It was my 15th safari ride in the forest. By now I had captured some beautiful moments. BrownFishOwl couple taking bath, fight of the scavengers (Jackal and Vultures). Some amazing and colourful birds and raptors.
My 4th safari ride was very eventful. I happened to capture the ghost(Leopard) looking straight into the lens. While this was a great capture, I have also missed on a unique opportunity of framing a beautiful leopard couple. Excitement triggered panic. My photos got completely blurred. I still curse myself for losing my nerves and missing the moment.
But, did you notice, there is no mention of the Tiger. The story of my 14 safari rides( 4 each in Bandhavgarh and Tadoba and 6 in Kanha) is consistent. I would get into the jungle enjoy it thoroughly and come out without witnessing the stripes. I had almost lost faith in the fact that I can ever see; forget capturing stripes in the woods.
The other dimension to it was my co-explorer friends had started losing faith in me. If I was a member of their gypsy, they would doubt their chances of spotting a tiger. But then they never gave up on my fate. They started praying for me (themselves because they did not have an option of leaving me behind). OldMonk ka chadava hota aur prasad bata jata…
One such wish came true on my 14th ride. My dear friend RahulNene said, “This time the tiger will be sitting in front of you for the entire 4 hrs of the ride. You will get tired and want him to go away but he won’t move an inch”. The wish came true. We spotted Munna in Kisli zone. He never changed his
position for 4 hours. Just once he lifted his head in the entire duration. He was sleeping with his back to the tourists and was at least some 500 mts away where there was no trail to reach close to him. I had finally spotted the sleeping tiger.
The glimpse of the sleeping tiger had revived my faith in luck. With the same zeal, passion, blessing, wishes and most importantly, my love for the forest, I decided to venture into Tadoba yet again for another 4 safari rides. “SatyanarayanPooja”, “BakreKaBali”, “OldMonk ka chadava”. All boxes ticked. I was now all set. I hopped into the gypsy.
Today is my 15th safari ride in the forest. Huuh! Flash back over! Half way into this ride the past kept haunting me. I started comparing my previous rides with this one. The very first sighting was of the SerpentEagle. I was happy and super nervous. Is history going to repeat? By 3:00pm the forest had come to a stand still. Even the BrownFishOwl was sleeping peacefully on a huge tree. We clicked and moved on.
Then from no where our driver said, Tiger. I couldn’t believe my ears. There was an adrenaline rush. My eyes were fanatically moving around to locate the stripes. There was a group of gypsies waiting on either sides of the road. Our very intelligent driver (a topic for another blog) parked the gypsy in a way where we could very clearly see the tiger. “Bhola ahe ha”. This is Bhola a 2 yr old sub adult cub is what he said. Bhola then was at a distance of around 70 to 80 mtrs. In the next 40 mins a beautiful story unfolded and by then Bhola was 5 ft. away from me.
I had captured many frames. Bhola Sleeping, Bhola Standing, Bola back profile, Bhola front profile, Bhola yawning, Bhola walking, counting Bhola’s Teeth and finally, Bhola looked straight into the lens. This was the moment. I believe from here he vanished in the woods. I don’t know
what happened next. For the rest of the evening I had surrendered to the mesmerising aura of this magnificent creation of the mother nature. THE TIGER.
This is where I also captured one of the most unique frames that got admired and recognised on various forums. Bhola blocking the STBus.
All my 20 stories from the 13 safari rides on how I narrowly missed the tiger were a part of history now. I however have one thing to confess. I had begun this journey with an attitude. I would say a tiger will meet a tiger. What changed in the 14 rides was I had lost my attitude and had completely surrendered to mother nature.