The Tiger Dream

Last year’s nascent trip to Ranthambore was a journey that made me fall in love with a place, I sort of despised. Always entangled in a dense web of controversies , Ranthambore still managed to be a favorite for inbound tourists; making things for us slightly on the expensive side in contrast to the Central Highlands.

Every year I would visit Ranthambore, I would make it a point to start it off by visiting the Fort. I would stand, resting against the back of my parked jeep and try to imagine the kind of history the fort had witnessed over the years. The royal lineages of men & tigers that had walked its lengths and what a sight it would have been to behold.

Struggling to keep my breath steady I would climb up from the gate where the vehicles used to be parked, armed with my camera and lens hoping to get some good snaps from the highest vantage point in the forest. And every time I would summit, and my eyes would feast on the rugged dry landscapes; somewhere deep down I would fantasize about seeing a tiger walking in the distance.

The tradition went on, every time I would climb up and stay there for a while, eyes anxiously searching for some trace of activity. After hearing roars, getting stalked & charged at; this was my great tiger dream : to see a tiger in the forest while standing atop the Ranthambore Fort.

The evening looked like the Earth had dragged a dripping orange bar across the sky. Overhead flocks of parakeets had started their journey to their nests, the forest was a full blown orchestra of cicadas, crickets & birds. I glanced at my watch, calculating the time I had left before I needed to get going.

As I neared the old Fort arches where the erstwhile women would stand and shower flowers on the victorious soldiers returning from battle, I drew in sharp gasps of the dense forest smell. Suddenly, some commotion erupted in the distance. There was a flurry of gypsies rushing on top gear in one direction. As a knot tied itself in my throat, I breathed in sharply, alerting all my senses to find any trace of movement from my perch.

The inhabitants of the vehicles looked ahead in no particular direction, trying to spot the “someone” on the prowl. I glanced through my binoculars as the the “someone” continued being elusive. On a sigh, I wished deeply that this could be the moment that my tiger dream finally comes true.

I climbed up higher to the Fort to get a better angle of the movement in the distance. And in that moment, the universe responded to all the prayers and wishes I would send out every time I would be on the Fort, and “someone” appeared !

The climb from the Fort entrance to the top was carried out an urgent pace, the young ones sprinting in the lead while I followed closely with the seniors. After stopping a moment to get our breaths back, I steadied myself and peered into my binoculars into the Zone 3 in the distance.

The “someone” was the royal one, the royal bengal tiger.

It walked on the road, the vehicles followed. It clambered up lazily, often stopping to glance around at the surroundings. The striped beast was too far for us to even tell whether it was a male or female but I could picturize it. The regal gait and the motions of its sculpted muscles so fluid, it felt nothing short of a definition of grace.

Eventually the royal one turned and disappeared into the canopy below, as I stood gazing. The handful photographs I clicked aren’t my best photographs but they are my fondest wildlife capture.

But even then, the happiness filled me and even spilled over.
My tiger dream was happening in front of my eyes, and in those few moments I had lived an eon. I was alive and I felt it, like a dying man saved from the disease. The tiger had saved me by reigniting my passion for wildlife by giving me the chance to witness it the way I wanted to, in its natural habitat.
<blockquote>For in the wild, every moment is in the present & always unique.</blockquote>
Published by <a href=””>Mangesh Desai</a>


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