The Tiger & The Sweets
Today, I may be a law student but somewhere down the line, during late 2000, I was also a kid. A kid with no legal sense and no understanding of law, all I had was an ordinary sense, little and raw. So, here I take this opportunity of putting on paper that rarest of rare incidences of my life. An incident which taught me lessons forever, made me stronger than ever and has left an indelible mark both on my memory and personality. It was the time of late December in 2002. The whole year had been altogether really cherishing and it was time to make it ever memorable before bidding adieu to it.
After successfully finishing with the half yearly exams of sixth standard, me and my family planned an excursion to the Ranthambore National Park at Sawaimadhopur, Rajasthan. The major objective was to see a tiger and also to appreciate the natural scenic beauty of the lush green forests for the first time in our lives. We hired a personal gypsy for this purpose and a professional guide accompanied us. The greenery of the jungle and scary sounds of so many animals and birds welcomed us to the National Park. Large number of deer and antelopes at every three-four kilometers or so was a usual thing. Their various activities added to the charm and beauty of the entire trip. But the ultimate desire and anxiety to see a tiger was increasing with the passage of time. With every passing moment, the closing time was approaching nearer and the hope of sighting a tiger was slowly and gradually dying.
Although, our driver and guide were quite determined for it and left no stones unturned, but still things did not work. They even drove the gypsy towards the restricted and dangerous part for the same but that did not make any difference. They showed extreme courage and took the risk of taking the vehicle on the pathway which had some thirty feet tall, wild and pale yellow grass on both its sides. There was fear in the mind on one hand and excitement on the other as the sighting of a tiger was for sure. At that very moment, I had an intuition that it was not the sighting of the tiger but something unexpected was to happen.
Indeed, it did and to our utter disappointment the gypsy broke down then and there. Moreover, we had already crossed the said time limit and within no time the entire forest turned dark. It was accompanied by an unusual silence and an atmosphere of gloominess. The driver was trying his best to bring the ignition back in working condition. The hearts and minds of all six of us were terribly horrified to the deepest extent possible. Everyone was trying his/her level best not to bring it on their faces to make each other comfortable.
But something altogether different was going on in the mind of my little sister which is certainly worth mentioning. Although small in age then, she very well anticipated the fact that a tiger could be around at any moment. She opened her packet of sweets and biscuits and was quite prepared to offer it as and when the tiger arrived just as we use to do to Tommy at home. Well, that sweet little girl who is now a matured grown up brought broad smiles on our faces and relieved us from tension. The wireless connectivity also failed t and we were badly stuck up in a situation which would lead to something of which only God knew. Like most Indian ladies, my mother was also very religious and spiritual, not to forget emotional too. She started taking the names of all Gods she could remember of and the moment she would break down in tears was not far away. My father had already given a hint of it earlier only. We both shared the greatest sense of understanding of emotions and he winkled at me just to prove his point.
All this was taking place in the midst of where we were caught between life and death. To add to the plight, that guide started narrating stories of previous incidences like these and how every time he had emerged as a hero by saving various lives at such times. On asking that what kind of heroics he would be showing then, his reply has been pricking my mind since then. He went on to say that he would make use of his special tactics only when everything failed. I do not know about anyone else but at that very moment the tiger inside me got instigated and I just felt like eating him away. It was between all these funny and tense moments that my father maintained his calm and composure. He was trying his best to provide assistance to the driver in whatever manner he could. He understood that the need of the hour was to act with intellect rather than with the unconditional flow of emotions. This is one of the many reasons I admire him for and worship him as my hero.
God has been in control of our lives since the day we were born and shall always remain forever. There are various instances when He rewards us and also when he tests us. I think that day belonged to the latter as it was a test of nerves and our patience, our courage and above all our belief in our own selves. I feel he got a mixed response from us specially my sister and my father but was convinced enough to finally reward us with something. Fortunately, it was not the tiger coming out of the wild grass to swallow us as its dinner. But just as every sunrise brings a new ray of hope, rays from the torches of the forest rangers far away brought back life in us. They keep a count of the vehicles to ensure that the same number of vehicles exit which had entered in the beginning. Rules are strictly followed there and we still regret the fact that we broke rules which even the President of the US had followed during his visit there earlier that year. We thanked the Almighty from the bottom our hearts as the rangers were no less than messengers sent by God Himself.
On the way back, my sister was utterly disappointed that she could not offer even a single sweet to the tiger. Well, that was the only thing left for us to munch upon and the sweets tasted sweeter than ever.
Eight long years have passed but the memories of the last month of the year 2002 are still fresh in my mind. I must say that our quest to make it a memorable one before entering the New Year was certainly fulfilled. Since then, I have matured a lot and very well understood the lesson that hardships and happiness are just the two sides of the same coin known as life. Both exist simultaneously and the absence of any of them reduces the value of the other.
P.S.: Heartfelt gratitude and a token of appreciation to a dear friend who clicked these wonderful pictures on a recent visit to this place. The author can be reached here.