The King's Blessing
Photo : Sriram Janak
It was in the May of 2008 in Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the only place in the world where you can still see Asiatic lions in the wild, the sun was on its way to light up the other half of the world and we were driving back to the camp, tired, but deeply contended. After spending a long evening filming a pride of lions, we were slumped in our seats, drinking in the dusky air of the wilderness. Our eyes were half closed, enveloped by the tumultuous chirping of the birds on their way to roost when, suddenly, our jeep came to a jolting halt.
And there he was, right in the middle of the road. Huge and menacing, with his head held high and tossing his freshly shampooed mane, walking right at us with royal bearing. We had stopped our jeep on a very narrow one-vehicle bridge, over a dry river bed and there was barely enough space for a bicycle to pass by on either side. As he closed in, I loosened my monopod’s screw to turn the camera when he turned and walked into the undergrowth on one side. But he kept coming towards us, straight on. Then he was so close that he did not fit into my len’s frame. I tore my eyes away from the lens and looked up, to see him brush right past my side of the jeep. He turned up his mighty head and looked me right in the eyes. I stared into the depths of the golden orbs and right then, right there, I felt the presence of God. I stood there transfixed. As he walked away, leaving me breathless and suffering from a mini heart attack, I looked back to see his receding behind continuing to walk in the middle of the road before finally disappearing around the bend...
Starting the jeep and moving forwards in silence, still not recovered from that close encounter, the jeep stopped again. And there he was, right in the middle of the road. I thought that history was repeating itself, giving me a chance to relive the moment so I could receive his blessing with more grace and not just stand there like a mannequin but, sadly, that was not to be. This time, we had stopped in an open area and it was his brother that we were looking at. This royal individual chose to walk past the other side of the jeep, giving my mom the opportunity to receive a blessing. Though he did not brush past the jeep like his brother did, he was still close enough to give us another mini heart attack. He walked away on the middle of the road too, following in his brother’s footsteps, unaware that he and his brother had left a huge impression in the lives of the three mortals in the jeep that they had casually passed by.
We were now fully awake as we continued our journey back to the camp, with the sun finally set and leaving the last golden glow in the sky. Our hearts thumping in our throats, we were bursting to communicate our feelings through words but failed miserably and let our eyes do the talking. As I reran the moment in my head, I realised just how lucky we were to have witnessed an encounter like this and to have been so welcomed in Mother Nature’s kingdom. We had been blessed by the King.