Dark as dead was the sky as if mirroring the dark tarred road below cutting through the forest of Satyamangalam. It is the forest which once was roamed by the bandit Veerappan living in and exploiting the resources of nature. Now his story is thrashed into the dark tunnel from where once in a while it arises and gives some pieces of anxiety and fear to the tribal people living in the jungle. It is the same forest of which Kenneth Anderson has written few of his tales of adventures and hunt of man-eaters. If this is of the past, for today there is no small number of stories to speak of from this forest.
On the same road in the same darkness, I was there in a jeep coming back after my initial days of fieldwork and filling in the tummy with some hot food from a nearby shop. No worries now except to reach the field centre and have a peaceful sleep. The moment was at ease with discussions and fun with the team mates, though heart raced and eyes searched for wildlife around. But my sight met only the lightning speeded vehicles honking loudly traversing through marring the beauty of darkness and silence of the woods.
This is NH209, where there is no leisure to the road from the racing vehicles cutting across the forest covered by deciduous vegetation and grassy patch in the midst. Sambar deer, spotted deer, Indian Gaur, wild boar and elephants are common sighting in here mostly in living form and if time goes wrong, they lie on the roads fallen prey to the death trap of the high speeding mechanical motorized beasts drove by so called intelligent and civilized animal of the blue planet.
As our vehicle moved slowly probing for movements inside the forest beside the road, Lo! There stood the giant, biggest mammal on the earth, a mother elephant with her calf, scared to death to cross the road and reach the water source present on the other side. We halted and waited to see the gutsy move of the mother and the calf to quench its thirst. It tried and tried but in vain. No vehicle gave a stop or even slowed down to listen to the voice of our co- animal, a rightful inheritor of the forest. Instead, I screamed once within when a truck was about to hit the mother elephant, already dead by fear.
Fifteen to twenty minutes the trying went on and finally it lost to our dumbness, deafness and harsh selfishness to be supreme rulers. No doubt, movement of trucks and vehicles are important as to reach out the necessary goods, to reach needed destinations but at what cost? At what speed? When we are using a habitat already fragmented to make our life convenient, are we not indebted and obliged to care for the convenience of lives in the forest with meager demands and needs?