So, it was another morning at Bandhavgarh. Every day I decide to leave the forest and every day I stay back again to see another sunrise. Today was my fourth safari and I had sworn to Gagan that it would be my last. We had to see the tiger. After all, Durga Poojas were in full fervour in the village. It was time for the Goddess, The Sherun Wali Mata, to give us Darshan during the morning safari.

We started off on a familiar jungle territory. The first was the sunrise, a perfect one today, and then a merry stream of deer, wild boars, peacocks and elephants. I was a bit sleepy, as I would nod off to sleep from time to time. I even almost fell off the jeep once. Then it happened out of the blue. We had stopped our jeep next to the pugmarks and straight past us walked the tigress. She was big and magnificent and not concerned at all that we were watching her awestruck. I started to shoot immediately as I knew I had little time. I had to shoot her before she crossed off the dusty road into the dense forest on the other side. I got the angle from behind and then my jeep moved to get her lateral poses.

I had captured enough of the beast as it disappeared into the woods. We turned the jeep around to get a look from the opposite direction. Here too, I was in close proximity to her, around 10 meters or so. I clicked away as the tigress swished her tail and moved from side to side.

That’s it. In a few minutes, her Darshan was over and Durga, as I have renamed her, vanished back into the forest amongst the bushes and sal trees. This was the WOW moment of the entire forest safari. I sat back into the jeep to take a breath and enjoy the moment. I felt triumphant at last. After two weeks of waiting, we finally spotted the tigress in all its glory and man, did she pose for the lens. But for me, it was over too quickly. I wanted more and we searched the forest if we could find her cubs or her mate. We found nothing. She had done the catwalk and that was all for the day.

I drove out of the forest happy and content that my mission of spotting the tiger was a success and I had finally captured the beast in my lens. The jeep drivers got a reward of Rs 200 each from me today for the sightings. The images of the proud Durga will remain with me now forever. The Goddess has smiled on me. It was as if she had blessed me. To me, spotting the tigress today was like a good omen as if I was receiving an auspicious blessing from the Gods. After all, it was only yesterday that I had walked into the neighbouring village and did Pooja at the local Ma Durga Pandal. I also had the Prasadam that the local village girls gave me. The blessing surely bore fruit today.