Down in Jungleland: The Evil That They Do

Some less than savoury activities of the inhabitants of Jungleland.

Written by Ranjit Lal | Published:June 25, 2017 12:00 am
jungle, forest, lions, leopards, eagles, birds, elephants, bears, spiders, insects, forest stories, jungle tales, indian express, indian express news (Illustration: Subrata Dhar)

Animal lovers go goo-goo and ga-ga over the inhabitants of the animal kingdom in a way they never do for their own partners, spouses, or, often, even their children. As a muckraking journalist, it is my duty to point out some of the less than savoury aspects of some of the inhabitants of Jungleland that are often ignored by these misguided souls.

Elephants: Even in Bihar, if elephants find mahua trees (or anything that is fermenting), they are going to get royally sloshed. Then, they’ll raise their trunks and rudely trumpet “cheers to the CM!” and knock down the nearest village. And who can stop them? You can’t put a whole herd of rollicking pachyderms into jail, can you? Unless maybe it’s the Red Fort. Try lifting a baton in front of a reeling, red-eyed eight-ton tusker and telling him, “Beta, drinking is sinful” and see where that gets you!

Tigers: Jim Corbett called them “gentlemen”, but which gentleman (and especially an English one) attacks you from the rear as tigers do? What’s worse is that tigers don’t even attack most of us because they think we’re (a) wimps who can’t even run away fast enough for a proper chase, (b) don’t taste so good after all, which is really insulting, especially if you’ve been fattened on an organic-shakahari, shudh-ghee diet. And even worse, the tigers that do eat us are usually toothless or lame or half-blind or 100 years old or plain perverted — is there no end to their perfidy?

Lions: Ladies often go weak in the knees when they see the majestic “king” of the jungle, (it’s the hairdo), and really, these days they should know better. Alas, in India at least there are still far too few ladies who will take the rolling pin to their husbands, when all the latter do is to lie on their backsides all day and wait for their wives to bring home the shopping, cook and serve them eight-course meals (which is what lionesses do) — and then complain that there is not enough tadka in the dal or whatever. And have you seen the king’s table manners? As children, we’ve all been psyched by stories about “wicked step-mothers” but have you seen what a step-dad lion does to cuddly-wuddly cubs when he takes over a pride?

Leopards: If you live in Mehrauli or Powai or any such suburb of a large city, be afraid. Be very afraid. Even as you read this, you may be under scrutiny by the spotted cat, who has fixed its cold eyes on your beloved Snowy, who is hysterically yapping away, driving you nuts at this very moment. Ah, at last the damn dog’s shut up!

Bears and Rhinos: Both, alas, suffer from acute cases of road rage. Meet them around a corner and they’ll slam straight into you, ripping your face off or impaling you and tossing you high. Some say this is because they have poor vision (and attack is their only defence), others say they have been inspired by drivers — especially of those in the NCR — and are hoping that this is a shortcut up the evolutionary ladder.

Eagles and many other birds: Have you seen what fluffy white eaglets do to each other in the family nest? We think bullying on the internet is a problem, but take a look here: the first-born will peck his baby brother or sister to bloody shreds — and get this, mama and papa will look on proudly and continue to feed the little monster till he looks like Schwarzenegger. Some animal lovers like to say this is exactly what happens in many big business houses, especially at takeover time, but then they do tend to rationalise excessively, don’t they?

Wild Boar/Deer/Nilgai/Porcupine etc: Like most neighbours, they have an eye on your property except on a different scale. Usually, neighbours will try and infringe on one inch of your space (by slyly moving their fence forward by that much), but these guys go the whole hog. They’ll invade en-masse after dark and clean out all your baingans, mangoes, potatoes or whatever crop you have in one night. Animal lovers, of course, will say, “serves you right” because originally this was their land — and you cut down their forests and turned them out, so they’re only getting some payback. As a fair and objective journalist, I have to concede they might just have a point.

Spiders and Praying Mantises: These big girls have taken women’s lib to an all new level — and should be mentors to all women and lionesses. Sometimes, in addition to chomping off the heads of, and consuming, their husbands during the torrid honeymoon itself, they gobble up their babies too. But when you have 300 plus brats bawling for more when there are only two anorexic mosquitoes caught in the web, you can’t really blame the moms, can you?

Monkeys: I’ve reserved the worst for last. Everyone knows about the goondagiri of monkeys in cities etc, but this is much worse. Here we are, taking extreme pains not to teach our children how babies are made (so that even when they grow up they have no clue and so make more and more of them and then look befuddled and ask, “kaise hua?”) but have you seen what happens in parks and gardens with bachcha monkeys? They can barely wobble and there they are in plain sight doing such vulgar and chhi-chhi things to each other, you can only hastily cover your darlings’ eyes and whisk them away and never bring them to the park again! The monkeys’ mamas merely look on fondly as if to say, “So what? They’re only children. Let them play!” Where the hell are those raving anti-Romeo squads when you need them?

Ranjit Lal is an author, environmentalist and birdwatcher.
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