On Not Sighting Tiger in Kanha

Uday Kumar Varma

The disappointment is so palpable and the dismay so intense that men and women; and children also in substantial measure, feel crestfallen as they conclude their visit to Kanha – the premier tiger reserve of the country. This frustration and agony that most visitors invariably face is because of their inability; or rather the lack of luck in getting a glimpse of the elusive tiger. For many, it is only a flitting glimpse indeed. Some, however, are lucky to get a longer lasting, minutes- long darshan of the King.

Gaur – the tallest species of the wild cattle

No splendid tete-a tete with the lustrous black bulky beauties of bovine masculinity, no spectacle of hundreds of spotted deer galloping across the meadows, no lasting view of the rare and endangered hard ground barasingha, no intimidating encounter with a pack of wild dogs they call “dhole”, brings the exhilaration and excitement to the onlooker as even a mere hint of an apparition which their guide in whispering tones suggests was that of a tiger. And to be able to see it for a few minutes is deemed as coveted and exalted an achievement, as conquering Mt. Everest.

And who cares for the multitude of sonorous calls and tweets and sounds that emanate from every nook and corner of the forest. The thousands of avian fauna that is part of the rich and diverse ecosystem of Kanha, carries little importance to the multitudes that throng Kanha every day. They are as mindful of these musical sounds as they are of the jarring motor horns in the places they come from. For them, such sounds are of no consequence.

The subtle and rhythmic music of a silent jungle, fails to stimulate their finer senses. And please do not mention to them the variety of trees and shrubs and bushes and grasses and the undergrowth that makes Kanha what it is today. For most, one tree is as good as any other. The grandeur and magnificence of a sprawling Banyan tree or the tall sprightly straight arboreal pulchritude of a Sal grove, or the lush green canopies of Mahua, evokes no sentiments.

Magnificent Tiger

This is a Tiger centric place. Here, everything revolves around tiger, sighting it the ultimate high, the pinnacle of triumph and ecstasy of the visitor.

Evergreen magnificence of Kanha

No guide talks to them about the footprints of the denizens of this dark beautiful dense parcel of evergreen magnificence. No one talks about the hundreds of birds that inhabit the trees, the shrubs and the grasses. No one talks about the brightly hued and richly patterned butterflies, the beautiful insects of all shapes and sizes. Because Tiger overshadows everything in this land.

Dead Leaf Mantis, Kanha Tiger Reserve, Photo: December 27, 2013

Tiger may have been described by Jim Corbett as a large-hearted gentleman but the ones who manage their lives in the modern Wild Life Resorts and control their lives are anything but gentle, their understanding and attitudes, their perceptions and practices, their ambitions and greed, moved and motivated by only one consideration, creating wealth.

Their actions may gratify John Maynard Keynes and make him smile in his grave but Darwin must be turning pale and pallid as he increasingly witnesses human thought and endeavor controlled and dominated by an unprecedented lust for money, enslaved by the objectification of everything around them, and dictated by a greed that refuses to be subdued or subjugated.

Tiger pugmark

The day a normal average visitor to Kanha will stoop with curiosity and excitement over a freshly implanted footprint of a tiger with as much interest as if he were standing face to face with the royal master of his realm and enjoy the process as much, the day the chirping and singing of birds will delight the hearts of men and women who come to these reserves, the day the changing hues of the vegetation arouses the inquisitive minds of people, that day will be the day to celebrate the triumph of the keepers of this famed niche of unrivalled slice of nature’s grandeur and the creator’s majesty. That will be the day when the Wild Life Experts should raise a toast to the triumph of tiger’s conservation.

Also Read: Kanha National Park: Revisiting some Impressions after Forty Years

The author, Uday Kumar Varma, a 1976 batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, was Secretary Information & Broadcasting, member of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and member of the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council, a self-regulatory body for general entertainment channels. As Secretary I&B, he spearheaded the nationwide digitisation programme.

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