I have been chasing the big cats of India for more than a decade. Over the years – chance, experience and patience have allowed me to spend some intimate moments with perhaps the most enigmatic big cats of them all – the Tiger. The famous hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett called the tiger a ‘large-hearted gentleman’. Gender neutrality was perhaps not in vogue then – but in principle he is right.

For once you have earned the tiger’s trust – you can be rewarded with some wonderful insights about their behaviour. But mind you – this experience can also lead to frustration. Apart from having a big heart, tigers also have an enormous capacity to sleep. I cannot even begin to count the number of hours spent waiting by the edge of the bushes, waiting for the tiger to break his nap and make an appearance.

These images were made over a decade or so, across the forests of Central and North India, and I have tried to cover tigers of all ages – and give you a glimpse into their world.

Young tigers, like any other species are very vulnerable. Many don’t even make it to adulthood. So it is understandable for a young cub to look anxious when spotted alone, with mother out for hunting.
But as they grow, their confidence also goes up in leaps and bounds. This cub was about a year old, when we spotted him lounging on a tree. He had an attitude that would have put any self-respecting leopard to shame.
For any tiger, its ability to hunt determines how far it will go in life. So the sooner they perfect their skills, the better. We came upon this young female, following her mother and pick up the nuances of stalking prey. Clearly, she had some way to go….
Till the time they are able to hunt on their own, tigers heavily depend on their mothers to provide. This blue-eyed boy was caught feasting on a deer kill, as his mother rested nearby.
Over the years, I have seen some young females turn into legendary huntresses. This one I had seen as a toddler, then a few years later bringing down large deer for her litter of three.
Few creatures on the planet can inspire awe quite like a large male tiger can. Even when resting in the afternoon heat, they exude power and charisma, which no lens can really hope to capture.
Tigers, apart from Jaguars are the only large cats at ease in water. At the height of the Indian summer, they can be found lounging in waterholes, where even the most fearsome of them can look like pussy cats.
Eye contact with a tiger is an extremely special feeling. While through the lens, it may not evoke the same level of emotions, but believe you me – put your lens down and try staring into a tiger’s eye for more than a few seconds. And tell me how that feels…
Could not resist putting up one more photograph of a tiger relaxing – for she is my favourite tigress of all time. Isn’t she magnificent?
A tiger does not lose sleep over the opinion of sheep. Nor does it care if humans are around.
But when they do wake up, the expressions can be priceless!
At the end of the day though, tigers care little about humans. Hence, they lose no opportunity to show the middle finger and go back to sleep.


3 thoughts on “Close Encounters”

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