We were visiting the Jim Corbet national Park in 2002. Having
read several books by Jim Corbet I was more than eager to encounter some
man-eaters , or even deer eater tigers of the Kumaon. For those of you who are
not aware – Kumaon region of Northern India is famous for its tigers and
leopards and they were made even more famous by the legendary Jim Corbet when
he decided to pen down his trysts with them in the jungle way back in the
Coming back to 2002, we were visiting the national park from
Nainital and were at the gates by the morning for our safari ride. We didn’t go
for the safari at the deathly hours though which is around 3 AM I think!
The guide there had said you will get to see this and that
and blah blah in the jungle. But we were most interested in the big cat!
Throughout our day long safari we saw – wild boars, elephants, countless deer,
one peacock, several birds, a supposedly big snake’s nest (it was only the
opening of a burrow that we saw) and some other animals. But no big cat! Such a
The guide kept showing random impressions on mud as pug marks
– we were totally dejected. May be it was not in our luck.
We were on our way back to Nainital. Roads in the hill are
tricky – if you don’t know the way you can either bump your car on the hill or
go down the bottomless pit!! We were travelling in a Maruti Van – those were
popular in those days. My dad was half asleep in the front seat beside the driver,
mom was looking outside her window though the glass was slid closed – it was
November and cold there. The only glass that was open in the car was by my side
– because I was feeling dizzy with the hill drive and wanted fresh air. Music
was on in the car stereo and drifting thoughts in my teenage mind that time.
Suddenly the brakes screeched and we were all jolted back
into the action and heard the driver yelling – “Dekho dekho tiger dekho!” [look
at the tiger]
In that half asleep state dad asked “Tiger, where?”
I had almost sprung up from the seat and lodged myself above
the gear box to see ahead. There it was a huuuuge majestic tiger. The tail was
probably as long as the body. He had climbed down the hill, was crossing the
road to get down the sides. The driver had put the headlight on brightest and
thus the tiger stopped on his way with so much light on its eyes. In those two
seconds I remembered I should click a photo and was searching for the camera in
my bag. But the tiger had other plans. He roared and took a step ahead. That
roar is something I’ll never forget in life!
It was enough to scare the driver who had put the gear in
reverse by that time. And then there was darkness. Darkness and silence apart
from the sounds of insects. The driver had pressed so hard on the clutch in
that moment of fear he forgot he had pulled his hand break earlier to marvel at
the tiger! All lights were off, the car was not starting – there was a total
silence for a moment.
My mom started screaming – Tina close that damn window!
Dad – There can be more
tigers, I can its eyes glowing at us.
The driver was already saying his Hanuman Chalisa.
It was a risky and scary situation. It was already dark
outside with a broken car and an almost angry male tiger ahead (yeah it was
male because I had spotted his THING) and god knows if he had few more friends
following him. If another car came from behind it could hit us and we all could
be down the slope with the tiger and his friends and be their dinner.
We could see the glowing eyes turning and going down the
slope. We also felt that musty smell was gone too. That’s when I realized that
tigers smelt horrible!
My dad asked the driver to go and check what was wrong in the
car but he was too scared to do that. Thankfully it was a van and he went at
the rear of the car through our seats! Finally we figured out some wire had
gotten loose which had cut all power supplies. He had managed to fix that
within the car.
The driver later said this was the first time in his career
of 17 years as a taxi driver in that road that he had seen a tiger. He said – “aap to bohot lucky ho, aisehi tiger dekhneko
nahi milta” [you people are lucky, you don’t get to spot a tiger just like
Yes we were lucky to see a wild tiger and in the most
unexpected way. Guess, the tiger wanted to surprise us! This is an experience
three of us will not forget.
I don't have any photograph of that tiger, but frankly somethings are so deeply etched in your mind that you don't even require a photo!
Meanwhile check out a breakfast smoothie