And there she was.

The eyes of the tiger are the brightest of any animal on earth. They blaze back the ambient light with awe-inspiring intensity. It would be a tragedy and a terrible dereliction of duty if we allowed that magical fire to burn out.
– Billy Arjan Singh

On a particularly windy evening in Bandhavgarh, we saw her just when we least expected her. We ran into her, just when we thought we never would. Like an uninvited guest, but without the actual ‘uninvited’ part. (Doesn’t make sense, does it?)

See this is exactly why an encounter with her kind, in the wild is almost inexplicable. That toe-curling,  swift avalanche of emotions is almost unaccountable.
But now that I said almost, I thought I’d give this a try.

First glance and I was smitten, it was like a scene out of a Bollywood movie. Every photograph, every vivid memory would fail miserably if made to explain how regal and fierce her one glance could actually be.

In the midst of all the commotion and the quintessential “bhaiyya gaadi aage le lo” by the onlookers, our eyes met. Maybe for a couple of seconds, but they did.

I was riveted. Couldn’t look away. Her eyes gleamed in the late morning sunlight. They were alluring, the one’s that you could get lost in.  She sat there,  panting and blew away little clouds of dust. I felt a sudden sense of calm.
Had we met before? So steady was her gaze, that I couldn’t help but feel that there was something familiar about this interaction. She looked away, and thus ended our unspoken conversation.
It was as if I had met an old friend.

Those few seconds stamped their way into my memories, and I can’t wait to relive them someday. Later I came to understand that this young one was named after the former “Kankatti“, owing to her similarities in terms of her regal, bold behaviour.

Maya Angelou once said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Never before had I written about such an encounter in the wild. I do write a lot about experiences and interactions, but more often than not it’s about people. Bandhavgarh never ceases to amaze me, despite the few times I have visited it. And It would an unforgettable trip owing to the insightful travel companionship I had with the Go Wild bunch.
Published by Isha Bhalchandra.
Image credit : Piyush Gadkari


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