Saturday, July 04, 2015

Corbett Tiger Cubs

We were returning from the Fulai Chaur in Dhikala (Corbett National Park) and, in the lingering forest twilight, our driver Islam asked (as usual) if we would like to go to the palm grove near Ram Singh Road. We never could see any tiger there before, but the mere hope that the cool shade of the palm trees could make a comfortable resting place for a big cat in the hot summer afternoon, made us follow this ritual of checking that thicket at least once every day.
Arriving downhill, Islam shut the engine and we crawled to the spot.  
In that windless summer evening, the palm grove was silent. Not a single frond was moving and the darkness was stifling.
We remained still, letting the adjusting our eyes slowly. Then suddenly, my eyes caught a glimpse of a fire-colored movement. And my heart skipped a beat ….could it be?
Out they came – little fur balls of orange and yellow. Playing on the branch of a broken tree trunk, four of them, they were completely oblivious of us.
My hands started shaking with excitement. Yes….it is happening….something I always dreamt about…seeing tiger clubs play. Their mother must had been resting somewhere nearby.

Have you even seen tiger cubs play? I shall not try to describe the joy of seeing them in the natural abode they truly belong to. The fantasy and reality, in that ethereal darkness and wild moistness, became one while witnessing those children of nature, as innocent as you get and as beautiful as you could imagine.

I reached for my camera slowly, lest I would make any sound and scare away the cubs. 
I knew I was not going to get good shots. The lens I was using at that time was not capable of taking good shots in low light.
Pushing up to the maximum aperture possible, I focused and took 5 shots.
Reviewing the shots confirmed my worst fears. All the shots came out hazy and dark. A combination of low light, the lens and my shaking hands had ruined all the shots. I felt like crying.
It was getting darker. I rested the lens on the hand rest of the Gypsy to keep it steady and focused on them again. I was delighted to see two of them (probably alarmed by the sound of the shutter) looking directly at me.
I knew this was my last chance. I took a deep breath, steadied my hands and pressed the shutter.

By the time I finished, it was completely dark.

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