Photograph: A spotted owl looking intently at me. Many animals we search for may go unnoticed in the thicknes of the forest, but we never remain unnoticed by any of our animal hosts in the jungle.
Photographed near Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh.
When I was very small and visited some tiger reserve, I would hear my parents say, "There see, that's an Indian Roller perched upon that log!" , "See that beautiful baby monkey in its mother's arms!", "Oh! A wonderful herd of Cheetal there!". But I would not be much fascinated. What my eyes really searched for was the supreme lord of the jungle- the apex predator- the paramount power- the Tiger. And on many visits the Tiger would not reveal itself to us, making the whole safari of little worth to me.
As I grew up and learnt more about the jungle- the ecosystems and the inter-relationships between the animals, I realised no animal is complete in itself. It heavily depends on many other plant and animal species. It was then that I started appreciating the sights of the other most wonderful denizens of the Indian forest: the Macaques, the Cheetals, the beautiful birds, the Monitor lizards. Every organism you see when you enter the jungle has been carefully engineered by God and assigned an irreplaceble place in the food web.
The Tiger, of course, remains an enchanting sight, but it is rare to experience this majestic phenomenon in its full splendour, in its full glory. I once saw a board in the Bandhavgarh Tiger reserve which portrayed a tiger saying: "Don't be dissapointed if you couldn't see me, I saw you!". So the next time, dear wildlife lover, you visit a reserve, be watchful of the many splendid designs of nature scattered all around you. And who knows, the Panthera tigris tigris might be considerate enough to give you a glimpse of a lifetime!