The morning sun was beating down hard as we made our way back to the Kisli park gate. It had been a few hours well spent. The four of us had had a delightful drive through the meadows and malevolent sal forests of the Surhi range of Kanha, where statuesque barasingha abounded and the sal borer beetle Hoplocerambyx spinicornis, was doing its best to kill whole groves of trees, sawdust heaped around their trunks. The trip had been a revelation. Seldom can I remember a drive with such a sense of ‘wildness’, seemingly all to myself. We had stopped, we had watched, we had listened, all our senses concentrated on the sights and sounds of the jungle. Yes, the driver had become a little fidgety, the guide a bit bored, but I was elated.

Heading for the park gates, my eye’s beginning to feel heavy as we bumped along and my stomach aching for breakfast, I had just nodded off when the gypsy driver slammed on his brakes so hard that I was nearly jettisoned in my sleepy stupor headlong over the bonnet from the back seat. Coming around a blind bend not a few metres in front of us, an unperturbed tigress lay sprawled across the road. The tearing brakes on shifting sand and sudden human alarm and shout of ‘Bagh’ had woken her from her own stupor. With a slight craning of her neck to see what all the fuss was about, the young lady settled back down to continue her late morning zzzz. No bother, no fuss! Blasted travellers she must have thought. Never let a girl get her beauty sleep!

However, for our shocked driver whose reflex actions had avoided an initial catastrophic collision with the slumbering Indian royalty splayed only five metres from our bonnet, the situation was still perilous. Now stationary, our driver was unable to move forward, yet was parked on a nasty blind corner. The next driver to come around that same corner—no doubt dreaming of breakfast—may not be so quick footed on the brakes and the resultant shunt would prove just as dangerous to both man and our comatosed beauty.

It just goes to show that for all the hysteria about tourism affecting tigers, the reality is that it’s only humans that think like that. Tigers just get on with life—or what they specialise in: relaxing—and often in the middle of the road.



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