This week, friends (Diya and Shaun) who had come a-visiting and I went to the Bannerghata National Park, a forest reserve outside Bangalore. There, we went on a safari in a caged bus. The funda is that the animals are loose in woody enclosures several kms across, and the humans are in cages on wheels. The animals think we are rolled in for their entertainment at certain times of the day, while we think it’s the opposite.
The bus drove into the tiger enclosure and stopped. An enormous tiger ambled onto the path we were on and pooped right in front of us. A little while later another tiger appeared, walking parallel to the bus about ten feet away. I was staring at this one as it padded past. It stopped, looked around, and its yellow-green eyes locked onto mine instantly. It resolved to take a closer look, so turned towards the bus and came straight up to MY window, never breaking (the by now hypnotic) eye contact. It then decided that the cage of the window was impeding its view so it bent under the window and tried to peer up at me through the gap between the metal wiring and the opening of the window (that would be atleast 4 inches wide). It was about a foot or less away from me at this point. I decided then that I still needed the use of both my arms and moved away.
Once eye contact was broken the tiger seemed to lose interest and walked away, all sardonic and muscular.
I have of course told this story to everyone I know with suitable embellishments. I think in a few months I will have jumped off the bus with a bow and arrow and gone chasing after it at the end of the story. A particularly sarcastic friend has commented that it sounded like an erotic story and that obviously even wild cats can’t resist my charm. Of course, the truth of the matter is that my entire charm lay in the fact that the tiger wouldn’t need to worry about food for at least two weeks after.
Others have commended my courage. (I truly have the most sarcastic bunch of friends and relatives EVER.) But really it took a bit of nerve to maintain eye contact with something that quite obviously considered you lunch. I’ve been told I didn’t have a choice because tigers hypnotize their prey and then pounce. But I maintain I’m a very courageous person.
I had an encounter with a monkey there too, but it just made me feel like I was home again, so it’s really nothing to write about.