Feline encounters

They heard a soft rustle and a purr. They stole a surreptitious glance and froze with fear.

Kichu, Pichu and Vichu were real buddies. They wanted to slough the lethargy that urban living conditions had imposed on them.

“We need some thrill, excitement and adventure. Life in the city is so predictable,” opined Kichu, infusing a note of weariness in his tone.

“But there is no escaping it,” averred the practical Pichu.

“We can always add a little spice to our mundane lives,” mused Vichu.

So they decided to go to Masinagudi which is far from the madding crowd and without the trappings that modern living entails. The surrounding forest offered ample opportunity for strenuous exercise. As they neared their home stay, Vichu said, “I hope we see an elephant.”

“A tiger would prove more interesting,” replied Pichu, who liked to be contradictory. “What luck if we spot both!”  Vichu added, not to be left out.

On reaching their destination, they unloaded their stuff and settled in. They lazed and engaged in desultory conversation, eating bondas and sipping tea.

The next day, they set out early on their trek, accompanied by a local guide who briefed them about trekking rules. “Don’t make a noise and stay close to me. Don’t scatter because you might get lost,” he dinned into their heads. He led the way, signaling to them to follow. They did as they were bid and found the crisp air refreshing.

The silence was suddenly rent by the trumpeting of an elephant. They stopped in their tracks. It trumpeted a couple times more but not as noisily as the first time. “There are some bamboo clumps nearby. The elephant must have come for some food and is now leaving,” whispered the guide.

They trudged up the rough path and came to a clearing with thick bushes all round. “We’ll take a small break and then proceed,” declared the guide. Quite suddenly, he went still and put a warning finger on his mouth. They heard a soft rustle and a purr, like that of a cat that had fed on rich cream. Unmistakably, the sounds came again. They stole a surreptitious glance and froze with fear. A tiger, burning bright and with its fearful symmetry, stood there, his eyes glowing and his stance majestic. They quickly averted their eyes and looked in opposite direction.

Imagine their fear when they saw the an elephant benignly furling and unfurling its trunk! They were truly trapped. The guide mouthed some instructions. “I will distract the tiger by tapping my stick. It will walk away. Turn around and run for your lives. Stay together and don’t ever look back. Start now!” All four of them hurtled down the path and on reaching safe ground, flopped down, gasping for breath. Luckily, the elephant hadn’t evinced any interest in them.

They had one common thought – ‘Be careful what you wish for!’ For the next two days they didn’t venture far, meeting nothing more menacing than a mongoose or a wild fowl!

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