Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Time is running out

Just when I thought I had met my share of interesting people for this
trip, I met Sachor on my next Safari. He hails from the Netherlands
and has already seen half the world. He intended to backpack for a
month across India. Looking at the marks he had made on the map in his
lonely planet guide, I realised that by the end of the month he would
have seen more of my motherland than me. He turned out to be another in
a series of people who brought to light my own deficiencies. I
remembered all the apprehensions I had about travelling alone, and how
uncomfortable it was to convince people around me that I REALLY was
travelling alone; about how long I had thought about how many days to
take off, and finally decided on just four; and all my anxiety that
Rajasthan is so far away, not just by distance but as a culture. And
here was a guy who had stopped over at a totally alien land with just a
bag on his back, not knowing where he will be three days from today.

The third of my safaris is a complete disaster. By now I understand
why the locals, expecially the guides and the drivers of the canters,
hate Indian tourists. For one, they are noisy. Noisy enough to drown
the distress calls of the Chital and Peacock that usually hint at the
presence of a tiger. On this safari there is a totally noisy group of indian
families, who divide their time between gossiping and trying to
explain (in vain) the point of a safari to the noisy kids they have
brought along. We sight lots of animals but no Tiger again.
My afternoon schedule included a trip to the fort. I get that exchanged
for another safari. This time I am less luckier. A local small time
politician and his stooges get on board. Between coming up with
brilliant ideas like " tying a goat to the edge of the jeep as a bait
to attract the tiger", the politician is trying hard to strike
conversations with the angrez folk in the canter. To a gentleman from
England who was carrying a little kid who looked mongoloid he asks,
"Is she chinese?". Even the terse, grim reply "She's ours" doesn't deter
our friend from asking more questions.The moron is getting on my already anxious nerves.

We have seen a lot of pugmarks but no tigers. I am now preoccupied with looking only for
orange skin with black stripes. If it wasn't for Shefali and Gaurav I
would probably not have seen the majestic Serpent Eagle staring at us
from the foliage. I feel disappointed with myself.

The first thing I do after getting back to the resort is to cancel my
ticket to Jaipur and book another Safari.

At dinner that day we chat a lot over drinks and food. I curse lady
luck and Sachor threatens Aditya that he would set the forest on fire.
Gaurav suggests that it all was a well orchestrated plan to keep the
tourists longer than they planned. The resort owners, animals and
guides are all involved.

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