Re-entering Magadhi that evening we first made the mandatory stop at Umaraha to find Solo still asleep in her cave. The Disney team was still there, filming her since morning, and as I exchanged greetings with Digpal and Lala, she stirred, momentarily raising hopes of activity, and Neeraj was pretty sure she’d get a move-on, but she slipped back into recumbency in a renewed position so we left her in lieu of a chance to find the Dotty cubs, whom, you will recall, we had left at Sukhi Talab in the morning.
When we reached, we found a brilliantly lit Sukhi with one of the cubs in the middle of the water, with only his head seeing light of day. Another cub was reported to be lying in the grass before the water, to our right.
In the sky there were scattered clouds, and presently, one of them partly obscured the sun, sending piercing divergent shafts from its lower quarters, and softening the relentless shine on the earth. The cub soon emerged from the water and met his sibling in the grass, whereupon there began a flash wildlife symposium.
The first guests were a herd of spotted deer. Then came a couple of wild boar, which sent some of the deer, particularly the fawns, away from the water in apprehension. Neeraj mentioned he had seen boars killing fawns before. Soon the omnivores left, and the deer returned, and with them, perhaps emboldened by their terrestrial friends, a few langurs.
Meanwhile the avian department deployed their A team to ensure the show was stolen and packed.
Their strategy was simple — put up a show on the left, on the back, on the right and the front.
On the back and right, peacocks displayed to their potential mates. On the left paradise flycatchers (a Male and female apiece) flitted in and out of the scene, and a blue-bearded bee-eater perched overseeing the proceedings. A white-bellied drongo then performed acrobatics and the front section picked up the baton.
As a flock of red-vented bulbuls provided a stable background by staying largely static, a pair of black-hooded orioles played fly-in-fly-out, and a white-throated kingfisher provided loud voice-works. Meanwhile a crested serpent-eagle and a rufous treepie hung about as additional chief observers.
With so much happening in his court, the royal recumbent couldn’t just lie in the grass, so he walked up to the left, near the solar installations, and sat majestically, accepting the view on hand, particularly fascinated by the chital herd for what one would think were obvious reasons. But really, who is to claim to know what goes on in a tiger’s mind, when we hardly know ours?
Meanwhile, we had learned from Saleem that Solo and the cubby quartet had crossed over from the caves to the Umaraha meadow after we had left her, so the decision was taken to leave the Dotty cubs and check on Solo. We found the family in the middle of Umaraha in what was a fairy scene. As mother slept stretched under a palash, the cubs sat, stood and played in staggered fashion, dashing in to and out of the nallah just below.
We kept that scene on the screen of our eyes as we drove back, and perhaps even projected it on the quiet sky opposite Madan’s camp. I had seen evenings of brilliant colour, of a sky pregnant with bluegreyness and the sun vying for its share of magenta-orange, but this evening it was just a muted grey, and the vividness was in our minds, leaked and rubbed off from the grandeur of existence.