A Fierce Symmetry

leopard spotlight B&W ©

A leopard in Bera

In the pursuit of higher GDP, let us not forget the Fine Arts. Symmetry, design, perspective- all of it embodied in a living breathing creature whom we have less & less time & space for.

Specially in an ancient country like India, that is desperately trying to pull itself out of wretched poverty and catch up quickly with the developed word, our wild and pristine natural world is always trade-able for a dam or a bridge or a highway.

India has just released a leopard census yesterday, which claims about 14,000 leopards in the country. Fortunately, this one time I think the numbers are underestimated. This animal, given half a chance can survive even in the most populated of places, sometimes without been seen for years.

But that’s the key phrase. Half a chance.

Panthera ‘Billie Jeanus’

jawai leopard coming down revised ©

A jawai leopard looking for warmth in the first rays of the sun

The stage is pitch black. The audience holds its breath. A solitary spotlight fades on. Boom- out of nowhere, there’s a glittering & bejeweled Michael Jackson in all his glory. You could feel his presence on your skin.

My first sighting of this juvenile leopard, as he emerges from the dark depths of the granite kopjes of the Pali hills of Rajasthan to warm himself in the first rays of the sun. Very reminiscent of my first sighting of MJ, many years ago.

As dramatic. As unforgettable.

Happiness?

bullock cart

” Happiness is not a state to arrive at, its a manner of travelling”

Not really a wildlife image, but a peek into an India I wouldn’t often experience otherwise. Encounters like this, while waiting for a leopard to emerge from a cave in Bera, Rajasthan, I found myself challenging some set notions of contentment and happiness that many of us associate with urbanized modern living and expensive formal education. Something thats sets us up to acquire and appreciate the finer things in life. But does it? Does having very little automatically mean poverty and wretchedness? The question hangs.

Reminds me of a story about the queen of Tonga, a humungous lady with a beatific smile, when asked what she did, answered, “ I just be. ”

The Invisible Cat

leopard poised for stalk camo

You could be 10 feet from a leopard and never see it! Its the ultimate in big cat camouflage. There is something about the rosettes, the tone, the color, hue, shape and movement of this cat that makes it practically invisible if it chooses not to be seen.

This is probably why it manages to exist in very close proximity to man without him ever sensing its presence. Many communities, even in urban areas in India would be shocked to discover that these cats live, eat, breed under their very noses, because they manage to do so very secretively.

The exploding human population is changing this dynamic very rapidly. Instances of conflict in outer Mumbai, Uttarakhand and many other places suggest the proximity has gotten way too close for comfort.

With our diminishing forest cover, these cats have no place to go. They need a new trick. Quick.