Well, few things have greater impact, either negative or positive, on life but to me, this failure was pretty significant in a positive way initially I literally felt devastated and why was it so?? Let’s come to that.
So, as we were following and photographing a Water Monitor swimming across a big river, our boatman Gopal shouted "Tiger" "Tiger" I immediately started scanning the opposite bank without even thinking of the other probabilities that the tiger could be really close to the boat and that is exactly what happened… the tiger got down into the water like real close to the boat so close that I didn’t even check the areas nearby the boat and made a mistake, of course and was scanning the far away portion of the bank no, not even the tail of the tiger was visible to us, neither to me nor to the guests . However, we planned to spend some time there itself because I was of the opinion that the tiger might try to cross the river again. We spent almost an hour there, and had our breakfast too in between but the tiger was nowhere to be seen not even a single sign of it... We scanned the entire bank and the adjoining creeks in search of some movement of the tiger or some pugmarks or anything … but alas! It was all in vain. I wasn’t feeling good about the whole affair because we had missed an individual, a chance to behold the magnificent creature and missing a chance in these mysterious mangroves can cost a lot, even though it was very close to us we missed it… this very feeling made me feel terrible however we, then decided to give it up and try for some other individual because we were up for anything but to give in.
Hours later while cruising down a narrow canal we observed a boat which was girdling at the same place and I knew something definitely was going on there and as Gopal pulled the string to accelerate the gear box made a very weird screechy sound, the boat stopped and anchor was dropped after checking and proper investigations we came to know that the gear had malfunctioned and that we wouldn’t be able to move any further. The other boat was still there which made us feel worst… we were close yet so far... and again we missed another chance and to top it all … all heavens broke loose and started crying on our fate with all its might. There were no mobile signals and we were feeling pretty helpless as crying out for help was out of question, we were in the middle of nowhere….all stuck also, it was non-tourism time so expecting the propitious presence of a tourist boat was inconceivable still we prayed for help and guess what? God listened to our prayers and a few minutes later we saw a boat at a distance and the size of the boat was gradually becoming bigger from which we could understand that yes it was actually moving towards us and a sigh of relief finally… we stood on the deck and saw our savior approaching us. It was the AC Houseboat named Whispering Winds they were very generous and understood instantly that we needed help, our boat was tied with theirs and with a sudden jerk our boat started moving …. It was pouring heavily but something inside me, probably my inner voice asked me to stop for a while and scan the area where the previous boat was moving round and round. We, then, conveyed our thought to the guide of Whispering Winds, he too said it was a good idea so we stopped there and started noticing the entire area very carefully although the crazy rain was able to almost kill our expectations and lower down our morale.
We spent considerable amount of time there but nothing could be seen. It was still pouring heavily and everyone was standing, almost hugging each other, under whichever shade they could find…. I, however, had some other plans…. So, the mother and cub were seen few days before we went there, in the same area. So I kept on scanning that part with my binoculars. I knew that I was getting drenched and might fall sick but when it comes to tigers I care about nothing my inner self was forcing me to continue the scanning an in the back of my mind I kept on thinking about What did the other boat see? Why were they girdling this area specifically? Was it really a tiger or a crocodile or dolphins or something else?
I had never spotted a tiger with the binoculars, I always wanted to but I could never and then something that was least expected happened…. There it was exactly on that very bank where I was looking It was wading through the shallow water on the shoreline, amidst the heavy rains. I shouted "Tiger" "Tiger", alerted everyone. Everybody came out of the shade and hurriedly started looking towards the bank, they forgot that it was raining heavily because now they didn’t care, all they cared about was looking at the tiger and watch it move gracefully. The boatman of Whispering Wind steered towards the bank, all cameras started clicking creating a paparazzi sound effect but subject was still very far and as we reached closer the tigress started climbing up the bank and vanished inside the thickets. All were overjoyed….. Overwhelmed completely to have finally witnessed a tiger of the Indian Sundarbans. I too was happy as I spotted a tiger for the first time with my binoculars in Sundarban. GoingWild guests were happy that they were able to see and photograph a Sundarban tiger but the show wasn’t over yet… yes my friends the next thing that we watched was purely magical….
As Whispering Winds' boatman was steering away from the bank towards the middle of the river we heard a loud growl and to our surprise we saw a tiger rolling down the mud bank and then the actual action began.
We didn’t know but there were two tigers there as this young female climbed up the mud bank and moved inside the thickets the cub's mother attacked her fiercely and impassable prowess. We don't know the actual reason of attack, maybe it was the security of the cub or merely a territorial issue. But we could now clearly see the fresh scratch marks on the right flank of the younger female. After the charge the younger female got perplexed and sat on the mud bank for some time… everyone made images and got lovely video footages and about the tigress? She sat there ignoring the heavy downpour and 2 tourist boats.
She sat there for almost 20 minutes and in between she did make few attempts to climb up to go inside the forest but was very reluctant or may be scared to enter the thickets again. However, she did enter the forest but at a distance quite far away from where she was thrashed badly everything was quite for some time and we all thought that the show is over.
As we started moving out, someone shouted "There she is"! Tigress was out again in the open…. But… oh my god.. what’s happening? This one was not the younger one who got thrashed because she had mud all over but this one looked fresh…. So it took me seconds, probably, to realize that this was the mother, the dominant female who had challenged the trespasser.
The mother started sniffing the ground; looking out for the other tigress… she looked at us once and crossed a narrow creek to move inside the thickets on the other side again as we started to move there was this second growl and again the younger female was seen rolling down the mudflat but this time she was still in the water after rolling down and started snarling. The mother gave her a final warning and moved away.
The young female snarled as she waded through the shallow water on the riverbank, looked here and there and then climbed up and vanished inside the thickets after sometime we saw her again crossing the narrow creek and moving back to that very patch of the forest where we saw her initially, yes, this young female was rather stubborn she denied to accept defeat possibly.
Few minutes later the mother too followed her, exactly took the same path by picking up her smell.
Yes we were into a couple of hours of drama when we finally decided to leave the tigers and move away also because there were general tourists on the other boat who wanted to see other places in the forest too and we desperately needed the help of their boat to get out of the forest …. We were on their mercy as our boat broke down also our memory cards were almost full so we decided to leave for the nearest village where we can get our boat repaired. Crew of Whispering Winds was kind enough to tug us out of the forest….till that point.
Later we came to know that the boat which was girdling the place didn't see any tiger they were watching dolphins.
Three days later we saw a tiger crossing that very narrow creek during the high tide. We could not identify the individual but it might be the same tigress which got thrashed, the young female. It seems after crossing that creek in high tide she moved to the opposite side of the island where she was spotted by another tourist boat…. We missed her by few minutes may be and saw her fresh footprints all along the river bank, for almost 2-3 kilometers at a stretch. Was she still reluctant to enter the forest? This will always remain a mystery, as this mangrove is itself a mystery hence called ‘The Mysterious Mangroves’.
This natural history event was published in the Times of India, Kolkata edition newspaper and also got aired on 24Ghanta news channel which belongs to Zee TV.
realy wonderfull and great