Yes I was ecstatic. It was somewhere in the year 2001.
I call myself a nature lover and an 'adamant' one too and I can justify that quite well, but I can’t really deny the fact that I don’t come out to be a person who has a soft corner for animals, precisely (not talking about the social ones, Homo sapiens to be precise). This is because I’m scared of even the simplest forms of them (especially dogs) starting with the dachshunds to ducks (yes, they are not related but these are the ones which have totally freaked me out in my life).
Here's why I said ducks. The misery dates back 10 years (this is for the first time that I’m sharing the incident). We had visited the beautiful Upper Lake, in Bhopal. The bank of the lake sees many ducks roaming about beautifully. Of all the ducks, there was this particular duck which made my heart skip a beat. He was pretty normal except for the fact that he had a twisted beak in a way that he couldn't pick up food from the ground until someone fed him.
Everyone was feeding the ducks but amongst all, this particular duck came rushing to me. I still remember the moment. I got very scared (pathetic) and because of that fear, even though I wanted to feed it, I couldn’t. It kept coming to me and I kept running away from it. I was very heavy in my heart but felt helpless. Being a reserved person where showing emotions are concerned, I couldn’t share my dilemma with anyone. Suddenly my dad called me and I rushed towards him. While I was leaving I kept looking back at him (shit, I can feel that helpless feeling and anger at my stupid behavior even today. I’m all flushing).
10 years have passed, yet that memory is etched in my mind. Though scared of animals even today, I know that I do not want to repeat that behavior and want to help them from my heart.
A few days back something happened which made me remember the story of the duck and which gave me a chance to make up for my stupid act...I was standing outside my office when my eyes went up at a hoarding. It said ‘just 1411 tigers left. Save them’ and wheeled me back to the Summer of 2001, when I had visited one of my most favorite places- Bandhavgarh National Park, in Madhya Pradesh. Till date I can feel the magic of that place. I remember staying at a wood house and watching deer roaming about in our compound. I remember entering the huge park in an open jeep moving slowly on a carefully made path, through the lush green carpets. Monkeys and their babies embracing them round their stomachs kept crossing our way. It was all very blissful. Even before our trip had commenced, our guide had forecasted that we would get lucky with the tigers (as they come out in the open during summers). We had just covered a small distance when his forecast came true. He stopped the jeep near a huge elephant and made us get on its back (its body was prickly and I was damn scared). Even before I had settled myself comfortably, the elephant started walking and halted after a few seconds of walk. I was still convalescing from the shock, when I saw the scariest and the most amazing sight of my life- a huge tiger sitting comfortably, just a few feet away from us and staring directly at our direction. It was fantastic. Soon we saw about 11 more of them within 2 days, much more than we had dreamt of.
I wanted to relive those 2 days and visit Bandhavgarh again and still want to. But today I’m scared. Scared about whether or not I’ll be lucky this time. What’s dwindling my confidence is the statistics. I’m not sure that the tigers will survive the wrath of time and poachers.
But this time I don’t want to sit helpless. 10 years from now, I do not want to regret not doing my part. I do not know what’s my role in this attempt, but I’m ready to act, to save our national animal, to save one of the most wondrous and mightiest creatures of all times. Are you ready?