Indian Gaurs, the largest bovine species in South East Asia, are magnificent creatures. They live like retired Mafia bosses in reserve forest areas in and around the hill stations. They coexist harmoniously with the locals in nearby areas. But conflicts do arise.
A year ago, while driving from Valparai to Thrissur (in the state Kerala), I saw an alpha male Indian Gaur trampling the crops at a tea plantation. At a distance, the caretaker and his son were assessing scare tactics to chase it away. After a short discussion, the kid armed himself with a log of wood and a large stone. He seemed to approach the Gaur with confidence yet caution.
He flayed his arms with panache, waving the stick like Gandolf in a street fight. The beast stopped grazing to look up for a few seconds. The kid inched closer, holding the stick higher in the air.
Now a mere 50 meters away from each other, the two entered into a 2-minute staring contest. There was palpable tension but also a sense of familiarity between them. The beast turned around and strutted towards an electrical fence. It stood there for some time, brandishing its horns, before disappearing into the forest.
It was a thrilling experience. Like witnessing a ballet. Or finding a napkin in a coffee shop with a haiku on it.
But the lyricism isn’t without its share of harsh realities.
About three years ago. I was attacked by an Indian Gaur in Kodaikanal. While trekking in Kodaikanal, local kid suddenly brought to my attention – a fully-grown female Gaur about 300 meters away. She was staring at us. She looked even more nervous than we did.
I am unsure what went through my mind. I remember panicking as the kid picked up a few rocks and started throwing them at her. He calmed me down, saying that he had done this several times before. But he did warn me to run down the hill in case the Gaur ever charged.
About a minute later, she charged us, like a kamikaze truck, at full speed. And I ran, like the wind, downhill with her right behind me. I wasn’t aware that I could run that fast. Or that I could feel that much fear. Unfortunately, neither did my body frame. One thing led to another and I was flung across 4 feet in the air. I landed awkwardly against the base of a huge pine tree. It left me with three separate leg fractures and a concussion.
Over the next two and a half months, I had to be indoors and take care of myself. I was asked to quit by my employer too. All the momentum I had built up all year came crashing down. I had free time on my hands; without a dwindling bank account and a shrinking circle of people still in touch with me.
I felt lost and disgruntled. But as the cliche goes, once you think you have reached the bottom of the barrel, it becomes easier to pick yourself up.
I soon figured out how to switch on the TV with the walking stick. A month passed by, and I developed a love for birding, and I started working out. I grew my sideburns. Employment found me, as did my confidence. I befriended some magnanimous people along the way. As the monsoon season arrived, so did the serenity of the life I once led.
Since then, I have made it a point to visit that spot in Kodaikanal at least once in three or four months. I have seen people do that in world cinema, as sad piano music plays in the background. Maybe it just felt like a safe and
warm place A reminder that sometimes, shit happens. That’s how simple life is.
Depending on which side of the bed we wake up from, we form incoherent opinions about it. But we can’t go around, acting as though the world owes us for all the bad things that happen to us.
Mark Twain said it the best – “the world owes you nothing. It was here first”.
(Photographs: Kodaikanal, Valparai)