Growing up reading Corbett’s stories, I assumed the word ‘jungle’ synonoumos with Corbett. I am yet to visit all the NP of India, but having visited quite a few ones would like to crown Corbett my favourite. The entire topography fascinates me. This was my second visit to Corbett (can you imagine, staying so close). We went for a few game drives in the Bijrani and Jhirna range, the abundance of wildlife sightings here overwhelm me. I saw a pair of wild boars, Indian Fox, monitor lizard, the ever omnipresent chital, sambar, barking deer, and to top it all, a small herd of elephants.
I waited for good 25 mins just to watch the herd (I hate these forest timings rules!).
And lots of birds too! I think the Hoopoe looks gorgeous; also I spotted the emerald dove, what a beauty! These sightings were enough to satisfy my emancipated soul.
After dinner, cajoled my friends to go for a drive again towards Dhikala. Though everybody else, except me was too tired, they finally gave in. It was beautiful; “in the darkness of the night” everything looked so enigmatic. Even the Sal trees seemed to have acquired an attitude. Two shining eyes of the chital at a distance encouraged us to look out for more. In the quietness everything was so endearing…came back to the hotel, high on life generally. Next evening after a few glasses of beer, I took a pledge, that till the time I see a tiger in Corbett, I will keep coming back here every year! My ever indulgent friends gave in…taking advantage of the mood we decided to venture out one last time (we were going back the next day). We decided to go upto Mohan. (The Mohan man eater’s image haunting me) It was the Diwali night. Imagine when the rest of the world was engulfed in lights and those deafening cracker sounds, I was just enjoying the ‘sound of silence’. There was an eerie calmness, no deer, no sambar. Suddenly in front of us, about 80 mts away we saw this tigress, walking ahead of us. I could hardly speak, Imagine, no other vehicle, no cameras, just the six of us, breathing heavily. We saw her briefly for about 20-30 seconds, when she suddenly jumped off to our left and disappeared into the darkness. Numb with I don’t know what, we decided to pursue her.
Rolled the car a few more kms and on our right hand side we see this big male. His head was approx. 1.5 mts away in the bush. Phew! Now I understood why Blake wrote “and when thy heart began to beat, what dread hand and what dread feet.” Durjay dimmed the headlights for us to adjust our sight, but that was a mistake. The moment there was a variation in the light source he stood up (my heart in my mouth already!) and disappeared. We turned of the engine for a few seconds; I hugged Debbie, my friend for 15 yrs, no words spoken. Pulling ourselves out of the reverie, we had to move forward a few more kms. There was no place to reverse the vehicle. One of us just turned to look behind, trying to help reverse the car, and…a tigress with red shining eyes following us. I would like to believe it was the first one we saw on our left. She crossed the road and then vanished into right side where we had spotted the male tiger. Surprisingly no call, no growl, I remember Jim Corbett once said that a tiger never defies its presence by calling.
This truly is one of the most significant nights of my life. I thought I was truly blessed. Could not have thanked HIM enough!There was a milestone reading 45. I named them Mr. and Mrs. 45.