Yeh Maya Ki Maya Hai

9 well acclaimed Wild-life Photographer guest from various countries, 10 days fun, work, again work, & more work, 18 Game drives, total 38 Tiger Sightings, 14 different Tigers, 3 different pack of wild dogs, 4 sloth bears… Maya… cubs… Matkasur…. Sonam… Choti Tara…. & Life is Good. That was me between 24th March to 2nd April… They always say that, You don’t go to Tadoba, Tadoba brings you there. True to that, I get a call from a very close friend for accompanying him to one of the game rides on 10th April 2018. Honestly, I was waiting for this call, since years. For a Corporate hack like him, it was always what’s in there to see a tiger whether in wild or in a zoo!! Ah, Now you will see that, pal!!
So, for a single game drive, as this friend of mine is extremely cautious when it comes to spending leisure time… we start for TATR at 3.30AM for Navegaon Gate TATR…. Yes, it was real cold since earlier night it rained considerably. Slowly, the mighty Sun rising from left of navegaon meadows in the company of spotted deers was making the cool surrounding tolerable. This earthen scent after the rains was fresh enough to forget that we drove 120 kms past mid-night. We reached pandrapauni water hole where 2 wild dogs were chasing a herd of spotted deers… and we left the scene to enjoy nature and game ride further. I could see some inquisitiveness in my friends approach regarding nature, limited to understanding names of animals, birds etc.
Sighting a tiger in a game drive is bonus apart from getting to know real nature. & this friend of mine was living every moment in the jungle, forgetting his crook boss, idiot colleagues, damn excel sheets, power point presentations, his industrial visits, stress and all… That’s what you do when you come to Tadoba, forget everything. Be here. Be your own. During this drive we went past ainbodi where Maya was sighted with kill recently. Now, patience was the key. Clock was ticking and it was already 9.10AM. At the most, we had to push off from this place towards gate by 9.30AM to be on safer side.
At this time I remembered this quote of what’s in there to see a tiger whether in wild or in a zoo!! Only Maya can answer this question, I thought. Because of rains, carnivorous animals tend to keep up in bushes and not come out in open. The odds were against me this time. Couple of gypsy’s started off towards pandrapauni to get sight of Matkasur before signing off the core area. Our driver too insisted the same but I was not ready. My friend, anyways, had neither idea, nor any option to all this. It was a hard call I was about to take between macho Matkasur, a sure shot sighting or to take chance and believe in my gut feeling of crossing Queen Maya and her cubs at Ainbodi. To say the least, this clock was ticking faster than normal for sure.
Well, Ainbodi it was. I decided to wait at Ainbodi till the time I can max stretch and will push off straight to the exit to reach before 10AM when the game drive closes.
Whoa! That moment when Maya came out of bushes and marked her scent on a tree, giving that royal & careless looks at all the gypsy’s around. Perhaps it was a message; I have my eyes on you all. Don’t you dare to get down from your gypsy’s She crossed the path and was walking majestically towards us. Yes, it was pin drop silence. You don’t mess with the Queen. Never. Cubs too came out of bushes albeit the gap was too big. It’s only Maya that, she is upbringing her cubs very distinctively. Young cubs generally are max 5 feets behind mother. But Maya’s cubs were not less than 30 feets behind. Cutting through the pin drop silence was a sound of one of the gypsy, which was way ahead of us and was able to see back of Maya, self starting and that irritating desperation to take reverse to come closer to the cubs. Even before that fellow had put reverse gear, Maya had already heard the self start and her tail wagging had communicated the message to both the cubs. Maya did not even bother to look back towards that gypsy or her cubs if they were in danger. She was sure of her teachings to the cubs. Cubs too were sharp and smart enough to immediately take cover in another bush walking parallel behind their mother within 5 seconds. And she was gone. Her cubs were pretty safe and she exactly knew where her cubs were walking. I couldn’t resist but remember how Jijabai (who is also from Vidarbha) taught Shivaji early on in his childhood. And Shivaji too responded to that teaching so well. Shivaji later on went on to became Chattrapati and is considered peoples king, only after Lord Ram !! All because of Jijabai, his mother! Though its difficult to say if cubs are male or female right now, one thing is sure, these cubs are inheriting raw power, aggression from their father and street-smartness, royal lineage from their mother Maya.
My friend, witnessing the Tiger for the first time, was awestruck with heavy heartbeats. Mute, in one word. The entire sighting of Maya and cubs lasted for barely 5 minutes. These 5 minutes life had come to standstill. Only Maya and cubs were moving. Shutterbugs were busy. My friend chose to see Maya and cubs, instead of clicking them. And it was a smart choice I would say.
You really don’t need to see a tiger for hours and hours together to connect with them & nature. Here my Corporate hack friend was 5 minutes with Maya and cubs, and all his façade of being elite high flyer was in shambles. Till the game drive, Maya was “some tigress” for him & Tadoba was “some jungle”. When we were heading towards Nagpur, Maya, Jungle, Tadoba for him was all ONE i.e. A Simple Nature, its beautiful animals, living own wonderful life, away from human interference. Those moments were golden for him.
And incidentally, on our way to airport, this song was playing in our car…. as if my friend was singing:
“Do pal ruka khwabo ka karva…. Aur phir chal diye tum kaha ham kaha…..
Do pal ki thi ye dilo ki dasta…… Aur phir chal diye tum kaha ham kaha”
Now I don’t need to show him any articles, any NatGeo/BBC programme, or FB posts to make him understand why nature conservation is important. Maya did it the way she carried herself and communicated with her cubs.
Another professional with importance of nature conservation was born that day. Needless to say, ye Maya ki hi Maya thi!