The Kill @ Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve !
A certain thrill grips your inner being as you plan your escape – from the concrete jungles of urban existences to the real ones – those replete with winding trails, dense green canopies and alarm calls. The serene silence that pervades seems to entice your every cell… as you embark on this journey into the unknown realms of the wild; unfathomable and enigmatic to mere mankind – Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve.
Jungle Trails of Central India..
The mysterious hidden marvels of the jungles beckon you to get a glimpse of life in the wild – The jungles of Central India are a perfect panacea for those seeking solitude and serenity, for here is a world where the denizens of the wild roam free, limited only by the ticking time told by the rising and setting sun . The whistling wind and towering trees of these forests have been privy to the Striped Cat and her many antics, prompting me and my husband to plot our escape. A transportation in place and time from the bustling crowds of Mumbai to the grasslands of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR). A place tucked away in the district of Chandrapur, oblivious to the humdrum of urban commercialization, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is the upcoming basin of tiger activity owing to its habitat of grasslands and covered forest area. The sweet scent of “hope” lingered in the thick wilderness air as we modestly comprehended the reality of the situation – “destiny” or as most laymen would call it mere “luck” plays a critical role with man’s foray to spot the wild; after all, a tiger sighting in true habitat is akin to a pursuit driven by the whims and fancies of these striped friends of the forests.
Show-Stopper on the Ramp
Setting foot into the wild is an all-encompassing sensation- a topsy-turvy sense of anticipation grips your body and soul as you prepare your mind to tread the uncharted territories! A characteristic rush of adrenaline charges up even the most fearless of human beings, something similar to our natural instinct of “flight or fight”.
As I tried to suppress this fluttery feeling, somewhat in vain; we caught the whereabouts of Maya –the beautiful tigress of Tadoba known for her bold histrionics started pouring in from the “jungle intelligence”. This new finding left me in a conundrum of anxious nervousness as I prayed to no one in particular, for a chance to witness live, her vivacious personality. Seeking a glimpse of the apex predator in any Indian national park typically involves a series of efforts towards tracking down the animals through pug marks, alarm calls and finally news on whereabouts from fellow guides and rangers. And so began the wait – for the sun to mellow, the air to cool down and the tigress to showcase her true colours. The setting was perfect, a herd of chital casually grazing just 30 feet away, grassy landscapes for the backdrop and me with my shooting artillery comprising those huge lenses.
And then it happened. Having decided to have a casual snack, Maya got up and walked head on towards the pathway teeming with gypsies. Eyes unwavering on the herd of deer, oblivious to the prying human eyes gawking in excitement, she advanced in casual post-siesta laziness. As if to reiterate her status as the “Predator of predators”, unforgiving and calculative, she took a seat on the dusty path, not fifteen feet away from our gypsy. Nonchalant glances met my eyes – that cold feline stare that sends a chill down a human’s spine. At her own sweet pace she took a few steps, eyes intent on the herd, seemingly deciding which chital to bring to its last breath. Alternatively advancing and crouching, in cent per cent stealth mode, the jungle reverberated with this spectacle of predatory terror. Time froze in pin drop silence, when a screeching call of a langur from the tree tops awakened the deer from their lazy stupor. The scene upturned, the tigress realised a chance missed, thanks to this warning call. In a half-hearted attempt the mighty beast dashed over to the deer, trying to amend what little she could. And lo! Such was the surprise bestowed upon her – a tiny chital fawn, hidden protectively amidst the golden grass. The “Jungle Queen” happened to stumble upon it by chance and realizing it to be her stopover meal, abandoned her chase. The apex predator and the hapless fawn, at the mercy of the fanged predator – nothing but a half-baked evening snack devourable in a jiffy. She cunningly played along, mockingly nipping at her probable meal and savouring her surprise catch. The herd of chital helplessly looked on…
Such were the rules of the jungle, where the mighty and the majestic ruled and the weak perished without a chance…
These jewels of the dense forests offer the unthinkable, capable of numbing any mere mortal. The sighting of the lifetime! And yet I realised this to be just the start of an obsession – the winding dirt trails have so much more to offer. Our gypsy retreated to explore the lovely greens and lo! Two peering eyes stared at us with amusement – a wild gaur peeping out from beyond a bush. It seemed to portray a paradox with its gigantic frame and yet seemingly genteel nature as it sized up us new visitors and fled to safer grounds! A flurry of birds, butterflies and various deer scampered off in different directions as the skies turned to dusky hues of red and gold..
A Wild Calling…
And so I reveled in the enormity of the wild. The vast silences seemed to weigh upon my soul, the pressing need to escape yet again. It was a moment of exhilaration, of treading the unknown, seeking the inexplicable. As I sat enjoying my late evening cuppa while soaking in the quietude, my thoughts drifted to the indomitable decree of the jungle lore – cold, calculative, yet in perfect harmony with each other. Home only to the brave and unrelenting. I reflected and reminisced – after all, wasn’t that the underlying essence of human life? As we go about our daily deeds, isn’t it the hidden need of mankind to surpass the weaker beings and establish his supreme dominance? A so-called evolved race that we are, in the rat race to power and fame, we somewhere merge into the unwritten rules of the primordial. Such uncanny thoughts flitted through my mind as the escape to the jungle realms left me appeased in mind and soul, yet aching for more of the mystic ways of the wild!