Starting with my office colleagues, my brother who works in the same office, was disappointed that I got to know it first. But he was very happy to know. Our Export Manager was like, ” Kya farak padta hai ? ” (What difference does it make?)
At home I tell wife and she tells me nice to hear but don’t tell Hriday (my son) coz if you tell him he will ask the question every day when will the cubs be born…. I told her sorry but I cannot obey. Before I can even get hold of Hriday, my brother has given the good news to him and I watch them both in an animated discussion and they even strike a deal to go to the zoo on Sunday morning even before I can reserve that right.
When I was about 4 years old, for about 3-4 months I stayed with my Mama & Mami (maternal uncle/aunt) in Baroda which has a very big zoo “Kamatibaug” they have a particularly large number of spieces of Birds, which I must highlight.
Everyday at 9.30 Pandubhai (a guy who served my Mama) would come to fetch me. He would come with his bicycle which had a small seat fixed on the rod between the handle and the seat where i was supposed to sit and we both would go to the zoo.
In the zoo they had a tiger named ‘Vitthal’, some how he caught my fancy. I would stand in front of his cage and talk to him for about 1 hour and this used to happen everyday for the 4 months I stayed in Baroda. Within 30 mins the rest of the zoo would be seen but ‘Vitthal’ & ‘Dhiren’ (myself, incase you forgot) would chat for 1 hour. I don’t remember what I used to chat to him but since then this wonderful beast, the biggest cat has caught my imagination and I have not been able to get enough of this animal.
Watching a Lions pride in the wild, or deers, or birds or even a leopard is different but watching a tiger in the wild is most thrilling, adventurous and scary feeling….
A tiger has a territory of about 10 – 12 square kilometers, when the tiger is sitting in the forest the forest is relatively quiet. But as soon as he starts walking either a monkey or some parakeet or some barking deer will give a warning sound in their own typical way, which is called a “call” by tiger watchers, this is for alerting the other animals that the tiger is on the move. When we go for tiger watching the “call” is what every one is looking out for, for if the tiger is not moving its very difficult to spot him as he camoflauges very well.
But if you are lucky and you hear the “call”, the jeep comes to a stop, every watcher goes quiet in anticipation getting their camera’s ready. Everyone is shooing each other to keep quiet and wait for the sound again, suddenly another “call” comes “kooooh” and people start pointing in different directions while the other hand is on the lips to tell all to keep quiet. There is suddenly tension in the air, the hands start perspiring, the throat goes dry and aniticiaption of the next “call” grips you. As all eyes suddenly become persicopes trying to find the slightest movement in the bushes, suddenly there is another “call” from a high branch near the road at 45 degrees from the jeep, and a monkey is spotted who made that noise. The monkey is very near and it seems the spot the monkey is looking at is also very near. There is tension mounting and everyone has just realised that they might finally see what they all had been waiting to. The jungle is very dense and as seconds pass every one is concerntrating hard, suddenly the bushes give way and you realise the tiger is moving in towards the road. The “call” has been traced and no it isnt a false alarm all the watchers are writ in tension and suddenly the magnificient beast comes out of the bush on the road and turns towards the jeep and looks and blinks. Every one is thrilled, stunned to see the size… Indian tigers from head to tail could measure from 10 to 12 feet… the head and the mouth so huge that the their versions we see so regularly in the zoo or television look like pussies. The watchers finally realise they want to shoot the tiger, with the camera, start clicking, the tiger slowly starts walking away from the jeep on the road… The “call” moves with us as we follow him, as time passes the driver gets a little more closer, suddenly the giant cat gets irritated and just stops and turns… The jeep immedieately stops, the warning has been given, the tiger stares in the eyes to make sure the message has been conveyed clearly. Every passenger who earlier wanted to trail the giant cat scolds the driver, stay away don’t follow him. You got too close….
Slowly the giant cat starts moving on his way again, the driver wouldnt dare follow him this time, they see him for a while than the tiger decides to head for the bushes again
and gets out of sight… for a while the “call” follows than suddenly the “call” goes out as the tiger has probably found some shade to rest. Imagine the whole jungle against the Tiger alerting that the hunter was on prowl. Now they can all relax as the Tiger is relaxing, the monkey’s may play, the deer may graze now that the giant cat is in rest…
The stunned, thrilled watchers are gleeing and checking their pics, calling each other lucky and allowing the joy to sink in…