Some things are better left unsaid. So i decided to show you.
It was the call of the langurs, that had distracted Nayak from delivering the continuous discourse on how he had ended up with this job. These primates, who had till now kept going on with their daily chores, seemed to be jolted by some unseen force. They were restless and kept screaming, jumping around. We passed a curve, we had gone through earlier, where a group of spotted deer had been resting under the trees in the warm afternoon breeze.
Now there were no deers in sight, no breeze, just the purr of the Gypsy’s engine ringing through the forest. Even the langurs seemed to have moved away or become silent. Nayak, who was chattering away till now was looking around with an attentive silence. He tapped on the shoulders of the driver, who stopped the jeep. None of us spoke. We knew what was coming. Each of us was following the gaze of Nayak, ready to take a shot. For five long silent minutes we scanned each and every shadow, tree, stump, ground and grass looking for signs. Then we saw a rustle in the grasses, some 100m from where we had stopped. As there was no wind this had to be something else, and in these conditions, it was more likely that it was her. All of us were magically focused onto that spot. These grasses were about 3-4 feet tall and were spread all over the area.
We were following the rustle, slowly moving towards our right waiting to enter a clearing 50m from our jeep. As it neared the clearing the rustle suddenly stopped.
All eyes were pinned to that spot. A few moments passed and then suddenly the rustle started moving towards us at a frantic pace. This time it was moving very fast. We dint know what to do and held to the jeep’s sidebars looking at the invisible creature running towards us but too frigid to do anything. There was a loud crackle from the front of the jeep. The movement stopped abruptly and started charging again towards the left. It now took a turn and the rustling stopped near a canopy of trees and there was silence again. All of us breathed again, partly relieved and partly disappointed at not being able to see what it was. “Mandi post calling Nayak. Over” crackled the walkie talkie from the front of the jeep again.
As nine gypsies took their places around a seemingly uninteresting tree, 90 pairs of eyes were frantically searching the surroundings for her. After loitering around for some 10 odd kms, she was finally found. “Mandi post”, supposedly had spotted her first, while she was drinking water from a pool beside the road. They had followed her for the past 20 mins and alerted the rest of the party. After all everyone was here to see her. I was standing at the edge of the jeep armed with a bazooka like camera, switching continuously between the naked eye and the viewfinder and still searching. After a few moments everyone seemed to have found her. I was still searching. All I could see were dried leaves, broken tree branches, red earth and a hoard of gazing homo-sapiens. And then I saw a soft patch of orange and black stripes moving up and down rhythmically between the bushes.
Instinctively my finger moved over the trigger and fired 2 rounds at 6 frames per second. I crouched down to get a better view and just in time caught the canines closing after a yawn. She was totally ignorant of the fact that she was surrounded by 90 odd creatures of a different species that were there to catch a glimpse of her. She lazily yawned again, this time lifted her head, looked around sleepily. 90 spirits were ecstatic. It was highly unlikely that any of them would see this sight again.