The chilly winters of Kanha demotivates most of the robust hearts to not to leave the comforts of a quilt at Chitvan and move out for the morning safari. The priceless sensation of holding the hot cup of tea was bringing back the lack of consciousness in one's hands. Sun god had still not blessed us by his presence when we boarded the Jeep at the Lodge.
Waiting at the Mukki gate one gets to wonder if it is sane to be out so early. But that feeling gets overpowered by the mighty anxiety about what is in store for us in today's safari. Our Jeep entered the Mukki gate at 7:00 o'clock sharp. Today, with me was Peter from UK. His expectation was clear, to photograph a Tiger walking on the road in front of him. After doing innumerable safaris in various Tiger reserves of India, he was still bereft of the blissful occurrence of a Tiger sighting.
Our experienced driver Babloo Bhai-jan was expertly driving with his eyes on the dirt track in front in search of any pug marks or signs of the predator movement, his ears raptly focused on listening for any alarm calls, his hands energetically maneuverings the vehicle with minimum fuss. I asked him to turn towards Saundhar Tank. Just short of reaching there, one Jeep coming from the opposite direction exhilaratingly told us of spotting a Tigress sometime back. I noticed a drop in spur on Peter's face, but, Babloo Bhai-jan and I did not relinquish our hope and reached the spot where we expected her to make an appearance. And, lo and behold, the princess of the Kingdom was at hand. She came out from the bushes and crossed towards Mahavir road. I looked again at Peter, who looked mesmerized, a stunning contrast to the emotion witnessed 2 minutes back.
We knew there was more in store for us in the next few minutes. Babloo very deftly, and without much ado, parked our Jeep on the bridge. We anticipated the Tigress to come out on the dry river bed. When a predator like a Tiger moves, the prey sets off alerts in a high pitch call, which are called "alarm calls". These are infact distress calls of the unsuspecting prey and they alert rest of their brothers in the neighborhood.
A Listening to these calls 4 more Jeeps gathered and lined up besides us. Monkeys were calling about 30 metres off, and my prudence judged that this was getting close by the second, and any moment we will spot the Tigress again. The sheer intelligence of this magnificent creature has befooled all Tiger experts in the past, and I consider myself only a rookie. There was silence for 10 minutes, the Tigress had conceivably sensed our presence and had sat down. Suddenly the calls started with greater intensity and frequency. Only thing one heard was monkeys calling, and our hearts pounding, while the 2000 sq km jungle was silent, everything, was, pin drop silent. Abruptly, we heard the rustling of dry leaves, and something moving towards us from the bush. And like a bolt from the blue, the Tigress materialized. The radiating face, the intense look in the eye, a no nonsensical look, telling us, "I have come out because you behaved and kept silent, and now, you stay put and watch me go, dare not follow me". The monkeys had stopped calling, as she was out in the open, no danger to them, only thing we heard now was cameras clicking, the paparazzi was here to shoot the celebrity of the kingdom.