I stood in a building near Indore, overlooking a parking lot surrounded by tall grass. My camera was already packed away in my backpack. Something moved through the grass, and my colleague said “That’s a jungle cat.” I caught little glimpses of it as I fumbled to take the camera out of the bag. It was large, and moved quietly with many pauses to look carefully at its surroundings. The camera strap was stuck around something. I had to look away to disentangle it.
I dropped my backpack on the floor, and raised my camera. The cat had disappeared. My friend pointed to a pile of rubble and said that the cat had gone behind it. Strangely, it had drifted in the direction of the parking lot. It sprang up on top of the heap of rubble and I tried to take some photos, one of which is featured. The cat quickly jumped off the pile and disappeared into the tall grass. It had given me a short window of opportunity, and I’d fumbled it!
What was it? It was big, perhaps a little less than half a meter off the ground at the shoulder. Because of the size, I thought first that it could be a caracal. This was unlikely, I knew, because the caracal is nocturnal. Moreover, its ears end in an elongated black tuft. This one didn’t seem to have such a fancy ear. So it must have been a jungle cat, Felis chaus, but a big one. What an unexpected sighting.