Friday, October 19, 2012

Mr. Ikhlas and the Tiger - when only a small fallen twig stands between you and death

"So there we were, walking through the virgin jungle, three friends", began Mr. Ikhlas - Young, foolish and unarmed in the jungles of Pahang, when suddenly I felt a great ominous presence. In fact all of us did. I looked at my friends and saw their faces wincing under the weight of some unseen power. Then one of my friends said, "Hey. The jungle is all quiet..." At that moment I saw, not very far from us, moving with feline grace through the sparse undergrowth, a large tiger. Then another. And finally a third. Three tigers were stalking us.

We were far from the nearest jungle road, so we had no choice but to walk on. As we trudge our frightened souls through the path, the palpable aura of three great cats stalking us made the air feel heavy with violent potential, as if at any moment there would be a flash of claws and fangs from the thickets. But nothing happened until we reached a small river. Then we decided to rest and pray. We could not see the tigers anymore and hoped that they were gone. The river itself was beautiful, with the green canopies of the tall trees by the riverbank spreading its green roof over the water, like a cathedral. We began our ritual ablution, washing ourselves prior to prayers. Then just like before, the crickets, frogs, birds and all living creatures fell deathly silent. Even the wind ceased to disturb the trees and branches. "Oh no. Not again." I remember thinking to myself. I was in the midst of washing my hands when I looked up and saw, just yards away across the shallow river, a tiger with its massive head crowned on top its muscular shoulder, crouching at the riverbank as it drank." 

 A refreshing little drink before lunch.
Saay... that fat one looks like mighty good eatin'...
But we carried on anyway, and at the nearby clearing began to pray. Perhaps this time with a little more earnestness and intensity, asking God to prevent us from becoming lunch for a big cat. For it was actually around lunch time that we were performing the Zuhur (noon prayers). Praying and beseeching for divine intervention done, we quickly gathered our stuff and resumed our walk. 

Our Walk. It is not too far now to the nearest kongsi (chinese settlement that often sprout at the forest's edge), but let me tell you that it felt like it was hundreds of miles away. "Why did we go into the jungle unarmed?" I asked myself, but I knew the answer. We were young. We were strong and sure-footed. We felt invincible. Well, all that sense of invincibility quickly evaporated as I noticed the very same tiger gaining ground to our rear, a bit to the right. Moving stealthily through the undergrowth, looking determined to get into action soon. Very, very soon. So it was with some relief when we saw the kongsi not too far away. But this time the many dogs kept by the Chinese men were quiet. Normally they would be yapping and barking like hell is about to break loose the moment they saw strangers. But this time, they were missing. No doubt skulking inside the nooks and corners of the kongsi as they sensed the coming presence of a hungry, hunting tiger.

"This cannot go on much further," my friend whispered. "The tiger's gonna jump us soon, otherwise it would be too near the kongsi." Then he furtively picked a fallen branch of the ground and continued, "I am going to break this branch in two. The moment I do that, we run like hell, okay?" Me and my other friend nodded nervously.

*Snap!* and we shot down the path like shit off a shovel. I glanced back just for a second, anticipating the yawning maw of the tiger, but instead saw it running in the opposite direction. We ran and ran until we reached a road that serviced the nearby palm oil plantation and quickly flagged it down. The driver gave us permission to hop on, and we immediately jumped into the back which was full of palm oil fruit bunches. It was uncomfortable sitting on the spiky bunches of palm kernels, but I could not have been happier if I was lazing on a luxurious Italian leather sofa.

"So what happened just then?" I asked my friend as I finally managed to catch my breath. He replied,"Oh, that little trick. You see, the tiger's sense of hearing is superb. And as it stalked us, its senses heighten even further, as every sinew and muscle of its body is coiling for the fatal spring on its prey, which just so happens to be us today. So if we timed the breaking of the branch just at the right time, the sudden explosion of noise (for it would appear that way to the tiger) would catch the tiger by surprise and it would take evasive measures, which would give us a short time to sprint away. Luckily the lorry came by just in the nick of time also."

"Wow. Does the trick work all the time?"

My friend ruefully smiled and said, "No, not all the time. We have a lot to be thankful for..." The three of us then broke into spontaneous (and nervous) laughter. 


I met Mr.Ikhlas over breakfast yesterday. There are other stories to share with you. But I loved the story about the tigers, so I thought it best to write about this first. I might add though that not all encounters with tigers can have such frightening consequences. Mr. Ikhlas recalls another occasion when he was walking down a jungle road, when suddenly a Papa tiger, a Mama tiger and little boy tiger strolled across, with nay a glance at Mr. Ikhlas. "They looked happy and full. They just ate." Said Mr. Ikhlas. So you see, sometimes life or death is simply about chancing someone before or after its mealtime. 

He he he.

Have a lovely Friday, sunshine.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

1 comment:

Ash said...

Phew! Most suspense thriller I've ever 'encountered'. Well written.
Thanks for sharing.