That night, like any other night, among the sounds of silence, I was reading in the corner of my solitude. The gleam of my bed-side lamp created a halo amongst the unending darkness; a light breeze, pregnant with humidity, promised a chilly night with heavy showers. Just above my head, the telephone-receiver hung in ever anxiousness, and it rang, suddenly, piercing the valleys’ immortal silence. A call from a long lost friend continued, till I realised that retiring to bed seems to be the next best thing. While the drops of silence were re-settling in my room and I was about to close the book finishing the last few lines of a chapter, I was startled by a muffled call, coming from a distance that is neither too close nor to far, either!

Did I hear what I really thought I heard? I opened the door of my room and was awed, once again, by the vastness of the soundlessness that awaited. I crouched next to my door, a flash light in hand, extending my ear to the direction the call was coming from. A gap of a couple of minutes, and there it was again. Bouts of five to six growls coming from the land opposite to my field-station. It was a tiger calling from the green valleys.

I waited outside and heard two more bouts of calls. The intensity of the sound has decreased, indicating movement of the ‘cat’ towards a lake that lies where the field ends. I recovered from the immediate adrenaline rush, and realised that sitting outside in the dark is more than baiting myself to many a thing, if not the tiger itself! I came inside the room, and the absence of another bout of growling for about four minutes was dampening my spirits.

Stay!!

I turned the bed-side lamp off, sat next to a window that faces the field where the tiger was. I was scared even to breathe, for it would most definitely break the silence, and I cannot afford to miss a tiger call at the cost of my own heart beating. The window has well spaced grates, between two of which my head fits perfectly. I rested my chin on one of them and tried to focus my hearing at its direction. I heard it again, and once more! The spotted-deer had realised the danger by now and their alarm calls suddenly stirred the atmosphere. The tiger had already moved further away, and gradually faded in the misty darkness that veiled the land.

The curtain being dropped over the scene, as I turned around to go to bed, a cold, shivering hand landed on my shoulder from beyond the grates of the window…who knows what is waiting for you in the dark!