Time to stand, stare and be in awe!

December provides a good reason for some self-love. So I packed my bags and my 9 year old son for some tiger-tracking in Central India. Day 1 and 2 at the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve were awesome. We met the Queen of Telia, Sonam with two of her four cubs against the last lights of the setting sun. In the early morning mist the next day, we got to leisurely watch Choti Tara and her two grown up cubs laze by the Kose Canal. In the afternoon we got a ‘road show’ by the rockstar of them all, Maya, the Queen of Tadoba. My 9 year old son Akshay captured this incredible beast with a ‘head-on shot’ against her teak and bamboo habitat.

As we entered through the Moharli gate on day 3, my heart was full of gratitude for the amazing experiences of having met the keystone species, the Bengal Tigers of Tadoba. The day could be dedicated to the lesser denizens of the forests like the Sambar, langur, gaur, spotted deer, barking deer and more, I told Akshay.

The forests however had greater plans for us. The call of the Sambar deer stopped us in our tracks.

The next hour and a half, I was witness to the passion, patience and proficiency of the Naturalist guiding us on this safari. We sat in our strategically parked Gypsy (open-top 4WD) with ears and eyes strained for any movement on either side of the mud-track. Watching many other gypsy’s rushing up and down the track trying their best to locate the tigress or her cubs reminded me of the adage ‘action without thought is labour lost’.

Nature rewards those who wait!

Then suddenly, Ganesh our exceptionally talented driver spotted ‘tiger’. Walking across the plains of the lake was the Queen of Telia dragging a spotted deer to feed her young family. She must have been out on an early morning hunt and the four cubs had played truant and crossed the track to where they were not meant to be. With more and more gypsys gathering to take in the sight, the mother recognised the need to help her cubs cross the track.

The next we heard was a loud 'auuhoonh' of a tigress calling her cubs. Sonam! Standing right there on the tracks ahead of us.

She walked to the center of the track, while the shutters of the cameras around went into a frenzy. Out came the more daring of the 4-month old cubs, and then the next. And right there in full sight of all who cared to learn, Sonam delivered a lesson in parenting technique! Having given enough time for the cubs to come out from the tall grass verge of the track, she turned her back on them and walked away, so that her cubs could cross in full knowledge that she is around to help, but that they had to do it themselves. Out they came one after another. 1 -2 -3 scampering across the track, to join their mom and got impressively camouflaged among the tall grass. The shutterbugs either put down their cameras or trained it on Sonam.

The mom in me realised that one cub is missing and I kept my video trained to where the cubs were. And right enough, the timid-est of the lot gathered the courage and darted across, to be reunited with the family.

We stood in awe, watching Sonam stride cross the plains of the Telia lake with her cubs, to where their meal had been concealed.

Wishing you awe-inspiring moments and hearwarming memories that will last a life-time! Stay happy in 2018!

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