“But this is my home” – Mowgli
As a child, I was shy. Really shy! I won’t talk to strangers, run away from people, hide in the tiniest possible corners of my home & would prefer silence to speech. I liked my own company and until people pointed out that I should be more social, I never felt the need to make friends, initiate conversations with people I didn’t know or speak my mind. I was busy enjoying my own company & liked my time with my family. The fondest memories that I have from childhood, are of Sundays when both my parents would be at home. My dad would put his things in order, shave his face, catch up on newspapers & I would sit around him, watching him in awe. My mother, although tired from her 6 day busy schedule as a school teacher, would still wake up early & make something special for Sunday breakfast like bread pakoda, sooji ka halwa, aloo paranthas, chole bhature. I would take my breakfast (served on a steel plate), wear a beautiful frock, and sit in front of the TV in our drawing room & watch my favourite series of all time – The Jungle Book!
In a few years, my sister came along. And she would also dress in a beautiful frock, in contrasting colours to mine, and would sit next to me. Both of us would enjoy Sunday breakfast, served on a single plate, and watch our favourite show of all time – The Jungle Book. It’s only when my brother came along & became old enough to throw tantrums, that we lost our sole TV privileges & got introduced to other cartoon series. By that time, they had taken ‘The Jungle Book’ off air too. So, we split our TV time between Tom & Jerry, Pokemon, Duck Tales, Talespin etc.
But nothing came close to watching the adventures of Mowgli on a Sunday morning, with breakfast, in the comfort of my home, nearby my family. Since then, I have been trying to collect these memories by either buying the book, Jungle book merchandise, or downloading the title song to my phone & other such things. Until recently, I assumed that ‘the Jungle Book’ was inspired from the Kanha Tiger Reserve, MP. But no, it’s not. The real inspiration behind the seminal book & equally amazing anime is – the Pench Tiger Reserve, 3.5 hours away from Kanha.
“One of the beauties of Jungle Law is that punishment settles all scores. There is no nagging afterward.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book
When one thinks of a jungle or a Tiger Reserve in India, one thinks of Jim Corbett, Ranthambore, Bandipur, Kanha or Sunderbans. One hardly thinks beyond this. Well, one should. Because one is missing way too much in life. By now, you would know that I am talking about the popular jungle extensively featured in ‘The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling’ and yet unknown to most Indians.
Home to many varieties of trees, the Jungle is abundant with ‘Teak’. You could also spot Indian Gaur – quite a muscular animal that reminds you of Water Buffaloes. But hey! not your typical water buffalo. In fact, nothing like a buffalo. When a buffalo is busy regurgitating, chewing the cud, swaying its tail here & there, the Gaur is probably busy doing push-ups or lifting weights. Don’t believe me? Look how muscular!
Gaurs have left human beings behind in one more thing, other than fitness, of course. Take a guess? Women Empowerment. Oh yes, not kidding! Gaur herds are often (or almost always) led by an old adult female, the matriarch. Adult males are not even in the scene. Still proud of being a human?
Indian Gaurs are usually bold and aggressive & the only known predators are tigers, leopards, adult crocodiles & packs of dhole.
I realise you weren’t born a wolf, but can’t you just act like one – Bagheera
Let’s meet ‘dhole’ now, the animal that can attack an Indian Gaur, in packs. Dhole or Indian Wild dogs are one of the few animals that can kill a Gaur. On some occasions, wild dogs have been reported to even attack sloth bears, a tiger or a leopard. They are highly social and operate in clans (as opposed to packs of a few). In fact, there’s a whole episode dedicated to ‘Dhole’ in ‘The Jungle Book’ that talks about the brute & barbaric nature of wild dogs.
“Madness is the most disgraceful thing that can overtake a wild creature.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book
Not everything in the jungle hunts or kills, some living beings are different – innocent, ignorant of the wild ways, and cute as a button. Take this rabbit for example who’s as conscious of its fitness as Indian Gaur is. Unlike the Gaur, this one loves to stretch & is a fan of Yoga. That probably explains the glow on its face & shimmer in the fur.
You can also spot groups of Sambar Deer in this jungle too. Here, you can draw parallels to human beings. Like humans, their women also like to sit in groups, may be gossip a bit. Who knows? Look how this group is giving stares – may be – to a young female Sambar who’s probably applied way too much colour on her lips.
Just kidding, Sambhar Deer are usually quiet & don’t communicate as much as us (humans). Look how innocent! Female or not, they sure don’t like to waste their energies on something unimportant as gossiping. They seem to be enjoying the wonders of nature – green grass, fresh water & open sky.
Pench is also home to many a bird who come in all colours, beaks, feathers & sounds.
And like most Tiger Reserves, Pench also houses approximately 44 tigers, probably more. If you plan about 4-5 safaris, your probability of spotting a tiger dramatically improves. And if you are really lucky like my friend Neha, who spots a tiger in every safari that she takes, so much so, that professional photographers also share a ride with her to capitalise on her good luck charm, well then, one is enough. 🙂
This is the photo of Langdi, the tigress, with the only surviving cub from her litter.
And if you like, here’s a visual tour for you: