A collection of tiger stories and pictures published on my Instagram account during the current season.
21st March 2020
The gripping drama of the tigers of Kanha has come to a temporary halt.
Yet it is still developing behind closed curtains.
Will the brave Jamuntola niche himself in the heart of the prime territory or will he be pushed out by the rused Umarpani ?
For growling is certainly still going on in the shadowy patches of forest, while the waterholes start to lure the animals with promises of cleanse and relief.
And one day the epilogue shall be revealed, a final act, in this crazy stage that we call the world.
8th March 2020
« But what does it mean, the plague ? It’s life, that’s all »*
Strange times are ahead, times of uncertainty.
I’ve always been a compulsive reader, and I can hardly help digging up literary memories about existential questions on pestilential doom.
In the heart of our wilderness, the insecurity of men has finally reached the jungle.
While the ant-like human circus has unashamedly let panic take over and escalate, a tigress innate behaviour is one of unfretted courage.
Waiting for an uncomfortable but necessary development, I shall remember this day, when a shy and elusive female crossed the road in front of me. Snarling, evidently unimpressed by the presence of those who were desperately trying to surf the wave of her magnetic allure.
*Albert Camus, The Plague.
25th February 2020
Try to step into her life.
Step into a life where you hold nothing but your fire.
Where you lose everything or you win it all, a Russian roulette of survival of the fittest.
Step into the life of Dhawajhandi female, Kanha’s most skillful huntress and experienced mother.
Tough is the life of a tigress, whose wisdom is learnt from blood, whose legacy is left through blood.
Fiercely raising her cubs in the heart of her lost mate’s territory, the memory of her past litter’s loss is alive in her cautious and shrewd behaviour.
A few males on the prowl are trying to occupy the space left vacant, electrifying the forest with the thunder of potential danger, looking for a fight.
Nothing but her fire can hold off the strength of the looming tempest.
12th February 2020
A tiger comes to mind. The twilight here
Exalts the vast and busy Library
And seems to set the bookshelves back in gloom;
Innocent, ruthless, bloodstained, sleek
It wanders through its forest and its day
Printing a track along the muddy banks
Of sluggish streams whose names it does not know
(In its world there are no names or past
Or time to come, only the vivid now)
And makes its way across wild distances
Sniffing the braided labyrinth of smells
And in the wind picking the smell of dawn
And tantalizing scent of grazing deer;
Among the bamboo’s slanting stripes I glimpse
The tiger’s stripes and sense the bony frame
Under the splendid, quivering cover of skin. (…)
Jorge Luis Borges, The Other Tiger.
9th February 2020
Fire, walk with me.
A shapeshifter, able to transcend any attachment, slipping in and out of shells, a tigress is preparing to hunt.
Like a seasoned Tai Chi practitioner, she breaths the air in and transforms it into pure energy and motion.
One of the principles of this ancient martial art prescribes the understanding of the difference between substantial and insubstantial, between density and lightness in the moving of one’s own frame.
The innate ethereal coordination of a predator stalking its prey has been compared to the slow-moving body art of the Chen style first routine, evocatively called silk reeling.
A spiral refined force, rather than brutal strength.
Pure fire and silk on the move.
30th January 2020
A note on tiger tracking.
How to find a naturally shy, elusive animal, whose nature is of the uttermost discretion, in an impenetrable forest ?
It’s hard work.
Forget the vast plains of Africa, the marvellous savannah where the game of predator and prey unravels in front of you with nonchalant eternity.
Here, in the heart of Central India, in the dense thick forest, the game of tigers is one of patience and strategy.
Although our blasé overconsumption of social media might suggest the opposite, finding a tiger is no easy task.
Hours spent waiting, listening to the sounds of the forest, interpreting the signs of nature.
Most often than not losing all hopes, and sometimes secretly wishing for the safari time to come to an end.
I have not been blessed by the gift of persistence. Easy to get annoyed, dreading any form of soporific numbing of time, the nemesis of queues and the inefficiency of daily life.
And then comes the tiger, the only creature who inspired me patience.
Tiger tracking can be painful, slow, sometimes pointless, a hopeless game of outsmarting a smarter creature.
And then, unexpectedly, the marvel of nature discloses in front of our eyes, just for a few minutes.
It’s all worth it. Keep waiting, keep tracking. Always expect the unexpected.
18th January 2020
“Why do you want to climb Mount Everest ?” “Because it’s there”. The answer given by George Mallory to some journalists prior to his 1924 famous mountaineering expedition has been written in the book of legend.
So glorious, yet so simple a statement.
The young explorer never came back from that mountain. His remains have only recently been found. Irivine’s, his rope companion, are yet to be discovered. He’s the one who was carrying the camera that might contain proof of their party having reached Mount Everest’s summit almost 30 years before Hillary and Norgay’s more acclaimed exploit.
If they did, the world might never know.
Did they know they were risking their lives ? Most definitely. Still, up there they went. Was it worth it ? The dead can’t tell.
But the epic sentence pronounced by Mallory is certainly his real legacy.
What is it that drives us to far away countries, to the wilderness, out of our comfort zone, working on projects that might seem far fetched to say the least ?
Mallory’s words remind us to follow our dreams, as wild as they can be. In today’s world, most of us will not venture in such an extreme and dangerous project. Yet, we can all relate and apply them to our daily lives.
That’s what I’d like to reply to the many appalled people who ask me why I have left the relative certainty of a life in a well-know country to venture looking for tigers. I did it, no matter the limitations, the language barriers, the difficulties and the daily uncertainties about the future.
To these people I’d like to say : well, why not ? Because they’re there.