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Night in the jungle

The Jim Corbett National Park doesn't have clearly marked boundaries, so animals often stray into human settlements.
By Aalap Deboor, Jim Corbett
PUBLISHED ON APR 28, 2010 12:26 PM IST
On a turbulent May nightsome years back, campingwith friends in theforests of North India, I,unfortunately, happened to partakein a conniving plan to kill afrog. With what transpired thatnight, it wouldn't seem ludicrousto assume that the amphibian that cold-blooded unrelenting vertebrate resurrected andteamed up with the elements totake revenge.

Our group of two boys and twogirls was on a visit to the JimCorbett National Park inUttarakhand. We'd found accommodationonly about 10 km awayin a tent that was one of numerousrickety ones constructed by ahotel. We were in the middle ofthe jungle with locals who knewthat tigers freely roamed the areabut were so habituated to reassuringtourists otherwise, that they'dbegun to believe thestory themselves.

Sometime afterdinner that night, acertain croakingbreached the tellingsilence of our shelter.It was of a frog neither ugly, norscary. It was, in fact,a cute little brownblob hopping fromone pillar of the bed to another,then to the bathroom and back.Every time it went into the bathroom,it croaked loudly and cameright back into the room.

One of us decided to trap itinside a bucket and let it outsidethe tent. When the frog enteredthe bathroom again, my friendSuraj volunteered to tiptoe behindit. He found a steel mug, lunged tograb it, and headed straight forthe frog. Only, theupturned mug slippedout of his hand andbeat him to the floor. Itlanded straight on thelittle frog and knockedit out cold.

Within minutes ofthe inauspiciousdemise, just when we'dturned in for the night,it began to rain heavily.The trees to which our tent wastied shook, and the entire shackswung to the bellowing of thethunder. Just that evening, a storeowner had told us that a tiger andhis "wife" had come to the hotelon an "evening walk" andattacked a few locals. This wastheir idea of family time, and theywould now come to ruin ours withMaoist vengeance for havingentered their territory and committedmurder.

As the rain lashed harder andthe tent became weaker, one ofthe girls, disconsolate and almostteary-eyed by now, asked innocently,"Do you think we're beingmade to go through all this hardshipbecause of what we did to thepoor frog?"

Almost as if on cue, a stronggust of wind flung the bathroomdoor open, and there emerged abrown speck shimmying acrossthe floor feeble, forbearing andunbeaten. "Croak," it said, andpaused for a bit, before turningaround and hopping back into itssanctuary. It was his way of callingit even. The rains subsidedsoon, and we're all alive to date.
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