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The last month of 2012, I saw a reasonably varied landscape become part of a project that exploited its every crevice. From the jungles of Gir to the beaches of Diu, the annual family trip seemed as simple as the alphabet. A refusal to acknowledge the extent of our aloofness and a poorly executed Research Presentation brought us to think otherwise. Red-eyed and extremely sleep deprived, we clambered on into our white chariot and commenced on a journey so abstract that I assumed impending doom from my Algebra book. Only, I assume impending doom from my Algebra book all the time. That being said, I would like the reader to understand that the characteristic “abstractness” of the geographical terrains posed a higher threat than a bunch of pages(Yeah, I said it!).

Gujarat mostly flat, paints a dismal picture of perpetual boredom. A frustratingly monotonous drive to Rajkot, almost lulled most of us to slumber.  I commend the commander of the Chariot though, for in the face of utter boredom he maintained his prowess and determination to keep us going and most importantly for not dozing off on the wheel. Nevertheless it had been a quiet ride to Rajkot and from then on, commenced the beauty of an irregular terrain. Sprouts of Foresty hills, made a very happy eye. The abrupt transition of rolling flatlands to magical forests jolted that shaky notion of disinterest right out of the window. With mysterious hills hidden behind curtains of mist, Gir anticipated our arrival.

As the sun descended into the underworld, our white chariot persevered through the forest of Gir and reached our fine forest lodging right in time for the last round of tea. A bunch of small shops outside the lodge aided the preparation of the Safari-sts. From batteries to memory cards and even film reels, these little shops eased that extra pressure off some scatter brained photographers (Read: Me). As I reloaded my newest acquisition, a new old Yashica FX-3, I mused over the poster of Mr. Lion and the Armadillo that hung in our room, and accepted a challenge of a nature that was unrealistically dipped in the chemicals of the realm of my own imagination, a better photograph than that. As I made these naïve promises to myself, the new roll of film that I had just loaded in to my new Yashica decided to dislodge from its fastening and fib me into entrusting the strongest faith in the efficiency of its functionality. Unfortunately, I did not learn of its treachery till the authority at the photo studio stamped a “Blank Reel” on my bill. A pang of unforgivable guilt jostled with my rationality, a treasure chest lost at sea. But that happened much later, the day that immediately followed was destined to be just another legendary gem.

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The sun was still asleep, and the drunken stars were just about stumbling back home. Our jeep was ready with a driver and a guide who was assigned to provide useful information whenever required. We hastily found our seats on the jeep and pushed into the sleepy morning. Shivering restlessly in the chill that the forest had decided to create, we waited quietly for the sun’s glorious arrival and what a warm surprise she had for us too.

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There was some lion scouting to be done though, and we were sure as hell hoping we’d find atleast one of them just hanging out, minding his own business. Luckily for us we found three. But I think it would be best to inform the reader that a lion sighting is a very rare experience at the forest of Gir. It is true that Gir is famous for its Asiatic Lions, but I have met a number of regulars at Gir who never got to see a single lion roaming free about the forest. Thus, I would classify our expedition as one that met success. These three lions weren’t as easy to come by. We found our first lioness perched cautiously behind a thicket of bushes. She watched silently, a peaceful herd of deer, and waited for the remotest chance to get her some breakfast. We watched just as silently as her, a rush of adrenaline that seemed very unfamiliar pulsated through my entire body. This was exciting. Sadly, though, this lioness did not get her grub. I believe the human population observing her is to blame a little bit. We may have jinxed her. Plus, the pressure to deliver in front of an audience, may have just made her snap. Well, I don’t think I’ll ever know, I just hope she found a way to preserve the “Circle of Life”.

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An hour later, while still scouring the woods for more of these wild beasts, we found Mr. Lion pursuing a Ms. Lioness. A very active courtship was being hindered by a second lion who had included himself in this love triangle, so our guide declared. And sure enough, we found a second Mr. Lion tottering respectfully behind our attractive Ms. Lioness. A fight was sure to break up, and I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared. These lions were just a couple of feet from the jeep and I found it hard to even breathe. But clearly, these highly superior species of the cat family didn’t give two hoots to our presence. Lions sure are a majestic folk.

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As I tried to recuperate from my last lion encounter, we managed a rough round of the forest and thus reached the end of a lion trail that left me half exhilarated and half exasperated. We followed the deer for a while and were more or less amused with their limited intelligence. You have got to give one thing to the deer though, they are quite pretty.

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With lions and deer keeping the forest safe and thus our ecological cycle, we bade the forest a hopeful goodbye. Hoping that one day we’d be back again and meet the same Mr. Lions and Ms. Lionesses. But our journey wasn’t done yet. So with a cheery spring in my step I packed my bags and hurled them back in the car, because next up was Diu. Come back here in a while and I’ll tell you what happened there.

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