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A cry that froze a clan

I was lucky to spend my toddler years amid the wilderness of coffee plantations. Our cottage was located in a valley that fringed a reserve forest area, and our nearest human neighbours were half a kilometre away.

Elephants visited us often, and lion-tailed macaques ransacked our vegetable garden often. Reptiles were free to roam as long as they did not find a cosy nook inside the house.

Animal encounters had never surprised us, a family of three. However, one rendezvous stay etched in our minds.

It was a winter evening with only the sound of distant trumpeting wafting through the still air. The one-year-old me was deep asleep. From our bedroom window, the grassland atop the mountainside was visible, and my mother noticed some strange movements there. She saw a deer being chased by a cackle of hyenas. As they moved closer to our cottage, the pregnant doe was fighting a losing battle.

Hyenas are a clever clan. They had chased the poor doe to exhaustion and were waiting for it to give up. When the doe staggered towards the clearing in front of our cottage, it must have been tired to the bones. My mother looked on helplessly from our bedroom window as the hyenas surrounded their prey.

Their cackle, a kind of sneering laughter they make, echoed throughout the valley. The sound woke me up, a mere tot with the lung capacity of a blue whale. My mother said I gave a blood-curdling scream, startling the hyenas. The poor doe, I assume, would have been resigned to its fate by then and stood rooted to the ground. Before the confused hyenas could decide what kind of a weird animal could let out such a heinous cry, I had caught my breath and with renewed energy, let out another scream. The hyenas, the whole pack, did not want to risk it, my mother said.

Nothing, not even a plump deer, was worth confronting an animal that had such an awful howl. All of them took to their heels. Considering that the hyenas were formidable predators and could maul a gaur, my performance was regaled as spectacular.

The doe, I am sure, is now recounting this tale to her grandchildren, thanking the screaming animal that had saved her skin.

sarveswarisaikrishna@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 5:58:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-cry-that-froze-a-clan/article33150696.ece

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