GOODALL

Rana Jalebi ki Prem Kahani-2

"Be careful what you wish for…"

The next day, the expectation had gone even higher, the anxiety was at its peak and the adrenaline was way above acceptable levels. Would today match up to yesterday’s thrill and eventfulness? We woke up early, got ready early and had reached the jeep early. We were informed by our guide (Hemant Dabi) that last night Simba, a green eyed sub-adult leopard, had made a kill and we may be lucky enough to get some exciting shots of the same. We rushed to the spot and saw the kill. The remains of a dead buffalo lay in front of us, all scooped out of the internals and left for the scavengers to devour on; my fourth wish (I bit my tongue as I realised I should have been a little more explicit in my wishing). We circled the nearby water hole in anticipation of the leopard showing up thirsty after a huge feast but our luck had probably run out!

The guides phone rang, informing us of a leopardess spotting near the mountains and we rushed to check our luck. The driver raced the jeep in that direction as we held tight to our equipment and to each other, lest we be thrown off the vehicle. There she was the royal majestic Mrs. Khan, seated on top of the high mountain, on her throne of bushes and stones. Our third leopard sighting of the trip. She gave us a good show for ten minutes and then decided to climb down the mountain. Maybe the ‘Queen of the Beasts’ had decided to take a closer look at her admirers. We waited with baited breath and cameras ready to click away at the nobility as she would come close to us or hopefully cross the path just ahead of us, but the leopardess was way smarter and she just left us all hanging, disappearing into thin air. We circled the area twice but there was no trace of the royalty!

We were deciding to return to the kill site and wait for Simba to show up when again the guides phone rang and the frustration from the anti-climax suddenly switched into delightful anticipation as we were informed of another leopard sighting in the adjoining zone. We were racing once again with wind in our hair and sands in our mouth, ensuring we reach before any other jeep and get the best shots. There hidden among some thicket was Flora, who had spotted our jeep much before we spotted her and was trying to dodge our intrusive company. We only got a sneak peek of her hiding behind some greens as she too made her way into the unknown. The rest of the safari was spent surveying the two zones, clicking some amazing birds of prey, some migratory birds and other small animals. We approached another water hole and I asked the driver to stop the jeep out of intuition; a mongoose was drinking water, a most adorable and rare sight. My wildlife trips are never complete without spotting a mongoose and my friend Gaurav jokes that I’m obsessed with them. I think there might be a connection from my past life!

That afternoon was our fourth and last safari of this trip and despite our memory cards being overflown with awesome shots that may take weeks to edit, we crossed our fingers to get some more interesting captures. Unfortunately, it seemed like our luck was running out as for the first one hour or so we got nothing. Finally the guides phone rang, as did our heartbeats, Rana had been spotted in the other zone and was headed towards us. The guide anticipated his route based on the info he got and quickly ordered the driver to a particular spot, where as we reached, a few other jeeps had already positioned themselves. The wait was long and even though some jeeps had moved away, our guide was convinced that Rana would appear at this spot and refused to move the vehicle. A few more minutes in as if preparing for Rana’s entry, the sun turned a deep reddish orange giving the sky a beautiful glow. His Majesty appeared from nowhere, gave us a look an emperor gives his disciples, jumped up a considerably bare tree and settled on a thick branch giving us a clear shot of him. We clicked away to glory thanking God for not letting this safari go stale.

When we had clicked to our hearts content, we packed our cameras and headed towards the exit. As the vehicle turned, we dashed for our cameras; in front of us were two peacocks gracefully dancing away in their courtship display with their iridescent colourful plumage fanned out. It was a very fulfilling trip and we were not ready to end it yet. As we reached the gate, we looked up and Imarthi, another sub-adult (Jalebis daughter) crossed us. We couldn’t photograph it due to bad lighting, but my last wish was somewhat granted, since we saw the adult and her cubs, just not together.

However, I couldn’t complain, Goddess Saraswati had granted all my 5 wishes in one way or another while teaching me that I should be careful in what I wish for…

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