(Blog-post compiled by Shruti Mirasdar)
It is 4.00 pm on the afternoon of 23rd May. I am in the sitting area with two of my colleagues and a bunch of kids, waiting restlessly. They are fidgeting and excited, anticipation is high in the air. As we stroll through the room, checking up on each of them, distributing the food packages, I am trying to keep a calm face and go on about the duties allocated, but really I am freaking out in the inside.
The heart?s thumping is so loud, I wondered if any of them did notice it and not ask me why I am quivering. I did not sleep the previous night, in fact I have been high on the nerves ever since I was offered the chance to go to Ranthambore. It is not that I am not used to this, but the after effects of realising ?You-are-going-here-so-and-so? never gets curbed fully, and all night and day I am like a squirrel high on caffeine!
There was a time, when back then I dreamt of being free, joyous and alive, I wondered how it is to be without being on the receiving end of the prejudices of others’ opinions of you weighing you down. There is a whole new world out there to be explored without the anchor of human jealousies, envies, and fears to bring you down. The sooner one realises this, the faster you can travel light, and make the journey come out alive.
Ranthambore 2015 is a hazy dream even now as I write this, but the experience I had there has wrung me back to the reality. This is the perfect introduction to wildlife one can have, having visited Corbett National Park I can say it, there is a striking similarity and difference in both of them. The forest life is contrasting and different from the bustling city life, you develop a deeper insight in the working of an Eco-system, the conservation of the forest and how important it has become for children to be exposed to the natural surroundings away from the concrete blocks of city life which hamper the growth and limit the world sense in a way. The tourist spends his money on visits to the forest with the goal of glimpsing the tiger. All around them is a eco-system thriving with hundreds of flora and fauna, yet they seem oblivious. ?Tiger sighting ho jaye, bass!? .They start making unreasonable demands, and pester the guides with their lack of common sense. From the beginning they should be ?warned? that this is a forest, not a ?zoo?, and you cannot simply demand the animals come out and become a victim of your silly comments, eyes that have zero admiration and affection for them.
Ranthambore is characterized as a dry-deciduous forest with water bodies and the Dhok as the most widespread tree type. It also hosts the Majestic Ranthambore fort of Maharaja?s of Jaipur. It served as a hunting ground of the Maharaja?s until independence. It also boasts of the second largest Banyan Tree in Asia, with Padam Talao, Rajbagh Talao along with the ruins which beautify the whole area. In total of the 10 zones, 1-5 are the core zones and 6-10 are the buffers. The prime sightings happen in the core area. We were lucky to see a total of 5 tigers in zones 5, 3 and 1, with 4 of them being cubs and a sighting of Krishna ( T-19 ). Ranthambore forest plays host to a variety of birds. Every safari introduced us to them: Red-wattled Lapwing, Indian River Tern, Cormorant, Woolly-necked Storks, Ibis, Jungle Bush Quail, Indian Peafowl, White-breasted Waterhen, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Kingfisher, Asian Paradise Flycatchers, Small Green Bee-eaters, Golden Orioles, Black Drongo, Brahminy Myna, Indian Tree Pie and Magpie Robin, and animals to name a few that I have seen, Sambar Deer, Nilgai, Wild Boar, Langurs, Indian Hares, Monitor Lizards, Crocodiles.
The purpose I went with in my mind is fulfilled, but not put to rest. At Corbett, the tigress gave us a blink-and-miss, this time we were blessed to see it at Ranthambore for a longer duration. Perched with the camera, I gathered up all the patience I had and waited with it like a Man on a Mission. I was determined to see it for the longest time. And lo! Who walked out of the bush, Krishna?s cubs. They were oblivious to the prying Gypsy?s armed with cameras and hooting tourists. As cats play in the park, they strolled majestically and playfully in to the open.
On the last Safari, luck visited us again. With 3 flat tires in 3 day?s time, we were flabbergasted. This was our last chance to spot the Tiger; we entered zone 1 with high anticipation.
That stare though?sends you the chills, makes you think about your whole life?s time spent. It is as if he can see right through you and read your mind through the camera?one stare of this is enough to be captivated!
There was no one special highlight of the trip, everything mingled in one made this a great experience. There are animals apart from the tiger in the forest which make it live and possible for the tiger to hunt, live and survive. Everything and everyone co-exists which makes the whole forest a big lively buzzing activity place. It is not dormant, it is wild, systematic and carries the forces of the universe.
The most important thing to learn was the planning, logistics and execution part of this camp. To handle 25 mischievous over-energetic kids is a huge task which I had absolute fun doing. As you get involved with the camp details, it becomes easy to understand your role, which you can do with the support and co-ordination of your team, who is passionate, willing and supportive. Observing those who are experienced than you is a more direct way of learning.
With awareness and experience, this role becomes more challenging, demanding, and fun.
Within the wild, you find peace in the chaos. The mind?s eye is ignited with the new sights and glows when the yearning is fulfilled. All the small worries and problems which are inside the head, slowly start to ease away and thoughts which demand greater importance replace them. Travel I learnt is not limited to visiting the place and mugging up facts, it is a process where you give yourself up to the surroundings and become one of it. The journey is more important than the destination, and when the destination rewards you, it cannot be put into words. The feeling of belonging here, somewhere, anywhere you choose to go, is exhilarating and ever-growing, you never belong to any one place. But to live, to travel, to learn and grow, make it yours and immersing yourself in it is the ultimate apex of bliss. Travel is like breathing, necessary, but it is never easy, lot of hard work goes into realising the dream; the greater the resolve, the higher the satisfaction on reaping the rewards!