My dear boy Simba,

On this day you turn 10 and its natural that I look back at the time that has passed. Seems to me that it was just yesterday that I held you and your brother Jabu on my palm while your mother the love of my life, the queen of Dhole’s Den gave birth to you in my room as I watched over her and even sang to her…

It has been a wonderful journey with you, and I would not want to miss one day, not even a moment without you. Your exploring the landscape in Dhole’s Den, your departure to another home and your return are a story that I have narrated many a friend over wine and a crackling campfire.

Now after 10 long years and the experiences that I have had at Dhole’s Den, two among which have been etched on my memory and heart, the passing of Shaka your dad and the sudden departure of your elder brother Jabu, I can tell you that you both are the most wished for kids that a father in me could ever have wanted.

It is a pity that lives make us go through such difficult moments of separation as was the case both the times and let the heavy burden of loneliness fall on one’s soul. But let me tell you that both these times there was rescue from you. With Shaka gone both of you took his place and stood by me and since your brother Jabu has been rudely snatched away by fate, you have stood by me, never leaving my side.

But this is not meant to have a sad note as it is a birthday letter to you. I cannot thank you enough for saving me. You and your mother Zulu watch over us as we rest in our quarters, secure that you protect us and feel your warmth every day.

It is with joy that we celebrated your big day today knowing in our hearts that we have been loved.

Simba, today as I walked to Shaka’s resting place with Junior Jabu and you, it felt that it was just another day as I walked with you boys on the grounds here in Bandipur.  Junior Jabu who is just 10 months seems to have brought back with him your brother and his dad who probably walked up the rainbow bridge and realised he had to turn back and be with you and me just as before. 

A visitor today commented that you have a sweet face and to it I add that you have such wonderful eyes. Simba you respect the calmness in people and hate the hasty movements around you. You hate the loudness around us and the world.

Simba, my beloved son it has taken me 3 years to realise that you are as a matter of fact that worthy son of Shaka. All serious, no nonsense and just doing what is to be done and at the same time loving us with such dedication.

I realise that every time you stand and watch the girls Jameela and Thabisa and Junior Jabu and the naughty but puppy faced Ulinda race through effortlessly and jump into the pond, you do your bit by looking over them as they are frolicking in the water. You are Simba every bit the man who knows his duty and I can only hope Junior Jabu learns from you.

I wish you many more happy years and may we see many summers together and forever be in love with each other.

Your Dad Karthik

To the Readers who may find the above letter a bit strange, it is but a wish of every pet parent to be united in love with his or her child as we call them. Jabu Senior left us in August 2019 and I feel and wish to believe that he did come back in the form of Jabu Junior in September 2019 and now roams with Simba every morning and evening the grounds of Dhole’s Den with us.

For the readers interested in knowing more I am glad to share stories and anecdotes and bring the ‚mysterious ‘Chippiparais closer to you.