The grass was all burnt out by the heat of the summer of Central India. The trees wore a barren look waiting for the rains to arrive and hardly took the trouble of providing any shade. Still she hopefully nudged the earth in search of a succulent tender shoot or maybe a tuft of grass which had eluded the scorching sun. She was a young deer just grown out of fawnhood. Her coat of white spots and gold shone brightly with the promise of life. Her herd lazed about. The proud stag with magnificent antlers stood chewing a mouthful of dry grass. His harem threw him adoring glances from time to time. The fawns did not care about the heat and chased each other in a game of catch me if you can. They were a contended lot in the jungle where the tiger ruled. They feared not since they had security from above. A group of langurs were dozing on the branches of a jamun tree but their sentry sat alert high above on the topmost branch. He scanned the deep gullies and the golden grasslands for any signs of danger.
She was content though a little more grass, tender and green, would have been most welcome. She kept on searching. As she neared the corner of a large boulder the alarm rang out from top of the jamun tree. ‘kharrr khaaarrrr kheack kharrrr…’. The sentry had spotted danger and was looking at a bush directly behind her. The call galvanized everybody into action….. the langur pack scrambled higher up. Mothers clutched their babies while the males took up the call. Her herd scattered like the dry leaves in a storm. She knew the meaning of the call and knew by instinct that if unheeded she would meet a terrible fate.
With a fluent flick of her leg she soared over the boulder….. another flick and she cleared the danger and landed on the other side. That landing was not fluent. Fate had placed a hole dug up by the wild boar at exactly the same spot where her left hind leg landed. The sound of breaking was audible as the tibia splintered in two. She crashed to the ground but instinct told her to get up and run. However, run she could not. The left hind leg uselessly dangling and limp did not permit anything but an extremely painful limp. She managed to drag herself to the grassland bordering Boat Camp dam and slowly lowered herself down in the only patch of greenery for miles around. She vanished in the tall grass but her vanishing trick had not gone unseen. This was the domain of the Jackal and one of the new mothers had seen the vanishing trick of the Jackal and she moved in for the kill.
This is where the Jackal mother met the Hulk of Boat Camp. He was the bull Gaur of a large herd and he was pursuing a young Gaur lady with all his massive but clumsy charm. He and his lady were very near the grassy patch where the fawn had taken shelter. The Hulk saw the slinking form of the Jackal mother. He resented any slinking creature near his lady love and charged the Jackal mother. Those thundering hooves were too much for the puny jackal and she bolted. Having seen the Jackal off, the Hulk turned back towards his lady love and the Jackal made her move again. She was discovered and again the charge took place. The Jackal ran for her life but came back again as soon as the Hulk turned.
This went on for some time but by this time the fawn had understood her danger and limped across as stealthily as she could towards the road from where I was watching the tragedy unfold from my Gypsy. The Hulk at last lost interest in the Jackal and decided to leave the scene and disappear over a hillock. Finally the Fawn was at the mercy of the Jackal mother. The Jackal immediately trotted across towards the Fawn which looked at approaching death with terrified eyes. Just as the Jackal was about to pounce upon her prey, she noticed the Gypsy and retreated but did not disappear but sat down nearby under a tree. The waiting game began. The Fawn was unable to move anymore and the Jackal knew that her time would come. I waited unable to move away from the drama unfolding. However, shortly it dawned on me that since I could not tamper with the laws of Mother Nature, it would be best to leave the scene and let nature take its course.
As the sun was getting low I drove on towards the dam. I shall never ever forget the look in those liquid eyes of the Fawn as it watched helplessly towards my vanishing trail and then turned towards the Jackal who was about to get up, to face her fate. A quarter of an hour later I returned the same way as dusk was gathering. The space was quite empty. An eerie silence and the throbbing of the Gypsy engine greeted each other as I searched in vain for a little spotted form, brave yet doomed. I was too tiny a spoke in the huge wheel of Nature and I knew the futility of my searching eyes.
Pench or for that matter, any other place where man has not stamped his uncivilized hands has many stories to tell if one has the ears to listen, eyes to see and a heart to feel.
(An article written by Pralay Lahiry. Can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and on +919830448569)