by K Jambulingam


During holidays I go to jungles to have glimpse of animals and shoot then not with the gun but with camera. Last May when my daughter came from US we planned to spend a day or two at Mudumalai Nature Camp before proceeding to camp at the Island Hut in Parambikulam forest range. We left Bangalore in two jeeps. One 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 six hour drive we stopped at a tea stall. It was five PM and the sun was about to setting down in the Western Ghats. My son noticed that diesel is leaking in my jeep. We detected that the tube connecting the diesel tank sprayed diesel all over the engine whenever the engine was started. The tube had minute holes. My son and daughter decided to proceed to the camp before it was too late. I had to repair or replace the faulty tube and join them the next morning. 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 faint hope of getting some transport to reach the nearest town Gundalpet, eighteen kilometers away, to get a new rubber tube. There was no sign of any transport. The tea shop owner was preparing to close down the shutter. He told me to sleep on the bench for the night. My sleeping bag marked \"kay jay\" came to my rescue. I had sleepless night.

At five in the morning a lorry came and stopped at the tea shop. The driver of the lorry told me that since there was a ban on vehicle movement, he stopped. I remembered that the government had slapped a ban on the movement of any kind of vehicle from 6 A,M to 6 P.M. on that stretch from Bandhipur border to Mudumalai; So that the vehicles would not disturb the migration of animals from one jungle to the other.

I told the driver my problem. He readily agreed to help me. He pulled out the leaking pipe and wrapped a plastic paper and sealed it with the candle fire. He reaffixed the pipe and I started the engine. The diesel did not leak The driver went to sleep on the same bench where I spent the night.I had a cup of tea and started at 6 AM.I saw a motor cycle coming in front of me. I stopped. The young man told me that he did not see any wild animal on the way and I could carry on. I continued. While negotiating an uphill curve, I felt chill in the air. I was climbing down slowly. I reached the plains. 0n either side of the road was 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 sing board, \"Animals crossing: Go slow\". Before I could realize what was happening a few stags jumped across the road. I could have knocked one of them if I had driven faster or had they moved slowly. I became alert. 0n my right I saw a number of wild boars and at a distance on my left, a pack of jungle 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 off the engine. The jeep came to a halt after a few yards. I was about to get down.

To my shock I saw a bull elephant standing in the middle of the road. It was starring 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 eight elephants were crossing the road along with two calves. The drama of crossing was over. The bull went after the herd. After a safe distance it stood and looking at my jeep gave out another cry as if to tell me to go. I reached the camp. I narrated the 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. Therefore it did not chase you\".

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

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