It was nearing the time to leave the forest, but we headed back towards the rest house in old Nagzira. The guide needed to use the washroom.
There are lots of deer and monkeys near the rest house, so tourists invariably stand around taking photographs.
On that day, there were people standing in their jeeps, looking fixedly in one direction.
“There’s something there,” I said, frowning.
“Must be deer. People are always excited to see deer.”
“No …” I insisted. “People don’t stand to see deer.”
And that’s when someone gestured to us frantically. “Leopard, leopard!”
It was right there, at the rest house! And it was in the mood to hunt.
A leopard’s camouflage is excellent. It was in plain sight, but a little distance away. We could make out that it was there only when it moved.
A herd of deer was grazing just beyond.
And then a doe and fawn emerged.
The leopard eyed them.
The fawn was about three months old: young, dreamy, frisky.
The doe knew that the leopard was there, ready to spring. She started and urged the fawn to move. She tapped the ground with her hoof did not understand.
We had to leave; it was time. Check out late, and the guide has to pay a penalty, besides being banned from the next eight safaris. We started moving, but our eyes were still fixed on the leopard and the fawn.
And the leopard made its move. I watched it spring and pounce. I could not longer see the doe or the fawn.
But I heard cries.
And from the bushes, I saw just the doe leap out, without the fawn.