what to do if it happens to chase our safari jeep instead of dancing.

We love to create so much drama and suspense around the whole deal. We think of ourselves as great achievers if we manage to get a glimpse of the animal and feel utterly depressed if the mission fails.

This one time I went to Jim Corbett with some friends. Our guide told us a tigress that had just given birth to three cubs could always be spotted around the fences. These two English gentlemen who shared the dorm with us also said, "We happen to see the tigress and her cubs more often than we get to see our driver." They thought they were being funny but we were absolutely heartbroken. Why, why was the good tigress not interested in appearing before us? we asked our fate.

On day one, we took a jeep safari. Our guide kept advising us to be quiet lest the tigers get scared and go into hiding. But we wouldn't listen. So no tiger luck. Later, we blamed it on the terrible noise that the 1930 jeep made and decided to try an elephant safari the next evening.

What if a bunch of funny-looking creatures showed up, pointed at you and said, "Hey look she is eating popcorn." And the chorus would go, "Where where? There there!"

So there we were on elephant back, alert and quiet. Our eyes on the lookout for the slightest sign -- a tail somewhere, or the tips of the ears. Suddenly the guide said, "Look, there tiger paws!" In a frantic rush we got down from the elephant's back and bent over to closely see the great wonder that a tiger paw is. We took a few poignant moments to process the fact that was being established by the marks -- a tiger had just walked by this path. "Whoa, a tiger paw eh," we whispered at each other's ears.

I mean, what is the big deal with a tiger paw? Tigers exist and they have paws and when they walk they leave marks. What are we achieving by taking photographs of a tiger paw?

What is this fun we have in ogling at animals? Don't animals have the right to privacy? What is this curiosity about how they spend an ordinary day of their lives? Imagine you are sitting in your living room, watching a film and eating popcorn. What if a bunch of funny-looking creatures showed up, pointed at you and said, "Hey look she is eating popcorn." And the chorus would go, "Where where? There there. Ah yes, she is eating popcorn. Ooh she is eating popcorn."

Another time we were driving down from Ooty to Bangalore and near Madikeri there was a herd of elephants. Almost all the cars driving by either slowed down or pulled over and curious humans looked out car windows and pointed at the animals, "Hey look! Elephants!"

I couldn't help doing an imaginary voice-over, "Yeah I know I am an elephant, enough already, now move it. Go! Keep going you morons! You'll cause a traffic jam. And next time come in a limousine. I am sick of these same old cars you people drive."

We were out there to nail that tiger safari, but elephant farts made us shit in our pants. Human beings on a jungle safari in a national park...

I could so feel for that elephant which wore a disgusted look, really. Not that I know how an elephant's happy face looks, but still... I could tell it was not happy with the humans.

And don't even get me started on what might happen if you actually do encounter a fierce animal. I'll tell you what happened on that elephant safari in Jim Corbett. After spotting the pugmarks we were convinced that the owner of those paw-prints was somewhere close. Suddenly, shattering the silence of that evening, we heard a roar. My heart skipped a beat and I quickly asked our guide if tigers can jump all the way up to the elephant's back. He assured me they can't.

The tiger roared again and we were half dead with fright. And again. We all looked at each other, around and finally at the guide, "Why is he not reacting to the roars?" we wondered.

Then I saw. The elephant's tail went up and the roar was heard again. And we all smelled it together. The roaring sounds were that of the good elephant farting. That was the closest we got to seeing tigers in Jim Corbett.

We were out there to nail that tiger safari, but elephant farts made us shit in our pants. Human beings on a jungle safari in a national park...

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