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Tango with Tiger Cubs

Looking at a tiger in his natural habitat; the jungles, roaming freely is a treat to the eyes. It’s altogether quite a different experience than seeing a tiger in a cage. It sends a shudder down the spine peeping into the crystal eyes of a tiger standing bay side looking at you. It’s mystifying, it’s intimidating. Any idiotic move and he can pounce on you; stand erect looking unflinchingly in his eyes and he will move on his path. Just fleecing air of his powerfully menacing paw can tear apart any of your limb.

I learnt that the aggressive tiger attempting to jump at its prey curtails it tail in his hind legs. Baba hypothesized the psyche of tiger saying that it might be his attempt to save his long tail from injuring or it might help him making a perfect jump. It’s anybody’s guess.
I have seen the tiger in his various vivid moods; hungry, fed, annoyed, relaxed, jogging, sleeping. And all his postures attracted me.

Those were the days when a good camera was a luxury and a coloured film was outrageously impossible to buy otherwise I would have an enviable collection of tigers’ photos.

Tiger’s simmering striped golden and black skin in the backdrop of wild hay competes with rising sun as if to say that who is more imposing. Unlike many misconceptions, tiger doesn’t attack for nothing and one can easily pass by him. Though he shows his displeasure by grunting for invading his privacy but doesn’t move until he feels danger to his life.
This is true for all the wild creatures except for Bison and Wild Dogs who are always hungry. Bison in the jungle is similar to an encounter with God of Death. It can uproot a timber tree with a single blow of his rock hard head.

And you ought to be exceptionally lucky to survive to narrate your encounter with bunch of “Son Dogs” or wild dogs. These wild dogs are exceptionally patient hunters. They keep on waiting around until you drop the guard from your safety zone in their orbit. And they don’t allow you to scream before tearing you apart in a matter of seconds.

Though lion is more powerful; it can jump a twenty feet high wall carrying a fully grown buffalo in his mouth, tiger is the designated king of jungles because unlike lions; that lives in a group, tiger lives alone.

Tiger is not a greedy animal. Tiger doesn’t save his food and make a kill only when he is really hungry. He leaves his prey after filling his belly to the scavengers. Only an old or injured tiger normally return to its hunted prey.

This beautiful animal is near to extinction and need to be saved for our own survival to maintain the delicate ecological balance.

Tiger has historically and mythically been associated with valour and power as a challenge for men that culminated in brutal killing of the specie by gun totting Kings & Nawabs. And the fancy concoction using his bones and marrow to regain the virility in the world of mindless rich is contributing to the killing of this wonderful animal.

Believe it or not, among all wild animals, tiger is the most decent and innocent creature. I have this wonderful experience to share. Driving down the hills of Chiklod a jeep full of giggling lady guests after a picnic and safari in the jungle in the day, we encountered a tiger lying lazily ahead of us. Suddenly a silence engulfed all the tinkling voices. Since it was a steep slope around a bend, it was difficult to reverse the jeep to take other route. My Grandpa sitting by the side assured us by his life- long experience in jungles and produced a voice very much like that of shout from his throat. After a few moments, the tiger rose and looked at us as if in disdain and walked away, leaving our path.

Rivers in deep dense forests, full of rich variety of fauna & flora in and around Satna, Panna and Chhattarpur are hilly in nature, not very deep but the stream is fast and turbulent that doesn’t make it easy to cross the river. River Dhasan is notoriously infamous for its dangerous surprises. You are standing in toe-deep water a moment ago and a sudden gush of turbulent water due to heavy downpour somewhere above the stream can carry you miles without even allowing you to gasp for a moment. Most of the time, it is extremely impossible to survive for the victim.

Water is crystal clear and one can easily see the embedded rocks and flowing fish. There I saw, tigress fishing in the river with swift movements of her paw. I was standing at a height. It was an experience to savour for the life. My Grandpa told me that the tigress might have given birth to cubs in nearby area. Since the tigress doesn’t leave her cubs away from her eyes, feeding herself and her cubs with fish meat available near is not a surprise.

We moved to a different location there we learnt of poaching of a tigress. Instantly that tigress by the river flashed in my mind. Grandpa’s team of forest guards reached the spot to find the handiwork of professionals. Professional poachers shoot the animal a little bit above the belly to let the animal dye gradually but definitely from internal bleeding that doesn’t destroy the skin and important bones.

The search party found three cubs, hardly a week or two old, in nearby bushes. There was every danger to their lives if left there, therefore Grandpa managed to carry the cubs to home. Unfortunately, one of the cubs died on our way home despite every possible care. It was the beginning of my romance with the tiger cubs in my home that lasted for about three months.

Couple of weeks, initially were of anxiety and apprehensions. Wild infants in captivity, away from their natural habitat, without their care taking mother, are difficult to survive. It was difficult for Hari Ram and other attending forest guards to feed and tend the almost drowsy cubs. Then the veterinary surgeon at disposal had little or no idea of the health of the cubs.

I’m not good at playing any musical instrument but trying my hands on guitar and bongo was some sort of outlet of my emotions. I used to play with the strings of guitar in my happy mode and I’ll let my foul mood by hitting on the bongo. That day I was playing with strings of my guitar sitting on my bed and Hari Ram was trying to feed the cubs with home delivered milk by feeding bottle. As if the cubs rose from a slumber. Noticing some noise, I looked in the direction and to my surprise I found both the cubs sucking milk with ease and napping. Next they opened their eyes and started moving in my direction. I continued stirring the strings and the cubs kept on moving in rhythmic movement. Their contents and quality of food changed but they were best behaved when fed when I played my guitar.

Fed on chicken soup, milk and care, they became small monster and notorious. In a month, these cubs will jump on the giant bed and tear the pillows. I had the experience to tackle our giant Hunter German Shepherd, but these cubs, though smaller in size took all the strength to pull them back. Their appetite was increasing and so was increasing their wild muscular power. Now we started serving them dressed chicken and boiled lamb meat. And that day, one of the cubs broke open the bolted door by his sheer power of his front paws.

Their day of departure arrived when a cub licked the knee of my Grandpa and injured it. The licking had bruised the knee that the blood had appeared. Cubs were not cubs anymore but now they were carefree young kids ready to take fight. A three months old tiger is as dreadful as a three year old tiger; the only difference is in the sheen of their skin. Now it was extremely dangerous to keep them at home away from their natural habitat. Any more delay in leaving them to their natural home had to be dangerous to their own survival.

A cloud of gloom had descended in my roving eyes.

(Excerpts from the "Confessions of a Certified Idiot")

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About The Author

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Rakesh Kumar Shrivastava

Academic/Science/Research

Madhya Pradesh ,  INDIA

My profile can be writeen on the reverse of of a revenue stamp (borrowing from Khushbant Singh on Amrita Pritam).

I am a medical professional studied, practiced and taught medicine in India and USA.

Presently, working as a Consultant in Advanced Medicine in Bhopal ( India)

Like reading and writing (ocassionally).

Dr. Rakesh Kumar Shrivastava

MD(AIIMS),FACP(USA),FICA(Boston),FCCP(USA)

E-2/ 265, Arera Colony, Bhopal - 462016

Telephone : 0755- 4249973, 4249982

Mobile : +919893054254

Email: drrakeshshrivastava@hotmail.com

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