I looked at Specky and said, ‘No, I wasn’t in a store when this happened. Not even haggling with the vegetable vendor. Nor was I buying movie tickets. And yes, not even booking a new car on the telephone.’

‘Were you in some imaginary world then?’ asked Specky, my wife.

I looked at her with a twisted smile and said, ‘No, I wasn’t discussing food coupons, roll-backs and cashback, or international bargain with an economist either.’

All Specky heard were the three keywords: coupons, cashback, and bargain… and she was interested in whatever was going on in my mind. ‘Aha!’ she said, ‘for once you’re thinking like a woman.’

Before I could get into the psycho-philosophy behind the coupons-cashback-bargain link with a feminine state of mind, Specky said, ‘So where were you?’

I know everyone is going to find this ridiculously impossible, but I was in the core area of the Satpura Tiger Reserve just five days back and was shooting for the Volvo XC Adventure Challenge when I decided to go for a sneaky leak on the periphery where no cameraman or sound-dada or some hawkish producer or even the director of the episodes was able to spot me and pull me back into the safe zone.

‘I met a Tiger, a Leopard, and a Bear in the Satpura Tiger Reserve,’ I said, ‘but listen to what we discussed before you dismiss my story as hallucination because of exhaustion.’

Specky sat and crossed her legs which meant she had decided to hear me out patiently. And so I went on to tell her of what happened one evening inside a Tiger Reserve.

So I had gone for a leak and as I struggled with my zipper I heard the tiniest growl that sounded like, ‘Take five more steps, you dolt. Towards your right.’

I did just that and stood there staring into the eyes of a Tiger. The Tiger actually smiled and puncturing a sealed mineral water bottle with his sharp claw, sprayed water on my face, saying, ‘Freshen up. We have to ask you something.’

I wasn’t afraid because my intuition told me that talking Tigers cannot really be man-eaters, so I asked, ‘We?’

The Tiger simply pointed to his left where I spotted a Spotted Leopard fondling a Volvo XC Adventure Challenge marker flag and right there was a Bear giving me a deep penetrating stare.

‘She’s Anoushka,’ said the Tiger, by way of introducing me to her, ‘and she can actually outrun those fancy cars of yours running on her claws.’

The Bear then gave a vigorous nod and said, ‘I’m Razia and I despise all that speed but I’m here to talk about other important things.’

I said, ‘Ok. And what’s your name, Tiger G?’

The Tiger simply said, ‘Chirag. And I want to know if I really think like a woman or not.’

‘I’m hardly good at reading clues so how can I help deciphering your mind,’ I began with an apologetic tone. Razia raised her index finger to silence me and said, ‘Let me begin by talking about coupons.’

Razia, the Bear then told me that the forest official had been distributing coupons to all animals in the forest according to their stature in the food chain. ‘However, we can get extra coupons if we help in reducing human-animal conflict and also if we do a flash appearance when human tourists come,’ said Razia, ‘and these coupons give us the right to hunt prey in a defined space.’

‘This is a mind-blowing concept,’ I told Razia, and then went on, ‘we have coupons in our stores as well. But we get them when we spend. The more we spend, the more coupons we can get. Sometimes we get coupons that are promo coupons and then the online stores have lots and lots of them being emailed to us all.’

Chirag, the Tiger then asked, ‘The question here is: do you like your coupons?’

‘Not very much. Coupons make me buy things I don’t really want. My wife likes them a lot but she spends a lot of time analysing them and uses them when she feels it is the best time to use. I am impulsive with coupons and end up getting angry stares from her,’ I said.

Anoushka laughed and looking at Chirag, said, ‘I remember you use your coupons with a lot of discretion and discipline, Mr Tiger.’ I noticed a lot of stress on the way mister was pronounced and even saw the Tiger blush a little but said nothing. Anoushka then slid her paws under a pile of dried leaves and showed me a print-out that read:

Try This – http://goo.gl/6fAiTk | You Can Also Get Free $5 Coupon Code On Joining, Get Twitter Followers, Facebook Likes, Instagram followers, YouTube views and much more For Free!

‘What do you do with money?’ asked Anoushka, ‘I would love to get prey more than anything else.’

Now how do you explain to a female Leopard that money is like prey for us humans? There is so much blood and gore attached to it… so many ambitions and futuristic plans depend on a collection of these $5 coupons… so many dreams are full of freebies that are coupon-dependant. But then this is all so human… and the jungle has coupons that mean something else. But wait, the basic psychology is coming out to be so similar… right? And I didn’t have to wait long for a confirmation of my beliefs. This was when Chirag gave a low growl, ‘We get hunting coupons when we manage to make tourists excited by flashing for a few seconds and disappearing into the forest. We get them when don’t touch people like you who have strayed beyond the safety zones. We are rewarded with hunting coupons when we allow human-animal conflict mitigation programs show a success graph. Get my drift?’

‘That’s pretty intelligent of you guys,’ I remarked and immediately wondered if all the blog posts I had written on animal-animal and human-animal conflicts and mitigation strategies, all the words written on the state of villagers living on the periphery of these reserves made much sense after this eye-opening discussion here. But nevertheless, I went on and asked, ‘I now know what you think of coupons. But what do you think of cashbacks and bargains?’

Chirag, the Tiger was the first to give an enthusiastic reply, ‘Aha! I know how to strike a great bargain, buddy. I just jump right in front of a group of tourists, give a mild growl, and wait just enough for them to click a few pictures and record a few seconds of video. This pleases the forest guards so much that they invariably give me a few extra coupons. Now that makes me smart, doesn’t it?’

Anoushka grimaced and obviously didn’t appreciate these foxy stances in a Tiger and said so. But no one was listening to her, until she mentioned cashback. She said, ‘Listen guys, I have a pact with the forest guards. I put my pug marks on the soft ground near villages and scratch trees when tourists are around. These actions let them launch another of their mitigations plans or give them enough talking material to impress tourists. I get rewarded.’

Chirag obviously didn’t understand this at all and Razia, the Bear just went on and on about coupons until she too was asked to shut up. I explained to them that what Anoushka did was wonderful and told them, ‘This is what we humans do quite often with our purchases. Your pugmarks and your scratch marks are like debit card trails or purchase confirmations that make you eligible for cashbacks in the form of territorial advantage or a weekend hunt with no strings attached. Am I right?’

‘You’re absolutely right,’ growled Anoushka, and then went on, ‘I love my interpretation of cashbacks and find it so energising and full of action.’

Razia then suddenly asked, ‘but who is going to tell us if Chirag thinks like a woman or not?’

The three of them looked at me and I stuttered, ‘Chirag is a Tiger and thinks like one. He thinks he wants to think like a woman but that’s the way he thinks and it is good we let him think what he wants to think.’

Chirag showed a couple of his canines and said, ‘There is too much of thinking in the answer. I think we ask one of the forest guards some other day. These Volvo challengers are too busy with their own scheme of things.’

Yes, I got away that time and made it back and all because I though like a woman and confused them all into thinking about thoughts that just make you think.

You the reader are also thinking now. Right?

Thinking like a woman
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Arvind Passey
19 March 2014