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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.

travel Updated: Apr 28, 2010 12:26 IST

On a turbulent May night
some years back, camping
with friends in the
forests of North India, I,
unfortunately, happened to partake
in a conniving plan to kill a
frog. With what transpired that
night, it wouldn't seem ludicrous
to assume that the amphibian that cold-blooded unrelenting vertebrate resurrected and
teamed up with the elements to
take revenge.

Our group of two boys and two girls was on a visit to the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. We'd found accommodation only about 10 km away in a tent that was one of numerous rickety ones constructed by a hotel. We were in the middle of the jungle with locals who knew that tigers freely roamed the area but were so habituated to reassuring tourists otherwise, that they'd begun to believe the story themselves.

Sometime after dinner that night, a certain croaking breached the telling silence of our shelter. It was of a frog neither ugly, nor scary. It was, in fact, a cute little brown blob hopping from one pillar of the bed to another, then to the bathroom and back. Every time it went into the bathroom, it croaked loudly and came right back into the room.

One of us decided to trap it inside a bucket and let it outside the tent. When the frog entered the bathroom again, my friend Suraj volunteered to tiptoe behind it. He found a steel mug, lunged to grab it, and headed straight for the frog. Only, the upturned mug slipped out of his hand and beat him to the floor. It landed straight on the little frog and knocked it out cold.

Within minutes of the inauspicious demise, just when we'd turned in for the night, it began to rain heavily. The trees to which our tent was tied shook, and the entire shack swung to the bellowing of the thunder. Just that evening, a store owner had told us that a tiger and his "wife" had come to the hotel on an "evening walk" and attacked a few locals. This was their idea of family time, and they would now come to ruin ours with Maoist vengeance for having entered their territory and committed murder.

As the rain lashed harder and the tent became weaker, one of the girls, disconsolate and almost teary-eyed by now, asked innocently, "Do you think we're being made to go through all this hardship because of what we did to the poor frog?"

Almost as if on cue, a strong gust of wind flung the bathroom door open, and there emerged a brown speck shimmying across the floor feeble, forbearing and unbeaten. "Croak," it said, and paused for a bit, before turning around and hopping back into its sanctuary. It was his way of calling it even. The rains subsided soon, and we're all alive to date.

First Published: Apr 28, 2010 12:26 IST