One of the myriad things that fascinate me about cats is their innate ability to spring into action virtually at any time, and this is as true of tigers as it is of any cat. So much so that if tigers were cameras, their turn-on time and shutter-lag would have been lesser than in any SLR ever created!
In late summer of 2008, Machli’s cubs had just parted ways with their superstar mother, and two of the females were often found around the lakes, particularly their favourite Padam Talab. One sunny morning, we watched one of them walk right along the path that leads straight down from the arch to the lake, and settle down in the water to counter the raging sun. All around her were fronds of grass, lush green in contrast against the dry plains, creating a beautiful décor for her bath as she enjoyed the cool water seeping up her underside.
About ten minutes passed as we took turns to use the only vantage point from atop the bars of the vehicle and through a gap in the foliage of a tree. The sight made the onlookers themselves want to stretch out in a tub. No physical task could be contemplated in that late morning heat, and there seemed no better a thing to do than just what the cub was illustrating. Along the bank of the lake, a herd of chital began drifting towards the lake in their usual activity of grazing mouthfuls of fresh grass, oblivious to the tiger’s presence. In a bound that was absolutely from the blue and quick as a tracer bullet, she sprang out of the water and towards the bank, innocent to the unfavourable effect such spectacular histrionics out in the open would have on her chances of catching as much as the shadow of her intended quarry. And although she missed her target by a country mile, the young tigress deserved a perfect ten for entertaining us with a sensational show of the phenomenal feline agility that makes tigers such successful predators.