“It’s foolish to guard against misfortunes from the external world while you leave your inner mind uncontrolled.” – Buddha
“Excuse me”, I screamed aloud, “Do man eating tigers roam around here?”
I heard my breath quicken and paused, gasping. I stood trembling like a nervous school kid in front of a Headmaster. I tried my best to mask my fear.
He was around seventy years old. He turned, looking around dreamily at first before shaking himself out of the trance. His slow movements unnerved me. He seemed to be in no hurry. I guess he wasn’t surprised to see another human being. How could he remain unruffled while wandering alone in this lonely and dangerous forest?
“Hmm” he murmured and rose from the grass. He lazily picked up some twigs just as dissonant voices rang through the forest. I recognized cuckoos, crickets, squirrels, monkeys and maybe a woodpecker’s song but most of the sounds were foreign to me. Even the forest itself appeared strange and foreboding. A sudden gush of wind had the trees swinging erratically. Giant fig trees and verdant bushes sent shill through my spines because I thought maybe a lion is lurking in these wilds.
“You are sweating,” he noted nonchalantly. The predawn hours of the winter were biting cold, yet I was perspiring profusely.
“Yeah..no..er..I mean,” I fumbled, “I heard there are tigers or lions here. Is it true?” I was desperate.
“I am not deaf,” he said.
“Oh sorry” I realized I was shouting in a tranquil forest.
I walked for two hours before sunrise at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali on the northern outskirts of Mumbai, on a daily basis. Today was no different until suddenly I remembered something a friend had mentioned a few days ago.
My friend had been amused to hear I walk in the forest, all alone, each morning. He had casually mentioned to me that there were leopards and tigers in the forest and had even suggested in passing that I carry a stick with me or better still, wait for sunrise before I ventured into the jungle. However we had spoken of many things that evening and soon I forgot about our discussion.
That was until, this morning when I walked alone and suddenly, I was gripped by terror.
To be continued….