It was beautiful dusk time . We were disheartened for our failure to shoot the big cat with 75 and 350 mm lenses . Two SLRs, two phone cameras and one Digi camera were without any mentionable use so far . Rahul and me guided by Nitin on his four wheel drive were returning from our last planned safari . It is one of the beautiful national parks in central India . We were about 6 km to reach the gate of the park . Rahul was standing in the middle of the open top Jeep and I was sitting looking at the pics we clicked so far . One can make out a sense of dissatisfaction on our faces but none of us were uttering a word for a greedy never die hope to see the tiger in this last lap of time during our one week wildlife tour. The nature around us was as if telling us go home buddies it's high time and enough of playing with your luck you need to have stronger stars to see the king in the wild . And I agree I don't have such stars for this is my 11th safari so far in different tiger reserves in the country without a luck to face a tiger. Rahuls was the first experience.
The sun was fading turning the sky into orange canvas with the birds returning to their nests flying low and the bats to their hunting grounds flying high . The hills on the right were full with green cover of huge trees and shrubs . On our left were large patches of open land which looked like they are been made like a common buffet for the herbivores with a display of veggies as grass land and for the carnivorous with a display of walking and grazing meat . The shadows of the trees were stretching across on the road and the golden light was kissing the road through the little space the greens provided . I can recollect, everything was so perfectly placed that l requested Nitin to slow down so that we can just dissolve ourselves into this great hypnotism that nature plays. I could only hear to the chirping of the birds and falling of the dry leaves on the floor of the forest . The road which was taking us was an unpaved drive-way with grass grown to a feet high in the center and marked dry on the two sides by the wheels of the jeeps . This was totally man made and dwelled well into the magic of the surroundings . As we were recollecting our journey so far we were smoked by a huge gush of dust . I was annoyed of the fact how people take pride in breaking rules when a white jeep carrying about 10 people over took us at a speed of 40 against a restriction of 20 kmph in the park . The skills of the driver of the white beast had left us only with a view of dust all around with sunlight penetrating making it look like golden fog. As we were still at 20kmph the dust settled as quickly as it rose . Now we can see the jeep going far on the straight road ahead raising a tail of dust all the way and at the far end about 300 meters the jeep stopped . The hero in me woke up, I told Nitin, Bhai stop our jeep close to that I want to give it back to the driver for his driving . Nitin in turn said let it be sir they might be in a hurry to leave the jungle as it's getting dark . I was convinced with his rational as not everyone feels excited to be in wild at that time . It was the time when bears, leopards and Tigers venture to open ground for hunting . We were about 50 meters where the jeep halted. We can see that all the occupants of the white beast were peeping through the windows to the right and the driver was signaling Nitin. By the time Nitin understood what his opponent was trying to tell we were about ten feet close to the white jeep that was parked on little left side of the road leaving us no space but to stop right at the center of the road . Thoughts were running in my head as to what would have possibly happened . I was checking the tyres of the jeep for any flat ones . Suddenly I hear Nitin’s voice with full joy saying (milgaya sir ) we got it sir . Rahul who was standing was already on his camera running the lenses around . I stood up and started looking in the same direction as his lenses were . The only thing I uttered with excitement - ( kya hi? kahan hi ?) what is it? where is it ? and my eyes were scanning the jungle around . Nitin - (uder nahi sir idar dhekiye neeche) not there sir see here down . My wandering eyes took a bow and what I see , A magnificent full grown leopard sitting about 4 feet from our jeep and staring at me . I looked at it with excitement. What a beautiful animal and so close to me that both our eyes were locked for about a minute . We were so dumb struck that we forgot that we had cameras and we need to capture this moment . Both Rahul and me were Freezed and did nothing but stared at our luck . It lasted for good 3 minutes and the celebrity walked off on the road and vanished into the bushes . This was my first ever sighting experience and it was at Nagzira Tiger Reserve . The one moment , the three minutes that will remain as a treasure to cherish all my life . I brought back nothing but the memories that I could share . It was four years past that this happened and I am able to recollect every moment . I couldn't have earned anything greater .
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