Ranthambhore this season was abuzz with 2 Tigresses with few month old cubs. One was T19 (a.k.a. unees) , she had a litter of 3 young ones in Feb/March, and T39, a real beauty of a Tigress, she had a litter of 2 cubs sometime in April, her cubs were only about 1 month when sighted for the first time.
It seemed all photographers the world over descended on Ranthambhore to capture this unique, and ever refreshing sighting of a Tigresss with young ones. Fortunately the 2 Tigresses are in 2 different areas of the park, so the tourism got divided.
It was 28th June 2014, my last safari of the season, and the park was to close on 30th June. My joy knew no bounds when I heard that I was to do safari in the zone with the Tigress with 3 cubs. It was evening safari, left the precints of my comfortable air-conditioned room at 3.30pm, outside temperature must be around 43-45 degree Celsius. Entered the park, and heard the good news that T19 was near the lakes, sleeping under the tree. We reached to see few Jeeps already parked, and the drivers present there had got some good spots to take photos when she gets up. We saw her (T19), sleeping like a baby under the tree next to the lake. While she was in shade, we were exposed to the sun with no possibility of any cover. The wait began, every minutes passed like an hour, not only with the anticipation of the Tigress getting up, but the sun beating down on us, and it seemed 50 degree Celsius. We were telling ourselves, that she (Tigress) is about to get up, perhaps trying to keep our mind from getting demoralised by the heat.
Having waited 45 minutes, we decided to go and search for some other Tiger in some other water hole. It seemed like a good plan, and we headed out in search. About 15 minutes of drive, closing in on a water hole, and we see a vehicle coming in our direction, and the driver excitedly shouted T64 in the water hole, just half a kilometer ahead of us. Our postures in the Jeep changed, more alert, getting the cap right, sleeves rolled up, head and neck turned and twisted, fingers, and wrists stretched, for they had some serious work in offering soon. Before we realized, we were there. T64, in water. Chilling. Awake. Alert. As a ritual, I always first thank the Tiger mentally for allowing us to be near him, and then I take a few deep breaths before lifting my camera to start taking pictures. While I was busy clicking, my guide whispered into my ears, that a deer herd is approaching the water hole. They had no idea about the Tiger sitting in water. They were grazing, and inching their way close to water. Tiger was alert, ready to charge, waiting for the appropriate moment, a forehand lifted from water, but not a muscle flexed. It was a portrait of a martial artist practicing concentration. A lesson for all yoga and meditation practitioners’ on how to attain physical stillness.