I’m rocking gently to and fro, toes barely grazing the ground. The breeze is ruffling through my hair and butterflies are nectaring on the yellow Copper Pod blossoms above me. On the right, a couple of squirrels are holding conference on a tamarind tree. They are wondering at the strange creature lying down on tent number 3’s hammock. They decide to get back to work, and the chatter from that side grows fainter. The sun comes out of the clouds for a moment, and butterflies are all a-flutter! Joining in their enthusiasm, I enjoy the warmth on my face.

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Common Crow enjoying a meal on the Copper Pod blossoms

It is faint at first, but from my left, steadily coming nearer, is a call – strong, whistle-like notes with a definite air of caution. I can’t see the maker of the calls yet – the tent hides him – but I can hear how quickly he seems to be moving. I wonder if he is hopping or flying. Does he know I am here? I had to find out.

Have you ever tried to get out of a hammock gracefully, in a single motion, and quietly? I still have not mastered the art. Finally managing to extricate myself from it, I look up to see a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, looking quite startled at the inordinate flapping of limbs he had just been witness to. I watch him for a few minutes until I am called away by naturalist Venkatesh, who wants to start the safari.

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The Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher

I am in Bannerghatta, spending a day at JLR’s property. And, I’ve just spent the past couple of hours on a short walk around the campus, breakfasted with some new friends, and explored the various textures of trees around the tents. Mosses are just coming out, in myriad hues of greens after the rains, and different kinds of butterflies had me flitting around behind them. The blues, I was convinced, have ADHD; the only chance you have of catching them sitting down is when they aren’t yet awake. I felt more like the Common Crows at that point – drunk on a heavy breakfast. Running behind hyperactive little fellas didn’t seem too tempting.

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A tent at the JLR property

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This moth and I seemed to be running at the same speed

Back to the safari now – tamer than at many other places, the animals here seem to have got used to human beings. Hulking Gaurs, timid Spotted Deer, brooding Sambar, alert Blackbucks, and ethereal Nilgai keep us enthralled. We are even treated to acrobatics by insectivorous birds – bee-eaters, drongos, and my personal favourites, the Asian Paradise Flycatchers.

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A Sambar stag

Of the butterfly park, and the tiger, lion and elephant enclosures, I won’t say much other than the fact that my fellow companions on the safari are in awe of all those magnificent creatures. For most of the safari, we are five of us – three from Delhi, Venkatesh, and me. For the most part, because, you see, we have an unexpected hitch-hiker for a brief period.

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A mother elephant and her calf, on the way to their meal. Remnants of a dust-bath are still on her

Bears have always fascinated me. They are deliberate, slow, purposeful, and supremely confident that they will get their way (In fact, I am convinced, in the moments when I am not totally awake, that there is a bear inside me somewhere). The safari taught me that they are also curious. And curiosity mixed with an absence of fear is an interesting experience.

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The bear, curious about our safari vehicle

I have many stories to share of this day at Bannerghatta, and I doubt I can fit them all into one narrative. But, I will leave you with this last impression – I can’t say photograph because it isn’t visual – an impression of rootedness.

I have a habit of touching and sensing the barks and trunks of various trees. This time, a Silk Cotton tree has held me captive. This tree towers above you, steady and balanced. It takes the effort to be arranged just so, with leaflets like fingers to a palm, reaching out to the sky in surrender. One look at the canopy and you’d assume the tree to be a real pain; anti-social and unforgiving. It has wide, strong thorns over every inch of its branches, signalling not to mess with them. As you walk up to the tree, the main trunk becomes clearer. If you trail your eyes downwards, you will notice the thorns start to give way to space – clear and smooth bark peeks through, until, at the very base, they disappear entirely, leaving only scars behind.

Maybe I’m a dreamer, or maybe I’ve just had too much time on hand today. But, I think this tree is a symbolism for all of Nature. It teaches me that if you know where to look, you will find a safe place. Home is in Nature.

So, if you ever want to get back home, take some time off and visit. Look outside the enclosures, outside the cages of the zoo, inside the smallest holes, at the tiniest of creatures. They have a lot to say.

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