Encounter: Chinkara or Indian Gazelle

“Eye, gazelle, delicate wanderer,
Drinker of horizon’s fluid line.”
– Stephen Spender

Very near the end of a long, fruitless afternoon tailing invisible bustards in Naliya grassland of Kutch, we were in no mood to savour the sunset muddying the windmill-stippled horizon. Forget the fact that we had, during that day, picked out chestnut-bellied sandgrouse camouflaged among the tinder-dry tussocks. Or watched a jungle cat hunt a spiny-tailed lizard. Or, as dusk neared, blinked our eyes to the silhouettes of nearly fifty or so Pallid and Montagu’s harriers settling down to roost in the grass.

Such selfish ingrates!

But then, our eyes were drawn to a troika of little ungulates chasing each other in single file across the yellow grass. The Chinkara or Indian Gazelle (Gazella bennettii), more of a newsmaker for its association with a certain trigger-happy Bollywood hunk. We saw them on more than one occasion, and always in groups of three – we couldn’t quite ascertain if the ménage à trois was the regular marital arrangement with the Chinkaras, or if they were just respectable double-income one-kid family parties.

Males are slightly larger than females and have longer, thicker horns. Mostly they trot, but when approached they break into a light, easy lope that chews up the miles faster than you can count them.

The dipping sun lit this fellow nicely, gilding his fawn coat to a glaze as Sandy’s shutter whirred and clicked greedily. Something to remember the evening by.

Photo copyright: Sandeep Somasekharan. All rights reserved

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