People Of The Forest - Part 1

Babu at Shesh Shaiya 

There are many who claim to protect the forest, there are many who love the forest, but there are very few who know the forest. If someone ever tells you that they know the forest, it would either be  a villager living around the forest or a forest guard. One such person, I had the pleasure of meeting was -Babu, I don't know his name in its entirety, but it doesn't matter. The way he talks of the forest, spells more than just his name, of him as a person. Brave (eyes black and blazing with a knowing look), a sudden softness when he talks about tigers and a quiet sadness when he talks about how protection is sometimes a thankless job, Babu epitomises the phrase 'Of the jungle.'

 When asked of his forest experiences, the first one that comes to his mind is of monitoring B2 the much loved tiger of Bandhavgarh.This was all B2's area where we used to camp at night  to make sure he doesn't get into trouble with the villagers, points Babu at the vast land with a tiny 'nallah' that surrounds a village. He was a super tiger, gentle and very different from the Mirchaini cubs who were very curious and bold tigers. Every tiger has a distinct personality and we foresters have a knack of communicating with tigers without really saying anything, Babu claims a smile now crinkling his eyes. He also claims that he is very lucky with tiger sightings and if he predicts that a tiger will be sighted, it will hold true no matter what. "Tiger milega, kyun nahi milega?  waise bhi hum tiger thodi na dekhne ja rahe hain! gilheri (squirrel) dekhenge aur wapas aa jayenge" he says with a naughty smile on his face. Brimming with such humour, the funniest story he narrates is of how he lost his way in the forest during patrolling.

We were barely 100 mts from the camp but we kept going around in circles. It's this particular root in the forest, if you step on it, you lose your memory for some time he explained. He has several such anecdotes and stories but time is short and  barely enough to get an insight into the life of this human denizen of the forest. But then, there is always next time and when I ask whether he will be there next time to regale us with more forest stories, he smiles and says of course I will be there, "Jungle yahan hain, toh main kahan jaoonga sahab?"


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