The most graceful cat in the feline family. The one with the shining yellow coat and the eye-shaped spots peppered on it. The one with the cocky gait and the regal grace. The one that took us six years of tripping into the jungle before spotting one. Panthera pedra, or the leopard.
Somehow, this species kept eluding us. We missed spotting them by minutes and seconds, and finally, in September 2005, at Bandipura National park, we spotted one. He was as huge and muscular as a leopard could get, and was lying on a low branch of a tree, around 20 feet from the track. My dad and I rolled for all that we were worth, making up for the six years of deprivation. After more than half an hour, he finally got up and jumped down from the tree. We thought we had seen the last of him, when he reappeared, this time, right in front of us, on the track, and walked straight on. We followed him for a few hundred yards before he cut into the undergrowths and disappeared, giving us one final look over his shoulder.
The very next morning, we went to the same spot, and decided to go to the watch tower in that area to see if we could spot him again. Only this time, when we reached there, he was sitting ON the watch tower, looking down at us! Lying down, and looking at us with half closed eyes, it was apparent that we were not very welcome visitors. With a visible sigh, he heaved himself up, walked to the stairs, and then walked down them as if he had been trained at the circus! One step at a time. He brushed past us, before leaping across the track and finally disappearing into the bushes.
For all that I know, the time we spent with this leopard more than made up for the seven years of deception, and I must say, it was definitely worth the wait.