The Art Of Living
February 2007: What perfectly well brought up young tigers!
From the time they were able to follow their mother through their forest universe, they learned from heart-thumping observations, imitation and unambiguous instruction how to hunt, how to hide, what to eat, and what not to. The tigers are sub-adults, the gaur fully grown.
I can only imagine what must have been going through the minds of the trainee-predators as they contemplated the meal of a lifetime. The stand off, elegantly captured by Sudhir Shivaram in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve, is one of the finest images to emerge from tigerland in decades. One slash of those horns could disembowel a careless cub, but nothing of the sort took place. The anti-climactic conclusion to this taut scene saw the gaur and tigers quietly going their separate ways. Because they knew the gaur was off limits, the tigers lived to hunt another day.
Every creature on Earth, Homo sapiens included, has been similarly tutored in the art of living by parents or planetary circumstances. All of us are successful, evolutionary end-products of nature’s trial and error school of survival.
We humans are the only animals in Eden capable of purposefully contemplating the past, analysing the present and then systematically affecting our future. Our science teaches us the value of “biodiversity” and the consequences of climate change. Our medicines have extended our lifespans. Our technologies provide unimagined comforts. What is more, we have been blessed by super-survival skills that no other animal possesses. But with this, we were granted a most dubious gift – the power to tinker with the innards of Planet Earth. This, ironically, is our Achilles’ heel.
The stand off between the sub-adult tigers and the gaur can be likened to the one that exists today between Homo sapiens and all other creatures with whom we share the Earth. And the jury is out on whether the art of living lessons passed down to us will lead us to back away from the impending Humans Vs the Rest war… or whether we will go down, disemboweled after a fashion, in an act of glorious impetuosity.
Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXVII No. 1, February 2007