Call of the BIG CAT

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Madhya Pradesh is known for its high density of tigers and largest forest cover in India, hence the probability of sighting a tiger is high at Bandhavgarh National Park

An eerie silence had blanketed the jungle. As we were holding our breaths along with other mortal animals of the jungle, a faint grumble turned us into statues. Our eyes, ears and noses were working overtime. We knew that a tiger was somewhere nearby.

HIGH ALERT

The guide accompanying us on our safari was on high alert. He concentrated on listening to peacock calls or the sounds which monkeys made. The monkeys jumped haphazardly from one branch to another warning their neighbours of approaching danger. As a rule of the jungle, every time a tiger passes by, the jungle teams up like one. The different species communicate with each other about the looming presence of a predator.

FAILURES AND VICTORIES

Despite the tell-tale signs, we were unsuccessful in sighting a tiger, let alone the group of a tigress and her sub-adult cubs rumoured to be hiding behind a bush. We waited for a long time in silence. Disappointed but still hopeful, the guide insisted we move the jeep to another zone where there were higher chances of sighting.

BIG CAT

Call of the Upon reaching the other zone, we were surprised to see many vehicles already parked there along the muddy pathway. It turned out, someone had heard a roar a few minutes ago. We again waited, patiently. A forest official passed on a bicycle nonchalantly. Surprised, I whispered to the guide, “Why is he moving around on a bicycle? Isn’t he afraid of bumping into a tiger?” The guide smiled and replied, “It is a way of life for him. Don’t worry he is fine.”

A LONG WAIT

A half-hearted roar killed our conversation. Goosebumps ran through our skin when we realised that a tiger family was sitting just a few feet away. We tried hard to ascertain the exact location of the tigers trying to keep ourselves calm and praying for a glimpse of the tiger. An English couple couldn’t believe their luck as in their past safaris they hadn’t been lucky enough to even hear a roar for that matter. But our alert shoulders started drooping

MOMENT OF VICTORY

A sudden commotion woke us up from our stupor. Out of nowhere a sub-adult tiger appeared majestically! Unfortunately we were facing the other direction. The driver deftly drove the jeep in back gear, taking immense care not to bother the tiger. I craned my neck to see a majestic beast strolling nonchalantly on the dusty jungle lanes. Unaffected by all the attention showered on him, the tiger walked with a grace and confidence fit for kings. His arrogance made it appear as if he owned the jungle. Avoiding all eye contact, he refused to acknowledge our presence and silently vanished in the dense forest in a jiffy. The moment was over in just a few seconds.

INTO THE WILD

Wildlife safaris are addictive. Apart from tigers, the national park is also known for its rich history and heritage. There is a fort in the jungle, where the Kabir Panthi (followers of Kabir) gather for an annual religious fair and create music.

As I looked up towards the sky, I caught a glimpse of an Asian paradise flycatcher. The bird darted past at lightning speed. It’s beauty is hard to describe in words; brightly-coloured long tail with a crown embellishing the head made it look like a queen.

PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE

Somewhere near, monkeys and spotted deers were having their breakfast around a mahua tree. Not only did they share their meals but also intimated each other of approaching predators. This win-win situation had impressed me with the strategic arrangement of the inhabitants of the jungle.

Text: Abhinav Singh

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