Sunday, 3 May 2009

The death of a tigress


Watercolour ink, pen on paper

1987
The trip to Ranthambore stays stuck in my memory. We had a point and click Hotshot camera. And my sister pointed it at deer and held on like a professional photographer and when she clicked, the deer had hopped out of the frame.
Spotting bears is difficult. But we were lucky to spot two. Eating berries. I passed on the camera from behind to my Harvard returned uncle. He pointed the camera at the bears but did not click. He too was delusional about being a pro photographer and took his ambition out on that Hotshot.
I have the picture. But I can’t convince you that the two black dots you see in that are actually bears.
And then the tigers came along.
Two cubs crying for their mother. The mother hurrying to meet them.
And that is the image I carry in my mind.
And that is the image that is brutally killed every time I see the word ‘poaching’ in the newspapers.
It’s been 22 years since that day. And so many tigers have been killed mercilessly in the jungles of India.
I have read stories of how tigers are tortured before they die. I have read accounts of people who have seen poachers go about their business. I have heard of corruption and I have resigned myself to the fact that tigers will no longer roam our forests.
And slowly, painfully a memory is getting created in my mind.
The cubs calling out to their mother. And the mother being killed before she can reach the cubs.
I cannot shake off the imagined memory.

A year after we returned from the trip, there was a small clip in the newspaper. Three tigers poached in Ranthambore.

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