A Family of Leopards

This weekend me and my friends went to Jawai, Rajasthan. The place is serene, with a large dam built over the Jawai lake. It is more like a village, with stillness spread across its width and breadth. Jawai is known for its leopards in the wild, who are often sighted by the tourists taking a jungle safari. With these objectives in mind we reached Jawai. While we were hoping and praying to see atleast one leopard in the wild, we accidentally got to know a family of humans with spirit no less than that of leopards, working in the forest. This story is dedicated to the three of them.

Our safari driver was Ms. Rajshree. A young, confident, and down to earth lady, who wore the attitude of no-nonsense and only mettle. She is the only woman safari driver in the jungle, and we were fortunate enough to have gotten the experience of having driven by her across the uneven geography of the place. The rocks of Jawai over which Rajshree drove us to the top, were steep enough to be declared as walls by an unaware yet over-enthusiastic geotechnical engineer. While we were trying hard to keep our excitement under check, it was the calm face of Rajshree that enabled us to not be scared. She has been driving in this area for almost 5 years now.

The safari group
On the way, domesticated animals amongst wildlife zones
The strength of a woman.
Rajshree and me
View from the top.
More than happy to witness breathtaking views
A picture of the view under better lighting

As we were traveling and enjoying the ride, we spotted a woman with her 4 years old baby boy walking in the deserted jungle lanes. Only on enquiring about who she was we got to know, that she is Rajshree’s elder sister who works as a Forester in the area. While we were on the safari and though eager yet little scared to get a glimpse of a leopard, or a hyena, or a bear, this lady was walking on foot on the empty trails in the jungle along with her very young boy. As Rajshree called out their name from far away, the little boy waved at her with delight. What a cute little boy he was. The courage of these girls was infectious and inspiring.

As we reached at the hill top, we saw an extremely picturesque view. While on one side of the hill was the jungle, we faced a large water body adjoining the base of this rocky hill we had just climbed upon. Island like shapes were emerging all over this spread of water. And to add more to this dreamy evening view, was a single boat that was being rowed by a person, from one of these islands, to ours. As the boat came near, Rajshree’s sister with her son hopped on it and went to another island. I thought it must be their home or something on one of these islands. But after a while the three of them were back. It was then that we got to know that there is a hyena who has been stuck in one of those islands due to heavy rains and waterlogging. Rajshree’s sister had gone to see the status of the hyena and the boat was being rowed by none other than the father of these two young and bold girls.

Rajshree’s sister with her son and her father Uday ji, to check the status of the hyena that was stuck in a cave. Pic courtesy: Deepak Sir
Unbelievable view

Their father Mr. Uday Ranaut, has dedicated his life to this forest. He regularly encounters leopards, hyenas, bear and other wild animals. He knows the skill set to identify a hiding animal, and has the compassion to work for the animals with immense dedication. The same beliefs he has been successful in inculcating within his two daughters, who too have made this jungle their profession. After a brief meeting with Uday ji and having identified a nightjar, it was in his presence that we got blessed with the good fortune of having been able to see a pair of leopards,very close to where we were waiting.

After soaking ourselves with the enormous personality of leopards in the wild, we returned to our venue. It was getting dark now. As we were returning, I couldn’t help but agree with this thought that today we got to see not just two leopards, but instead also a leopard family of which Uday ji was the proud father and his two daughters were his reflection, following what their dad believed in. Their job is not easy and the confidence these two women demonstrate give courage to so many more people. For this reason such women and their fathers must be celebrated with great fervor and enthusiasm.

Wildlife and stories makes me the happiest


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