BANGALURE: As you exit your twenties you start to get a clearer picture of who you really are. For instance, I am just coming to accept that I don’t really like animals. While I don’t want to eat them, I don’t want to meet them either. Yet, I encounter more animals every day than I saw on a week-long holiday at Bandipur Tiger Reserve this summer.
Earlier this week, I was taking a shower when I found a spider sitting on my wrist, ogling me with all his eight beady eyes. The shock of it made me squeal and within a few seconds my five-year-old son, Little P, was banging on my door.
“Mamma, do you have a rat?” Little P asked eagerly through the door.
“You sound like you have a rat.” He sounded jealous.
“It was a spider,” I said.
“A spider!” Little P perked up. “Mamma, please can I have it? Please!”
What is it with little boys and creepy crawlies?
Later that day, I sat frozen in my car. A large cow had paused right outside my door to take a long, splattery leak. Again, Little P was all excitement. First he was amused by the steady stream, then it transformed into a muted respect for the capacity of her bladder.
Finally, after we got out of the car and daintily skirted the spreading pool of cow urine, Little P’s eyes wide in horror - “Ma! Is that the way milk comes out?”
At the park, we meet a curious squirrel and a suicidal rat. The squirrel perches on a low branch to watch children play. The suicidal rat weaves between dozens of pairs of walking feet to the dustbin and back to his hole.
At home, we have Cranky Crow, who caws till you leave a piece of leftovers for him on the wall, Pudgy Pigeon who watches me do my yoga and Boy Dog and Gutter Dog, who think Parle G and dry bread are beneath them.
To all of them, I react with horror and Little P, with joy. Curiously, in Bandipur sanctuary, our roles reversed.
We encountered some beautiful wildlife. From our car, we watched an enormous herd of deer prance gracefully across the tarred road. Moments later we had our first encounter with a wild elephant and her young calf. We saw interesting birds and witnessed a dustbin raid by a wild boar. But none of these elicited more than a bored grunt from my picky five-year-old.
“Look! Elephants!” I jumped around in my seat. My son snorted.
“There must be more than a hundred deer! Do you think they are being chased by a leopard?” Little P was getting impatient.
“When will it be our turn to go! How long does it take to cross!” he whined so loudly he startled a pair of already jumpy deer outside his window.
I knew it then. Channels like Animal Planet and Nat Geo have ruined jungle holidays for us. Who cares about tigers! Little P can see them everyday on our TV
But, I am sure if I said, “Hey, did you see that rat?” Little P would stick his head out of his window excitedly to catch a glimpse.