There are moments that remain etched in your memory forever - those brief interludes with destiny! The happenings of the morning of the 6th of December, 2011 would always be one of my most thrilling encounters in the wild.
It was a crisp and cold morning with a thick fog enveloping the forest. The wet earth smelled divine. The birds had started their morning songs. A huge herd of chital was grazing peacefully in a clearing. Nature was surreal that fine morning! We were witness to this joy and bounty of nature even as we sat sipping a hot cup of freshly brewed chai in the interiors of the Nagzira forest, besides the famed Nilai lake. And just then, somewhere far away in the chilled waters of the lake, swam a sambar doe, frantically! The white mist hung low over the lake giving it an eerie appearance. As our curiosity got the better of us, we went towards the banks and explored the reason of the sambar`s unnatural movements. And then, in those calm waters, lay a white line of froth, just created by the sambar doe! She had leaped into the waters from somewhere on the opposite side of the lake! Why? We wondered? Of course, there was a feline hand in it!
Thrilled, we jumped into our jeep and drove to the place from where the sambar had jumped into the lake. Dense bamboo bushes lay thick over both the sides and somewhere in the middle of the road, like liquid gold, with the sun` rays adorning her stripes, lay the most beautiful tigress I had ever seen. She sat looking at the sambar, intently! Moments later, the beast got up and started walking down the road, with us following in tow! It was a magical morning, just as winters in Indian jungles are! Slowly but surely the mist started disappearing with the advent of the sun, and the forest colours beemed at us in full glory! In the meantime, the tigress kept walking on the dirt road, every so often pausing to scent mark one of the bushes or to steal a glance at her entourage - us! What a powerful stare that was with those deep amber eyes looking into us, deeply! No other sight in the natural world is as powerful and majestic as that of a tiger looking at you in the eye! Around 30 minutes ensued with us following her, and then, all of a sudden, she threw caution to the winds, stopped and contorted her body! Within seconds, her muscles had tightened, her gaze had been fixed and she meant business! Very slowly, noiselessly, she creeped into the bamboo bushes surrounding the road. For a few minutes only the tip of her tail was visible as her body lay hidden in the grass. And then, in one giant leap of grace, in one ultimate motion she leapt around 10 feet to land on top of a sambar fawn who lay frolicking in the bushes. A pin-drop silence and then a blood-curdling death-throb. The fawn was killed. Its mother was still in those waters. Nature, at its most cruel, yet truest form, has expressed itself. Oh what a morning that was!