Big cats appear out of nowhere, but before that happens, it can be a frustratingly long wait. Desperate for a sighting, one might have to spend idle hours with a sinking feeling taking firmer hold by the minute as the sun traverses the sky.
And then, sitting exhausted and irked in your jeep, you hear a Langur’s shrill shout announcing the presence of the star. Binoculars in hand, you get to your feet with anticipation rushing in your veins. Nothing except the usual green, you see and hear nothing except the regular hum of the jungle. But the Langur keeps on. Perhaps, it’s responding to something else, you decide.
Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India
As the day comes to a close, such false alarms remain with you for their short-lived bouts of anticipatory joy, and so remains the lingering disappointment. It’s almost time to leave. You pass your hopes onto the next safari like a baton. The Langur’s boring calls are still on. You tune out.
End of another safari. The driver reaches for the ignition to make an exit, but stops dead. Through the leaves emerges the kingly beast, soundlessly, unannounced, stepping forward with the elegance of a ramp model. Only this one can kill. Not just metaphorically, not just by looks. It’s deadly, no matter how you slice it. The unmistakable coldness in the eyes, the visible ripples of the muscles under the vibrant, orange stripes leave you awestruck with surging joy and a freezing, vague dread. Always.