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Wild walks in Wellington

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Three memorable encounters with the magnificent gaur leave Shantini S. Dennis breathless

I am particular about addressing people I meet by their correct name. But all that went flying out of my head when I met this massive Indian one day on my morning walk. It was only after I returned home, did I remember to breathe again before looking up his details on the Internet. I learnt that the big guy would prefer to be addressed as gaur and not “Ayyo Run!”

The Nilgiris is famous for its flora and fauna. And, I see quite a few of these on my morning walk. I am lucky that way, as I live in the Wellington Cantonment, in a house that is more than a century old, and also have access to a pretty big lawn. There are porcupines, leopards, bears, snakes of various kinds, wonderful birds such as the Brahmini kite.

Boars or wild pigs know the right time to come over and help themselves to the cabbage that I have been carefully tending to in my kitchen garden. There is a snake that looks perfectly comfortable coiled on the cement patch, sunning itself, and shimmering into action only when I am a few steps away. Of course, there is a mongoose as well that is superbly graceful, marching along, low hulled, on the grass.

But honestly, nothing comes close to the magnificence of the gaur. One of the routes that I take on my morning walk takes me past the War Memorial towards Kotagiri. There is just a tiny little bend in this road and once, as I curved around it, the gaur was right in front of me, a mere 10 feet away. I skidded to a halt and with more haste than dignity, turned right around and fled.

On another occasion, on the same route, I met another gaur (or was it the same one that I saw earlier, wanting to introduce himself and give me his right name?). I had the benefit of an uncompromising glare and once again, I retreated, rapidly.

My third encounter was at the library. I parked my car, and spent some time admiring the descending mist. Picking up my books, I stepped out, only to have a herd of gaur materialise silently, like some spectral sentinels. As the distance between us was a safe 20 odd feet, I gingerly walked towards the library, when to my horror, a young soldier who had found himself a stick charged at the herd shouting “hai hai”. ‘Oh no’, I thought, ‘The gaur is not going to like being addressed by the wrong name, again’. But, the magnificent, muscled animals regally turned around and dissolved into the mist as suddenly as they had appeared.

P.S.: The right way to address the big guy is Gaur. Indian bison. Bos gaurus.

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