I am not a big fan of wildlife safaris. Especially the ones on shaky loud smoke spewing group jalopies that are sent like jagged shards into the heart of a silent forest.
Picture this. We moved into a one of the first gated communities in Bangalore (some claim first in India) in early 2003. Gated communities were uncommon those days. The developer was also eager to sell more villas in this community and also plug his new properties to dotcom-bust beaten young folk returning back from the west. One Sunday morning as I walk up to the pavement outside my villa (in my tee and boxers) to pick up the dailies I see a chaperoned crowd walking the streets. There are aged folks in churidhar-kurta, straw hat, white sports shoes with a camera. There are young Indian parents with a strong American accent and Gatorade. There are kids in strollers dozing off in their strip mall discount brand clothes. I am standing there. They pass me by in silence. After a few minutes the chaperone says ‘This is a 2000 square feet villa. And the newspaper delivery can be arranged as soon as you move in’. An old lady takes a picture of a disheveled me. The flash fires.
I am sure that the tiger we stalked in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve felt the same way I did.
I have been on safaris and never liked them (except for an elephant back in Mudumalai, but that is a different post). So on a morning in late October we board a large converted open-top Mitsubishi Canter to get into the forest. We drive through beautiful lakes with perched cormorants into Zone 5, the assigned area that our vehicle can access. We aimlessly wander around till we meet a Jeep and the guide tells us that there is a tiger ahead. There are four Canters and two Jeeps that stalk the tiger to a watering hole where she rests. After a while we are all bored and loud banter starts. I am sure the tiger is bored too. We left as violently as we came into her privacy.
Why is there an obsession to see wildlife up close and personal? Why is this human urge to barge into the privacy (well protected) of other beings? Why build a reserve and force yourself on it?You have seen those blokes who poke into holes and pull a snake by the tail. Or walk down to the water and wrestle a basking alligator. They film it and share it. Why?
If I had the power I would ban safaris or create silent observation towers that can be at strategic spots. Move people there through silent winches or ropeways. I will also make it exorbitant and not affordable by those lunatics who crack loud ‘Kapil’ jokes as they watch the tiger.
I will keep the animals safe from these predators.