It is my second day in Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarkhand, India – home to above 200 tigers. The previous day evening a Tiger tricked us walking across the road through the rear side of our Gypsy.
This morning tracking the fresh pug marks and listening carefully to the alarm calls, Hemu one of the most skilled tiger tracker in Corbett, parked his Maruti Gypsy in a position where he anticipated the tiger to cross the road. A barking deer started giving frantic alarm calls continuously-Yes a tiger was very close to us. Hemu climbed on top of the jeep and looked around. No signs of a tiger yet. Idhar se hee nikalega he said, meaning it will definitely come this way.
We waited and waited. The rising temperature touched my skin but it could not remove my focus from the direction in which we were anticipating the tiger to emerge from. Another alarm call, this time of a Spotted deer and the langurs on the nearby trees went restless hoping between branches. Suddenly Hemu, in an excited voice said -” Tiger nikal aya“, meaning Tiger has come out and pointed towards the bushes. A beautiful tigress slowly protruded its head slowly out of the thick bushes. Orange, white and black all blended perfectly and placing each step carefully with her massive paws, she started moving across the jeep track and slowly disappeared in the bushes on the other side of the road.
I was temporarily lost for words and found myself trembling at magnitude of the moment. My mouth went dry and I started sweating profusely and I could feel the adrenaline rush all over me. I pinched my arms-was it in dreams?
It was Paarwaali (means one who resides on other side of the river) the tigress, who was lovingly called Paru by our tiger tracker Hemu. Paarwaali had given birth to three cubs 3 weeks back and so she looked a bit tired.
The complete environment had become silent, all the deer were alert. The barking deer on the other side of the road was standing tall with its tail straight up and the langurs were attentively looking at the direction of Paarwaali.
The sound of shutters clicking continuously woke me up. I steadied my camera with my trembling hands and tried to capture the moment. My very first tiger photograph!
Wo kill keliye jaa rahi hey. Chalo dekunga (she is out for a kill, let us move) said Hemu and started the Gypsy and headed to the next spot, but a charging jumbo spoilt the chance of watching a tiger kill.
The sighting was short, but ever so sweet! It was a special moment when I was at my happiest and I was in tears. That magical joy will stay for a lifetime and brings me back again and again to try and see Tigers; perhaps an Annual pilgrimage to Corbett.