And so, after almost 20 days, am back in Chennai. 5 days at home. 8-9 days of tripping around Rajasthan, Delhi and Varanasi. One week of field work in some villages in Kolar. It doesn't feel that great sitting in a room and staring at a screen after so many days of not reading newspapers and not logging on to the net.
It all started from the masterplan prepared by Darshan to trip North India in the chilling winter. And in came the shady bunch from college- Ra, Sid K, Vikram and Nikil. Depending on the Indian Railways completely, when trains were getting cancelled everyday due to fog, was a bit risky. But everything went perfect according to plan in the end. An epic 35 hour train journey took us from Madras to Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan. A kid who refused to stop crying and his equally naughty sisters made sure that none of us slept for a long time. We were on a healthy diet through that journey, rather we were constantly eating. From a huge carton of choco pies to local food from various stations digged out by Ra, our stomachs never really got any rest.
The fellow trippers, The shady bunch- Ra, Darshan, Sid K, Vikram...and Nikil is hidden somewhere!
The kids who kept us entertained all through the day...and sleepless all through the night!
At 3 AM the next day, we set foot on a freezing Sawai Madhopur. The immediate plan was to have a trip around Ranthambhore National park. It is not an easy task to get tickets for either the gypsy or the big cantor. Agents call the shots at the ticket counter. No outsider can go straight in and get tickets. Some tried and failed miserably. The lazy us went the agent way. Just past sunrise, we set out in our gleaming green gypsy. Before long, we spotted huge tiger footprints. Apparently, some tiger had walked through the place at 4 in the morning. Perhaps, for an early dump. We could see how excited Darshan was getting at the prospect of spotting a tiger. Now, he is the kind of guy who wears 'save the tigers' t-shirt and would be happy if he gets one for a life partner.
A gypsy traversing the Ranthambore National Park terrain
The dry grass looked golden in the early morning sun. We spotted huge vultures sitting on the branches of a dead tree and some others circling menacingly further away. The sight of deers evoked very 'cold' response from us, thanks to our proximity to the deer hub in IIT Madras and also due to the frequent tresspassing that they make to our own college. Parrots were also not in short supply. The driver reminded us that spotting a tiger is not so easy and all depends on luck. Everyone kept scanning the bushes for any glimpse of those stripes. Other gypsies and cantors were moving around in different directions, all with the same purpose of spotting the beast. Our driver took the gypsy to a hilly region, swtiched off the engine and seemed to be observing the sounds of the jungle. This activity went on for a few more moments when we all relaxed and stood up on the seats with our cameras. Suddenly the driver screamed, 'Get down' and soon we were accelerating down the slopes at top speed. More vehicles joined the same path from different directions. They all seemed to have telepathically suddenly got the exact location of the tiger.
Two vultures sitting on a dead tree.
Couldn't get any clear shots of vultures cos of them being against the light.
And, at a clearing, all the vehicles stopped. Everyone was craning their necks quietly. Some morons still kept on chattering and shouting. Before long, we saw HIM walking from behind a tree. It was a calm relaxed walk without caring for all the human noise around him. He seemed to say 'I own this place'. Soon, another giant followed. The driver told us that this guy is the first one's son. He too walked just like his father. It all finished in less than a minute as they disappeared into the woods. We later gathered that the two of them were lying peacefully on the road when an over enthusiastic group tried to get a little too closer. They were later seen justifying their action with the comment that "This is the first time in six trips that we are getting to see the tiger". No wonder they didn't get to see it earlier! Darshan was probably a little unhappy at not being able to flash his 'save the tiger' t shirt due to the chilly weather.
Here goes the tiger series...Not anything great photographically. But seeing them in their own backyard was something else!
Having seen the tigers a bit earlier than expected, the rest of the safari was relatively uneventful, except if you are the type who thinks that 10 monkeys sitting on an electric tower is an event. We also spotted a Nilgai and some unknown birds. The chill had begun to subside by then. As we got back from the forest to the town, the first thought was on how to satiate our hunger. With that aim, we attacked(literally) a small 'Bhojanalaya' near our hotel. For the next one hour, the two guys at the Bhojanalaya did more work than they ever did in their lives, as we kept on ordering for more and more. In the end, the billing was so complicated that they apparently brought in a man who looked like the 'village mathematician' to solve the riddle. Last heard, the old men had closed the shop and is tripping in South India to exact revenge.
The small Bhojanalaya which ran out of the year's stocks after our attack
After this destruction, we went to Ranthambore fort and did a short trip of the town, more on which will come in the next post...