We all search for that place that can bring you inner peace. That can be the place to sit outside on the steps of the verandah, gazing into infinity, eyes closed in reverence. For us that place will forever be the wild, stunning jungles of India. Their whispered stories are our salvation.
As we drive off from the functional Nagpur metropolis airport the vistas around us begin to change. Mundane suburban buildings and stores metamorphose into dusty village roads and green verdant fields replace the concrete expanse slowly bringing peace within us. Trees line the roads and the often-seen piles of rubbish are replaced by piles of leaves and twigs.
Nagpur mornings are chilly in the winter but the afternoon air is warm, like a balm to the senses. We first visited Tadoba Andhari Tiger reserve 6 years ago and have waited too long to be back , but our much anticipated 2nd visit is about to commence. The tigers of tadoba beckoned us and we have arrived to see them in their home. The Bamboo Safari lodge where we stayed in Tadoba is only 7 kms from the Kolara gate, and it’s a beautiful property, a prime example of how rustic luxury and a jungle soul can be merged perfectly.
The kids had their own villa, and the thought of no hovering parents around to dampen their joy was plain, if unflattering, to see. We had booked for jungle safaris morning and evening on all days, and were very excited because the sightings in the Kolara buffer and core zone have been happening so frequently. Usually waking up the offspring, way before dawn breaks, especially in the winter is tough. Nagpur gets to 3 to 4 degrees centigrade in Tadoba and the chill is accentuated by the open jeeps in which we ride. Here however no complaints are made, the kids are up, and ready in layers as soon as the alarm rings every morning, a testament to how much they love riding on the gypsy into the forest.
Obviously we all pray every morning at the tiny idol near the Kolara gate that we may be blessed by the tiger sighting. Once the pressure of sighting the tiger is out of the way; we focus on the rest of the forest; its landscapes, water bodies and the other flora and fauna.
When the animals are resting we focus on the birds.
Yet there is so much more to see in the deep, sometimes dark, sometimes bright expanses of the forest around us. We and the kids have been to a significant number of tiger reserves around India and this particular routine is very familiar to us. We are good at waiting and watching the cycle of life unfold in the jungle around us. As we wait near a pug mark, or listen acutely trying to discern an alarm call, our minds totally focused on our immediate surroundings, it is tough not to be at peace.
The fruits borne by the forest.
It teaches you much, the forest, patience and to wait, to enjoy solitude, to respect uncertainty, to cherish a rare sighting, to master disappointment when the animal eludes you and above all to learn fortitude and acceptance of the way the wheel turns. It even helps you write a few good lines when your hearts get soaked in its spirit. Our trip was like always, a revelation of the simplicity of true joy.; made more valuable because our children cherished it too. They insisted that we must come back soon and we are very happy to oblige!!!
The sounds of the forest
Sync with my heart beat
The sweet cacophony of the cicada
Along with other wild strangers I meet
The rustling of the leaves
The ashen aged bark of the trees
The ruddy forest pathways
Whisper a million stories
Let me fill my lungs with this fresh air
Let me take a flight with the birds
Let the aroma of the wilderness intoxicate me
Let me lay down here and be a part of this forest
Where the filtered light of the sun keeps me warm
By Ali Tunkiwala
(With Textual Contributions of Bhakti Tunkiwala)