In the heart of Bandhavgarh lies the king of meadows that was once home to the queen of many hearts. Forced to seek hydration at Rajbehra due to the Jhurjhura waterhole drying up, this was practically ‘Auntie’s’ home in the summers. And this was just as well, for no more dramatic a setting could be imagined to see this exceptional tigress. It was a great stage for a great character.
This phenomenon, which had a magical touch to it, was on full show in the summer of 2009. In those days there was no route system to be adhered to, and we’d go straight to where the action was and stay put waiting for the redoubtable Jhurjhura Female, whom a few of us affectionately called ‘Auntie’ because of her no-nonsense, precocious ways, to make an appearance. And she seldom disappointed.
Being a mobile tower of deathly sobriety, she always had a manner of unmistakable purposefulness in her gait, an exceptional sense of dignity and a very structured approach to chores. ‘Loitering’ was an activity quite unknown to her, and her focus never wavered. If her thirst is what she wanted to quench, that’s what she’d do, and if cooling was the objective of the visit, sure enough that is exactly what she’d get down to without fuss or distraction. With her fiery eyes, which she seemed to have inherited from her father, and a body language of utmost assertiveness, she had an abhorrence to nonsense which was as innate to her as her very immune system.
But with merely her presence, she’d transform Rajbehra into a beautiful garden and a sacred temple where a slice of our glorious natural past could still be seen and enjoyed but not captured and tamed. She turned Rajbehra into a theatre of dreams.