“My inner soul doesn’t permit me to accept your gift.” That’s what the tracking guard said to us. Every morning, tracking guards walk the roads of Ranthambhore looking for signs of tigers. Sometimes they walk alone and sometimes they walk in twos. How they can walk in a jungle where tigers roam is beyond comprehension, but they do; and they have been doing it for years and years. These are seasoned experts who can sense a tiger in the vicinity by listening and seeing signs.
We were near Bakhola when we came across a tracking guard. He was a heavy-set guy wearing his uniform and sported a proud upturned white mustache with a light beard. Amiben asked him about his family and kids. Apparently, he lives alone in a chowky and his family is back home in his village. He makes a simple, honest living and depends on his meager government salary. Amiben wanted to give him some money so he can buy small toys and gifts for his kids. She offered him a few hundred rupees. Normally, guards graciously accept these gifts as their salary barely supports their own needs. This particular guard, however replied, “my inner soul (anteratma) doesn’t permit me to accept your gift. I must earn everything I receive.” It was refreshing to see that in today’s India, purity exists.
About a month ago, I read somewhere that if you are depressed, you are living in the past; if you are stressed, you are living in the future; if you are happy, you are living for now. This particular forest guard was clearly happy. He was walking the jungles alone where tigers roam without a care in the world. He had clearly defined morals and principles and they could not be compromised.
|Amiben, Sanjana, me, Will, Kristi (left to right) in our Jeep|
As we entered the jungle today, we saw Ustad sitting by the side of the road. A few jeeps stopped to see him and take pictures. We had seen him yesterday; hence we did not hang around.
|Ustad hangs out in the Jogi Mahal area|
In Bakhola we got a clear glimpse of a male Paradise Flycatcher. Its gorgeous tail feathers follow his flight pattern as he gracefully glides through the greenery near waterholes. This one sat on a tree for a few seconds; just enough time for Nimay to capture him with his camera!
|Male Paradise Flycatcher|
We wandered into a new part of the jungle after Bakhola. The terrain was drier and animals were scarce. We searched for a couple of hours and took a small detour on Nimay’s instincts. All of a sudden, a chital deer darted on our left. Both Nimay and I spotted this and stopped. Two more chitals on our left were keenly staring at the same spot. There was silence except for the rustling of trees in a light breeze. This is when Sanjana spotted something move in the distance and exclaimed, “There he is.” As soon as she said it, chital started calling and we saw orange-and-black stripes walking towards us. It turned out to be a large male named Zalim casually strolling his territory. He crossed the road about 40 feet in front of us and continued on. Both our Jeeps followed him for a few minutes before he disappeared into the thicket. We continued on and heard a chital constant calling for about 15 minutes but the tiger never reappeared.
|Kristi is all smiles at Jogi Mahal where we stopped for tea|
|Will checks picture results on his iPhone|
This was our last round in the jungles of Ranthambhore. 7 rounds, 11 tigers sighted 22 times. No leopard or bear but tons of birds, chital, sambhar, crocs, a single jackal and dozens of bird species. Ranthambhore is exhilarating!
We had lunch at Vanya Vilas where we received a traditional Rajasthani welcome complete with a couple of elephants.
|Elephants posing with Kristi at Vanya Vilas|
|Will is unafraid of elephants|
In the afternoon we drove to Jaipur to catch a flight to Ahmedabad (my home town). My brother and I have a bought some property in the outskirts of the city and built houses. The houses are just finished and the plan is to stay here until we leave Ahmedabad on the 13th of June!