Nilgai – By Esther David

It had been raining for two days. The garden had a carpet of fresh Borsali flowers. Their fragrance mixed with the whiff of roasted peanuts and makai from the roadside four-wheeler. When father built our house in the suburbs, there were fields all around. In the seventies we could see peacock, sarus, a mongoose family, which lived close to our wall and we could hear the partridge and lapwings. kingfishers and hoopoes were a common sight with about twenty species of birds. That night, with umbrella in hand, father opened the door and saw a strange animal sitting there. At first, he thought it was a cow. Then he noticed the large but delicate ears and saw new horns shooting out of the head. It was a young blue bull, a nilgai sitting still at the door, blinking its enormous long lashed liquid-doe-eyes.

Father said; there was something about her eyes and colour, which said that she was a female. She also looked tired.

The night, before father had heard the dogs, they must have been chasing her. He had assumed; they were after the stray cattle as usual. At the door, there is a Banyan tree and a weather shade. Father named her Neel. But, knew that he must not interfere with the law of the jungle; as Neel had to learn to live in the wild. She appeared to have strayed into the city, looking for shelter from rain or dogs. The Acacia forest near the riverbed had been recently cut down for a garage on the highway.

That must have been her home. So, during the heavy downpour, Neel did not know where to go. In the past, other Nilgais had strayed around the house. Some were sent to the zoo, others just disappeared. Father kept checking on Neel all day long, and instructed everybody not to disturb her. Father was worried that she was injured and perhaps could not stand on her fours. Perhaps he should call the vet from the zoo and he kept checking on her, until midnight.

Father could not sleep and was sure that the stray dogs would harm her. So, he called the zoo staff and asked them to bring a trap cage and some rope. When they arrived, Neel did not move, but allowed the men to throw a rope around her, as they put her in the trap cage and transported her to the zoo in a municipal truck. From her frightened eyes, father said, Neel would be safer in the zoo, with other Nilgais with similar stories. And, before Neel, there was the incident of another Nilgai, which had been caught in a thorny bush. She had been sedated with tranquillizers and taken to the zoo, where she lived for years in the Nilgai enclosure.

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