The sky stood witness as another star found its place in the infinity. Bandhavgarh’s Rajmaata was no more.

I was leading a photography tour in Ranthambore when the reality struck me. A feeling of void conquered my soul as the corners of my eyes filled up with its untimely presence. Few notes of my heart still revolted against the news of Rajbhera’s death as my soul ran to the meadows of Bandhavgarh glistened by the autumn sun which had the Saal swaying to the orchestra of breeze and a Tigress owning the stage of Bandhavgarh. Memories of Rajbhera the mother queen of the land came alive.

Nature can’t pretend, much like death. Did she resign to oblivion too soon? Perhaps yes, but she has left memories in every grass blade of the meadows that lived up to her name and the glory she is identified with.

The erstwhile Jhurjhura female – her mother graced Bandhavgarh and it seemed only a more powerful soul can replace her dignity. Rajbhera did what many hoped and she soon carved an identity that seems irreplaceable today. She stood the test of time, showed early signs of making of a queen and was quick to explore the surrounding while the other two siblings would still be with mom.

Her contribution to the Bandhavgarh Tigers is fantastic. She raised two litters and seven Tigers to adulthood. Her daughters Solo and Kankati Jr made a name for themselves while one male cub carried her gene pool to another Tiger reserve in the country.

We were hoping she would raise one more litter but Time and the earth moves in a cycle. The truth of life that made her the queen came back to haunt her, this time by her daughter. If the jungle lore is to be believed, her daughter Solo struck the final blow that led to her demise.

It is a strange story where milk mixes with blood as life flows unperturbed flooding and erring human justifications.

My small stories today feels like an epic as I get softened by emotions to think of my journey that is so very much interlinked with her. She welcomed me into her life when she was a cub. She out aged me soon but in the process unveiled the secrets of a Tiger’s life.

From our first rendezvous, I had the pleasure of meeting her in almost every trip I made to Bandhavgarh. My last trip in June was rare – I did not get to meet her and did not get good vibes either. Left Bandhavgarh with mixed emotions and little did I know that a call will follow and I will never get to see my beloved queen again. Today joining the dots of my memories I can’t help but to think of it as a sign left hidden in the books of my experience which I failed to read. I never had the faintest idea that I will not see her anymore.

My eyes will not look for her pugmarks in the loose sand of the tracks, there will be no alarm calls that shall raise an anticipation of a meeting with the beloved. Silence will rule the corners of the meadow till it gets broken by an alarm call given out to announce the onset of a new tigress, a new rule and with it the starting of another chapter in the pages of immortality from Bandhavgarh.

Till then I shall wait…

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