Wow, look at that Lion, he is royal, he is just royal, I said.
He is massively giant, can’t believe he is so majestic & extreme; Swati (My wife) could not prevent her words of thrill & elation with wide open eyes
His name is ‘Raju’ & we call it ‘Rajiyo’, our guide lalit murmured, who was sitting in the front sit of the open jeep in Gir National par, which is the only place for Asiatic Lion in the World. It was when, my wife, my friend Dhaivat & my self were enjoying our long holidays at the place of kings.
We saw this lion Raju for the first time, and found him the most handsome male lion in the jungle; at least I had never seen such huge male like this before. He was calm & enjoying his evening in golden light sitting the open flat parch on the ground. Unlike most other animals in the forest, he was least concerned with our vehicle out there & absolutely fine with the continuous shutter chucks. Man, he is not even looking at us, I said. We understood why this animal is called the ‘King of the jungle’.
When I was busy burning my sensor while making his images, from the far end bushes, we saw a cub approaching him. Our guide Lalit & Dinesh both said together, look his younger brother is coming, and I swung my lens towards the cub. He is the younger brother from the same group of lions called ‘Kankathi’ group. Later on I came to know that the lioness of this group is famous for its temperament and size, amongst all.
Cub came even closer to Raju, and we thought now he has to pay for it, because most male lions do not tolerate cub’s mischief at all and get irritated very hastily. But what is this, Raju and his younger brother are sharing some playful moments together. What a great moment it was. Then the cub went inside the buses again to their mother and the ‘Gentle Giant’ was got itself busy in cleaning his coat.
He was at the age of 4 and a half years that time, without having much of those facial marks of conflict with other mails.
Almost spending some 15 minutes, we decided to leave them to the evening & drew back to ‘Motabhai ni Vaadi’.
It was now almost 2 years since when I visited Gir, when I again reached the same tea-stall where we used to have our tea after photographic sessions, however I was still arrested within the same sentiments, like it was just few days back. I was waiting for our guide, the jam Lalit, who was supposed to come there.
By the time I was talking to other local people there and inquiring about the last year’s castle in Spain ‘Raju’. And I was shocked when some body told me that Raju died last year due to snake bite. I could not respond to the person I was talking, decided not to talk about it now.
And we started our routine jeep safaris in the forest area; we reached the same place where we saw Raju last time before 2 years. I could not dump my words in, asked my guide about Raju and his unfortunate death, and said ‘who told you all these claptrap? With red hot face. Before I said anything he again started talking and told me that Raju is still alive and left his group and area to make his own group. Without having second thought, I said, ‘I want to see him, if we get the permit for the particular route’. And just after a day we got the permit where there were chances for the ‘Royal Raju’.
My wish was blessed with his appearance on that route; He was walking straight down the road towards our jeep, & I forgot to make pictures. He was now even larger & regal then before. As if he knows us & wanted us to greet him, he set himself beside the road just few yards away. Now he was changed like anything after 2 years, having many marks on its face, telling story of conflicts with other bigger males in the jungle.
Now he was alone and was looking for chance to get into conflict with other Alfa males to defeat them in the war of territory. He was roaring at its highest pitch & throwing challenge for the other males in that area. He is no more a ‘mama’s boy’ by this time. He was alert all the time, carelessness disappeared from the body language.
That was the first time I felt the roaring of a Lion. My heart sunk deep into my body & blood got chocked up in arteries for a while. I could feel the vibrations through my camera monopod although I was in a jeep. The Definition of a King was proven. He was stretching all the force through his well built muscular body & pulsating the throat to roar at high & broad pitch. People can listen to its roaring even from the miles; It was a life time experience for me & will always remain as one of the best moments through out my life.
The body language of this ‘gentle giant’ was all changed now & adrenalin was pushing this gentleman to become furious. He was now more confident & moral was giving the impression of being even higher. Raju was now an real ‘Adult’ & all set for lioness to complete the low of nature. Attitude was totally transformed. He was not the same Raju we saw 2 years back. Innocence revised as arrogance & pride of being a Lion.
There are certain moments in the career as a wild-life Photographer which connect you directly to the nature & Raju was a medium this time. We left the Gir with all satisfaction & collected some unforgettable memories of ‘Raju The Lion’