Down in jungleland: A New Avatar

If you could choose to be someone else this Diwali, who would you like to be?

Written by Ranjit Lal | Published:October 30, 2016 12:13 am
animals, forest, forest animals, wild animals, animal habitat, wild animals habitat, wild animals habitat difficulties, wild animals traits, sunday eye, eye 2016, express eye, down in jungleland column, indian express Monkeys, especially macaques, suffer from congenital chronic hypertension, high blood pressure, anger management issues, bipolar disorder, hysteria among other things.

Nature writers (and lovers) like yours truly often go gaga over many of the birds, beasts, reptiles and creepy-crawlies that exist in the natural world. But when bark comes to bite, would we really like to change places with any of them? How, for instance, would you like to be…

An elephant: Umm, this could pose a problem when you have to catch a flight and are asked your weight and have to say, “Five tons, but I’ve lost a few pounds lately, thanks to this fabulous leafy diet I’ve discovered.” Like all diets, it doesn’t help because you have to consume 300 kg of the green stuff every day in order to wake up every morning. But there are pluses: long memory, 60 times the normal testosterone level when you’re in musth, the ability to plough through traffic jams by chucking vehicles out of your way. (Don’t try this with trains). In the wild, however, it’s bad news if you are a tusker, or if you have relatives you want to visit across the new expressway/railway line/reservoir that’s been built through the forest, or even that infernal tea garden you have to wade through.

A tiger: Won’t we all just love to be tigers? Tiger moms, tiger dads, tiger balm, tiger skin, tiger bones… It would seriously be worth it even if only to see the reaction of most people when you let roll one of those low, rumbling, snarling growls from just behind them. Not a choice recommended for vegans/vegetarians, however.

A leopard: They are beautiful, aren’t they? As well as cunning, ferocious, slinky and, now, alas, snarling in your farmhouse’s bathroom because they’ve got shampoo in their eyes. Sadly, they’ve begun forsaking what’s left of the forests and are shifting into the suburbs and eating our “pamerians” (our fault again) ,which is not what we want from a wild beast with such a beautiful dappled coat that we can’t wait to wear.

A blackbuck: The guys are handsome dudes, and, the does, with their golden pelts and big melting eyes, quite irresistible. The male of the species strut their stuff, tossing their heads as snootily as the English aristocracy. They run like the wind, but, alas, every now and then, film stars in jeeps outrun them with guns in their hands.

A bear: Though they have super-sniffing abilities and are not fussy eaters, they’re a bit too, um, hairy, shambling and short-tempered to be considered a serious option. Besides, their vocals are a bit primitive. So, not a good choice, unless, of course, like Elvis, you want to be someone’s teddy bear. Or Pooh. Or (if you’re a foodie) Yogi.

A rhino: Lovely choice! There you are, all three tons of you, squinting desperately down your nose, yet capable of rumbling down a rutted path at 45 kmph and doing a stylish handbrake turn in the dust. But, alas, your face is indeed your fortune (or rather someone else’s fortune) because it’s believed that your horn can cure everything from common cold to cancer and impotency. Actually, it’s just matted hair, so, maybe, we should first try this out with unwashed dreadlocks.

A monkey: Have to warn you that (a) monkeys, especially macaques, suffer from congenital chronic hypertension, high blood pressure, anger management issues, bipolar disorder, hysteria, inappropriate behaviour between the sexes, chauvinism and war-mongering. And (b) that it is totally unnecessary to want to be one, because we have evolved way past those states already and anything less will be regressive and against the laws of nature.

A cow: Agreed they’re not wild, but they would be an ideal choice in India these days. You’ll be garlanded, worshipped, given retirement benefits, be allowed to meditate and do yoga in the middle of a highway, and no one can say a word against you. A wonderful life for sure, if you like a diet of polystyrene, plastic bags, empty tetrapacks and bubble-wrap (which will make interesting popping sounds inside your tummies before you stop making any sounds at all).

A buffalo: What? You want to be a bafellow? Get serious — like this column.

A lion: More than half the population already think that they are Indian “loins”. A case of deja vu there.

A wolf: Can cause psychological problems and you may require counselling: think of Mowgli — reared by the wolf pack — and all the other cases of children being taken (and eaten) by wolves. What the heck is happening here? Just cases of extreme parenting?

A bird: There are some 1,300 species of birds to choose from, but remember, most birds fly. If 1.25 billion of us take to the skies the same way we take to the roads (and drive), just think of the resulting carnage. It could cause mass extinction.

A crocodile: So you’d like to lurk around in muddy depths, waiting to sneak up on your unsuspecting prey, then drag them under before tearing their limbs off and chomping them down? Great! Do remember, many grown men have made television careers out of jumping on to the backs of crocs and wrestling them to the ground, trying to clamp their jaws tight (men will go to any lengths to inflate their egos). Others prefer turning you into ladies’ handbags. So you can take a pick.

A frog/toad: Good choice, if you like smiley faces and flies (Notice how most of the cars these days have smiley toad-faces?). Don’t expect to be kissed by princesses, let alone pretty girls. They’ll just shriek and bash you with their crocodile leather handbags.

A rat/cockroach: Surely a case of been there, done that!

(Many animals and insects and fish have been left out: they’ll get their turn in a future column.)

Ranjit Lal is an author, environmentalist and birdwatcher.