The large territory of the well-photographed tigress Paarwali is a mix of small water holes walled by rocks, riverbeds, dense Sal woods, and her favourite haunt, the Bhaang fields. It makes me wonder sometimes if the tigress has a predilection for bhaang, but I know the fields are cool and a perfect hideout for a tiger in summer. The Gypsys were patrolling her territory, checking her favourite spots, and even the ones she hardly visits as no one could find her. My ears were craving to receive an alarm call from any direction, and my eyes were scanning every bush in the hope of catching a glimpse of a striped tail or ear. Nothing. After a quick conversation held solely in looks, Rizwan and I decided to wait near the Bhaang field; perhaps the queen could show up at her favourite spot. He was getting restless with every passing minute and his sweaty hands were slowly reaching for the gear and keys. His patience was about to give, when from the high bank we heard a Sambhar bellow twice near the slope of the road to our left, half a kilometer from us. It was certain that the sambhar had seen the tigress moving in the jungle. Rizwan's itching hands got their chance and he didn't waste a moment in kick starting the engine and taking off. With a strange grin, he steered a sharp left, which sent me and my equipment tumbling the other way. We entered the shallow depression of the nullah which was scattered with white rocks making deep furrows between the rocks probably caused by the rushing waters in the monsoons. " Yahan se bhi nikal sakti hei, aage se bhi. " With this, Rizwan revved the Gypsy up the slope, keeping a sharp lookout behind us as well, or the tigress could slip past us any moment.
" Gaadi roko", I didn't know if I exclaimed that or whispered it. I had caught a glimpse of something which everyone else sitting with me could never dream of! My heart, which had been pounding heavily since the Sambhar's alarm call, was now exhausted and it took a second's rest... With my eye set in the viewfinder, and my right index finger gently pressing the shutter button, I exclaimed, " Wo a raha tiger". I don't remember if I released the shutter button first, or my family and the guide sprang to their seats on all corners and looked out to see. I muttered under my breath " Koi hilna nahi warna picture kharab ho jayegi! "
The charm that always graces Paarwali's face today had disappeared. I couldn't help but notice her eyes gleaming with ferocity. She was caught red handed. Her paws were crimson and her whiskers which till now I had seen dipped in water, today were soaked with blood. The tigress was coming down the junction of roads straight towards us with a fresh kill in her mouth. A fawn's neck was caught in her sharp canines, from which its body ruthlessly swung left and right. There was silence in the Gypsy. We were left awestruck by this sight. I always knew my dream to see a tiger with its kill would be fulfilled one day, but I never considered that I would be a spectator to such a cruel act. My dream snatched away a little deer from its mother. The young baby who was looked after carefully by its mother, the hide which the mother licked when the baby was born was today soaked in blood that gushed from the jugular, which the tigress must have gulped down with relish. The tiny and delicate legs on which the fawn ran around with its family and friends were broken by the deadly jaws and were drabbled in mud as the tiger brutally dragged it. Its rear had already been devoured and the remaining flesh was bulging out of shape. I could see an untouched part of the dead body and I wished she ate that in front of me.