My heart was beating fast. I was nervous. My adrenaline levels were soaring sky high. I had never been so excited about seeing someone. This guy was mysterious as well as dangerous, & maybe that’s why I found him so enchanting. I had mostly seen him on TV, but I was about to meet him face to face.
I was on a round boat called a coracle. It was made of bamboo, straw & was sealed with tar. I was sailing on the calm waters of River Kaveri, trying hard to catch a glimpse of him. I looked around but couldn’t find him. It was a hot afternoon, but the cool breeze helped me feel comfortable. There was silence all around. No honking horns, no loud music, no loud speakers, no chattering, nothing. It was very peaceful. The water surface looked like a thousand sparkling diamonds wherever it was touched by the sun light.
“THERE HE IS!” yelled the boatman, bringing me out of my trance. I stood up looking at the direction he was pointing, but couldn’t see anything, except couple of rocks.
“I can’t see him”, I said.
“That’s him! You are looking right at him”, he said pointing at a huge boulder on the river bank.
I was yearning to see him. I knew that he has knack of hiding in plain sight, which made me scared and fascinated at the same time. I looked and looked but nothing seemed like him.
Suddenly, my eyes caught movement among the rocks. There he was! I was shocked, happy and scared all at once. He was simply lying on the shore and yet I couldn’t see him until he moved. I had assumed him to be the boulder. I was fascinated when he started walking along the shore, because that’s when I saw the entire length of his body which was more than 7 feet long. His skin was dark & rugged which resembled the texture of rocks, and thus I was not able to spot him earlier.
My heart started making somersaults when he slipped in to the water stealthily. I was shivering with part excitement and part fear. He was coming towards me. I was perspiring.
I could only see his eyes above the surface; his rest of the body was submerged under water. All of a sudden, he disappeared. Fear embraced me in a tight hug. I had seen him startle people using guerrilla tactics on TV. It’s thrilling to watch on TV in the safe confines of my home, but now, sitting in a small coracle, I was scared out of my wits. The boatman assured that he won’t trouble people on boats and he usually hangs around the opposite shore of the river, but my mind was not convinced.
Just then, I heard a splash and I almost jumped. My heart was up in my throat. I looked frantically out in the water, fully convinced that we were being followed. I was terrified at the possibilities. What if he overturns the boat? What will I do? I couldn’t even swim! I sat there paralyzed with fear. I heard the splash again. This time I saw a glimpse of something red jump in the water. I heaved a sigh of relief, as I watched a school of red finned fishes making a splash, mocking my fear.
Till the end of our sailing trip, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that we were being watched. Maybe this was the reason which kept my adrenaline levels high. The rocks in the river kept playing with my mind: is it him or just a rock? He made me observe & not just see, he made me listen to each & every sound & not just hear. He kept me alert and maybe it was for the first time in my life that I was actually living fully in the present moment. He made me forget all my worries and just focus at the present. I could feel my survival instincts kick in, every time I heard a sound or saw something move.
Looking back at that wonderful trip to Galibore Nature camp, I surely have captured some of the best moments of my life in my memory. It was surely a date to remember. A date with ruggedly handsome, Mr. Croc O Dile.