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Cupid visits Ranthambhore

Yes… you have read it correctly. I thought no better day to share than the day associated with love i.e. Valentine’s Day. I was fortunate enough to witness this entire series of events as they unfolded on the sunny afternoon of February 5, 2011.
We had completed our morning safari & were delighted to have seen Machi /T16 at Mendki de area of zone IV, would share the details separately.
While returning back we stopped at Singhdwar Chowki, the entry point for zone I, IV & V. All the vehicles are expected to update a form with details of all the animals sighted during the safari. Kailash, the guard at Singhdwar informed me that visitors had sighted two tigers, one leopard & sloth bear in zone I. It was good news because the sighting record has been low in zone I as compared to other zones.

we decided to try our luck & booked ourselves for zone I.
We were accompanied by Rais, one of the most famous drivers of RNP who has been there for almost 25 years and is kind of an authority on wildlife. He also was my driver when I had the first tiger sighting at Ranthambhore, a lucky mascot for me, I guess.

Our vehicle was the first to enter the park as always, being the first mover always has its benefit…you can see fresh pug marks in case of animal movements since the last safari. The jungle was unusually very silent as we could hardly see any animals for the first 15-20 minutes. Since it was a hot afternoon, our resident expert Rais decided to check all waterholes around kala pila pani, the spot where a tiger sighting was reported in the morning.
we drove for almost 25-30 minutes occasionally stopping to hear any alarm calls in the jungle, another good way of spotting a predator.
After crossing a hilly terrain, we entered open grasslands, a place closer to where the sighting was reported in the morning. As we approached the place, saw a huge tiger sitting next to the water hole. we drove slowly towards him…he was sitting under the shade of a huge tree, occasionally licking his paw…trying to beat the afternoon heat. we slowly approached the place & finally stopped at a safe distance from him along with two other vehicles.

While we were all busy admiring this beautiful royal animal who seemed indifferent to our presence & camera noises, I saw another tiger sitting across the stream in the sunlight. wow… it is surely our day I told myself. Rais was again quick to identify her as T39, a female tigress.
She was sitting comfortably, with no signs of distress whatsoever of having a male tiger in her territory… which is unusual.

Is this a mating couple I asked myself. Is this another bonus for the day… well, could be. After almost 7-8 minutes T24 got up & turned his back towards us & his face towards the tigress. She suddenly got up, crossed over & sat next to him with her face towards us.
There she was right in front of us, trying to woo this eligible male unaffected by an ever-growing number of vehicles, shutter release noise & occasional noise of tourists excited to see this drama unfolding in front of them.
T24 our hero of this film looked indifferent towards advances made, was he too shy to accept love in front of human beings???, too tired from the previous act??? or was just playing a difficult catch? while T39 was doing everything to get attention, our boy remained unaffected.

 After a while he suddenly got up, leaving the tigress alone & crossed to the other side, leaving a visually disturbed lover behind him. Apart from the tigress herself lot many people including Rais did not approve of this rude behaviour &surely wanted to teach a lesson or two on chivalry to this fellow.

Is this the end of this story??? Well, T39 was not ready to give up so easily… she kept on following T24 from a safe distance…just to ensure she does not offend the lover…. Our hero on the other hand was busy spraying the town with his scent… announcing his dominance over the territory. After walking for almost 250 mtrs, the male tiger sat down, our muse was quick enough to occupy the seat next to her & was looking towards us in confidence as if announcing, ‘Don’t worry guys, I am still in control’. while we all wished she still was, the hero got up again & started walking towards another water hole in front of him…. “What does he think of himself?” someone said in the nearby gypsy as the sympathy of the crowd was completely drawn towards the female tiger.

To everyone’s utter surprise, the tigress still kept following though she had increased the distance. What a sight this is…. I told Rais. Had never seen such behaviour from an animal who is otherwise perceived as cruel and solitary. we were enjoying each move & the frustration of not being able to see mating had already taken a back seat long back. The female disappeared for a while as the male reached the water hole, drank water & sat inside the water to cool himself off.
The tiger was sitting cosily in the water with his back towards us. Suddenly we saw the tigress coming back towards the male tiger & trying her luck for the one last time… she approached the tiger from the front & gently rubbed her body. T24 was surely not in a mood for this, he suddenly got up & almost did try to hit her with his right paw before leaving the place.

I still consider myself lucky to witness this drama unfolding for almost 30 minutes… except for 3-4 tourist vehicles, all the other vehicles on the route along with so-called ‘VIP vehicles’ missed it, and by the time they reached the place they tigers had left & only human beings were present to tell this story….

Like a say ‘I have never found the jungle the same, each time a see a new character of jungle & its inhabitants’, this time surely was different.


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