The four wheelers came to a screeching halt. This time driver had spotted a perfectly camouflaged beast. Even a hundred trips to jungle would not train our city eyes to spot such a wild wonder. The lioness looked skinny aptly disguising her power to knock down 100 odd kgs at one stroke. Solitaire tree had come to her rescue from the scorching tropical heat of 44 degree in dry deciduous 1412 square kilometres forest of GIR India – the only abode of Asiatic Lion in the world. Of course she noticed us. The fraternity has become quite tolerant to human as they intuitively know the support of forest guard in filling water holes during summit heat. The heat was compensated by privacy and we loved the trade off. Ours was the only vehicle.
She posed for us for the umpteen times in a manner which would put Carol Gracia to shame. We were shooting for more than 20 minutes in natural light, without assistance and tripod. She passionately was showing her weapons - teeth, paws and likes. Yes she stood, sat, twisted her body in various yogic postures to our delight and thrill.
And suddenly she took a stand akin to soldiers in the war movies and ignored us. Most of us failed to understand the unpredictable and sudden change. This was guide’s turn to show his skill set as he identified a prey- a lonely deer drinking water at a distance. Totally grounded and parallel to the earth, crawling mille meter by mille meter towards the anticipated meal, occasionally rising to keep eagle’s eye on the prey. The drama went on for good 5 minutes, but as they say the success rate is as low as between 10 to 20 %. The deer had sensed the danger and it made run of its life for its life. Once again the same lioness had failed, pointed out the forest guard.
Nevertheless our cups were full and were thrilled to core having seen the wild beast from a very close distance, various postures, attempting to hunt, and joy of capturing unbelievable close photographs for good 40 min. When sighting a wild beast it self is joy akin to scoring a goal in world cup football games. This was like scoring in final.
On the way back, mind would think nothing else, only the game. Wilderness, Alertness, Curves, Agility, Deer run, failure, life moves.
24 hrs later almost the same place:
The forest guard recognised us and volunteered to show the same lioness, this time little deeper in the jungle. She was on the hunt. To all of our surprise and shock, she failed again.
The climax unfolded; the nth attempt for the meal, hunger since only god knows when, the most powerful creature on the earth without a square meal even after several hours and attempts. Being most powerful on the earth does not ensure a simple necessity of life, happiness and joy. No text book can teach us this. No school would be interested in this. Several hrs spent in front of National Geographic/animal planet/discovery channel (with due respect to these channels) would not create life long lasting effect.
You have to be there to believe, contemplate early retirement, enjoy, love, learn and live.
Written and Captured by Manish Patel