An Encounter With the Elephants

by K Jambulingam

During School holidays, I usually go to the jungles to have glimpses of the wild life and shoot them: not with the gun but with camera. Last May, when my daughter came from US, we planned to spend a day or two in Mudumalai Nature Camp before proceeding to the Island Hut in Parambikulam forest range.We left Bangalore in two jeeps. 0ne jeep was driven by my son and daughter alternately. In the other, I carried the tents, water bottles, sleeping bags, rations, camera stands and two jerry cans with diesel.After a six hour drive from Bangalore we stopped at a teashop. It was 5 PM. My son noticed that diesel was leaking from the engine of my jeep. We detected that the tube connecting the diesel tank sprayed diesel all over the engine when ever the engine was started. The tube had minute holes. We decided that my son and daughter would proceed to the camp before it was too late. I had to repair or replace the faulty tube next morning and join them in the camp. They bid good bye. My daughter told me"to take care'. My son remarked that the old guard (referring me) would manage any situation. They left.

I was waiting on the main road with the hope of getting some transport to reach the nearest town Gundalpet, eighteen kilometers away. There was no sign of any transport. The tea shop owner told me to sleep on the bench. I thanked him for the hospitality shown. My sleeping bag marked 'kay Jay' came to my rescue and I slept without dinner. I almost had a sleepless night.

At five in the morning a lorry came and stopped at the tea stall. The driver of the lorry told that since there was a ban on vehicle movement, he stopped. Then I realized why my children went in a hurry. The Government had slapped a ban on the movement of any kind of transport from 6 PM to 6 AM.on that stretch. So that the vehicles would not disturb the migration of animals from one jungle to the other.I told the driver about my problem. He told that it was a common problem and he was ready to solve it. He pulled out the leaking pipe and w rapped a plastic condom and covered the leaking part and sealed it with candle fire. When the tube was refixed , it did not leak or spray any diesel. I thanked him. He went to sleep on the wooden bench where I spent the night. I requested for a cup of tea from the tea stall owner and he obliged. I started at 6 AM.I saw a motor cycle coming in my way. I stopped the bike. The rider told me that he did not see any wild animal on the way. I continued. While negotiating an up hill curve I felt the chill in the air. Slowly I was climbing down. I reached the plains.0n either side of the road was a mixed jungle with huge trees and thick bushes. The road was wet with occasional drizzling. The fog prevented my vision beyond twenty feet. Every now and then I came across the sign "Animals crossing point, go slow". Before I could realise what was happening, a few stags jumped across the road and disappeared into the jungle. I could have knocked one of them, if I had driven faster or had they moved slowly. I became alert. On my right, I saw a number of wild boar and at a distance on my left a pack of wild dogs lying under a huge tree. I was contemplating to stop the vehicle for a while to have a closer look at them. I switched of the engine. The jeep rolled for a few yards and came to a halt.I was about to get down.

To my shock I saw a bull elephant standing in the middle of the road. It was staring at my jeep. I stood still. I knew any movement would have irritated the bull. Keeping an eye on my jeep, he gave out a small cry. The next moment, a herd of six elephants were crossing the road along .with three calves . The drama of crossing was over. The bull went after the herd and at a safe distance it stood and looking at me gave out another cry. As if ,to tell me to go on my way.I reached the camp. I narrated the whole incident.

My daughter said," Daddy, the bull might have thought that sixty five year old man in the sixty year old jeep would do no harm to the herd".

I said," It is their right to cross the road and only men are intruders in their teritory".

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