I promise I will show you the funniest monkey picture ever (well, at least I find it the funniest), but before I do that, let me explain. We spent about 10 days in December in a tent next to a tiger reserve. My mission was to do a bunch of bird paintings, and maybe, MAYBE see a tiger. But I was really down on the whole tiger fetish. Truthfully, I find it rather odd that people travel from all over the globe to pay money to get in a vehicle, be driven into the jungle, and spew diesel around trying to get a glimpse of a tiger. Once they find one, they go absolutely ape. It seems a bit tactless, or overwrought, or something. Kind of like going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and finding yourself in a mad hysteria over plastic beads.
We spent many days hearing from our fellow tent-dwellers about whether or not they saw a tiger, how well they saw a tiger, if they were going back the next day to try again to see a tiger, etc etc. I noticed that people seem to take it as a personal failure if they didn’t see a tiger, and would seem depressed or even angry – like junkies who didn’t score. I, however, was content, and truthfully felt a bit morally superior, to be spending my days taking unobtrusive walks, observing the birds and being a quaint lady watercolor bird painter.
For birds, the idea is not to roar around in a loud vehicle, but stay very still and wait for them to come to you. Very civilized and quiet-like.
But we finally relented and booked an early morning safari. I kept telling myself, and whoever else would listen, that I really just wanted to see more birds. Maybe a deer or a wild boar at best. Absolutely not attached to seeing tigers.
However, once the chill of the dawn and the excitement of the open jeep was upon us, in fact I found myself getting increasingly attached to seeing a tiger. Truth be told, as we entered the park and started our drive, I was almost annoyed at the birds and the deer and the boars. There was an intensely competitive vibe in the air, and I found myself seeing other vehicles and wishing they would go away, and I certainly did NOT want them to see a tiger. I became greedy and quasi-manic for tigers. In fact, there are only 30-odd tigers in the whole of the reserve, an area of roughly 800 sq. miles, so the chances of seeing one are really the luck of the draw. It’s kind of a Russian roulette of tiger-viewing.
Our guide thought he heard the alarm call that sounds when the birds, monkeys and other animals start going berserk and trying to warn that there is a tiger near, so we did an about-face on the road we were on and went off in hot pursuit. After a bit of roaming about and no tiger in sight, we did manage to spot a tiger print in the dust – going in the wrong direction! I must admit that even the footprint got me pretty excited. Resigning myself to no tiger sighting, we start down the trail again and after several minutes see two canter jeeps stopped in the road.
Before I see anything, however, I can tell that there is a tiger in the vicinity. (It actually reminded me of the time I was in the Hamptons and Gwyneth Paltrow turned out to be next to me in line at a café – the minute I walked in the door, even before I saw her, I detected a charge in the air that was distinctly atypical.) There IS a tiger there, but he has gone off into the woods, and though Jeff catches a glimpse I still can’t see him! Our driver illegally goes off-road for a better look, and there he is! A big, beautiful, kick-ass tiger, just hanging out like it’s no big whoop. WOW!!!! Truly a graceful, elegant creature. I’m all a-twitter.
That night, around the campfire, I acted all casual when I asked people, “So, did you see a tiger today?”
Aside from the more glamorous tiger, I was delighted by all the birds, particularly the Red-Vented Bulbul. Before this month, I didn’t even know what a Red-Vented Bulbul was, and now it is my new favorite bird. I love them! Every morning they would frolic and sing and eat berries off the bush outside of our tent. They’re endlessly fascinating to watch and aren’t as skittish or shy as some birds. I find their funny black heads and dramatic red-flared butts rather droll. I made 3 paintings of them in all, but this one is my favorite:
And, now, without further ado. The Funniest. Monkey. Picture. Ever!!!!!!
(Pretty good, right?)
And here’s some more random shots: