It was love at first sight for Topashish Bhattacharjee when he saw Sundari. Sundari is a tigress who is known as Queen of Ranthambore. In this story he describes his first visit to the national park.
Photographs by Topashish Bhattacharjee
We all have heard about love at first sight where couples bumped into each other in some place. I also had the same feeling. Only difference is it was not with a human. It was with an animal. That animal taught me what is the actually meaning to fall in love with someone. It all started when my cousin sister who stays in Dubai visited us. I was eagerly waiting for her because I knew “Didi” will give me a gift. Now that’s what I call innocence. Indeed “Didi” bought a gift for me and said “Bhai it’s for you”. I was in a dilemma if I should open the gift wrapped box or I should wait till she leaves. To my relief she asked me to open the box. It was a Minolta camera. I was in my sixth standard when this happened. Getting my first camera, I was curious to know how it works. I asked my father and he explained me the mechanism.
As the time goes by I completed my education and got into job. But my passion for camera was still there in my mind and I bought my first DSLR and I decided that it’s high time for me to do some serious photography. I planned a trip for Ranthambore National Park. Me along with my other friends we went to RTR (Ranthambore Tiger Reserve). It is said that moments spent in the wild will always give you a surprising and astonishing moment. Preciously that is what happened when I saw a Tiger for the first time in wild. It was a Tigress and she was known as T-17. When I saw her for the first time she was in her prime.
After returning back from the safari we came back to our resort. We were greeted by one of the famous naturist from RTR who asked me “Sir koi Tiger dikha”, (Sir have you seen any Tiger). To my affirmative reply he said that I saw queen of Ranthambore. Then he started telling me the life of T-17 Sundari and how she became a queen. Trust me it was so interesting to hear about her and I wanted to see her again. We went to Ranthambore just to do only one safari and after hearing about her I decided to extend my stay and I requested the Naturist if he can arrange a safari for me, he said “Sir tomorrow I am going inside the sanctuary with few wildlife photographers and if you are interested you can join me”. Without giving a second thought I agreed.
Next day two photographers joined us on to the park. We started our conversation and the photographers told me that every year they visit Ranthambore and they were never disappointed with T-17 as she will show up for the tourists.
Listening to all these things about her, my affection towards the animal grew stronger. Indeed she was very beautiful that’s why she was named as Sundari. That is actually “Love at first sight” for me and I fell in love with her. Sundari was the daughter of the legendary Tigress T-16 Machali who was once the star attraction of Ranthambore. Just like her mother Sundari was very dominant. Her fierce spirit and desire to have her own territory caused her to come with conflict with her own mother.
She was a very intelligent Tigress. She never felt shy posing in front of the camera. My love for Sundari was very memorable, so memorable that it created a bond between me and her. I felt like I had an instant connection with her, it is a moment where nothing else matters to me when I was inside the park watching her behaviour and clicking her picture. Every time I visited Ranthambore she will show up and pose for me. She used to pose for the camera making funny faces and her look attracts me more.
Because of her nature I often used to visit Ranthambore. It was in the 2013 I was in the office when I got a call from Ranthambore that it’s been few days now no one has seen Sundari, I immediately told my manager that I need leave for few days and I immediately drove down to Ranthambore, I did four safaris hoping that she will come up but unfortunately I lost her. Her disappearance is still a mystery.
Falling in love with Sundari was a life changing experience for me, it reviled my innate nature of love for animals. I have seen many Tigers in the wild but no one can replace her. No matter how much time has gone by my love for Sundari will never fade away. I will forever love my beautiful Tigress.
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Topashish is from Shillong and grew up staying very close to nature that is why he is a nature lover. He is a very passionate about travelling and travels across the year along with his camera.