Forest crazy!

“Hey, you know what – choti mada has started showing up with her cubs. They are around a month old”
off goes my WhatsApp message to some of the friends along with a picture of gorgeous female tigress with 3 cute tiny cubs – one trying to climb her back and 2 others trying to figure out the best possible pose to drink water.
Quick comes the reply “I heard Mahaveer female has delivered her new litter back in December, but no news of her sightings. Hope she starts showing up too.”
Another reply pops up with a heart melting video of a magnificent tigress Junabai with her 4 cute cubs enjoying bath in an artificial water body.
Some other friend quickly adds me to another wildlife enthusiast group on Facebook. I too start browsing it for the recent sighting updates without wasting a minute and come across a photography contest going on, in it. I dig my ‘Google photos’ reserves for the tiger images I clicked in the past, tweak some images here and there and post them off.

This is how the summer typically kicks off for me now-a-days. If someone happens to check my WhatsApp history and Facebook activity for April they are sure to certify me “crazy” and I don’t deny the fact that they would be 100% correct. I did really have whirlwind romance with these beautiful forests and my “craze” for them has surely stood the test of time.

As the summer starts ticking in, enthusiasm of going to forest starts taking over. Scorching heat makes the animals come out looking for water which increases the probability of sighting, not only tigers but also leopards, bears, jackals, deer, wild dogs, elephants and many more animals.

The bookings are all ready by this time as they open 3 months in advance and usually get full the very day they open. This does signify that I am not the only crazy one around. Yes this beautiful flora and fauna have several fans all around the world and they don’t fail to make umpteen visits to the forest to witness it’s beauty.

So, I have two trips (5 forest rounds each) planned to 2 different forests in central India – one at the end of this month and another in mid-June. The shopping/renting of the photography gear is in full swing. Keeping track of the recent sightings will continue.
Looking forward to some of the best sightings and then I am sure I will have a lot to prattle on, after I am back.

Quest to seek the king!

While I write this, I am sitting in a jam-packed airport lounge, with AC running at its lowest pace and chitter-chatter is at its highest possible decibel. Kids running helter-skelter, often bumping up, splashing eatables, eventually snowballing the messy affair. To add to it, the flight is delayed by another hour.

But nothing does irritate me, not even to a slightest possible extent. I sit here, peacefully penning this piece down, intermittently wiping sweat off my gleeful face. Even I am surprised, as this is not quite me. The usual me would get irritated even by 1% of this. This is when I realise, the magical effect of the super-duper vacation, I was returning from. Yes, certain vacations do this to you. They wave their wand to suck out all your frustrations like a vacuum pump and set you freely floating like a cheerful butterfly.

Kanha national park was the destination chosen, which lies in the heart of India and ends up coloring it green. Our day here, would begin as early as 4.30 am, getting fully equipped with winter jacket (yeah, winter jackets in summer, that’s the beauty of it), scarf entangled with only eyes and nose wriggled out, neutral colored clothes and a pair of sunglasses. All this to protect from cold in the first half of safari, sun in the later half and dust all the way.

At 5.45 am sharp, park gate would open and fleet of gypsies would enter, dusting the dawn in it’s full glory. Quest to seek the king of jungle would commence. It would still be slightly dark, making the sighting probability shoot sky high. Tracing the paw marks, listening to the animal alarm calls, scanning through the water bodies, we would pray for the mighty king’s sight.

Getting to see an hour full of road show, 5 in 1 frame kind of bonanza, hunting scene, passer by look, sleeping beauty, just a glimpse, all of these or none of these – is all in lady luck’s hands and of course of the king himself. With the day’s ascend, hope would start descending the ladder down from “hunting scene” to “a mere glimpse” and then further down to at least a Leopard or a Bear, if not the tiger himself. 10.30 am, morning safari would end. On the way back, we would start reading the faces in the fellow gypsies to make out if they could spot a tiger. Nothing can hide the ecstasy of sighting a tiger or distress of not spotting one, off the faces.

As we return, hotel staff would all be ready to welcome with steamy breakfast followed by a rejuvenating cup of tea. Knackered by the bumpy gypsy ride (or by not having sighted a tiger), we would take relaxing warm shower and pounce straight into cozy bed to recover for the evening round of safari.

Evening round would begin at 3 pm. Tiger sighting chances are usually high early in the morning or late in the evening. So the first half would be spent in clicking sambar deers, barking deers, spotted deers, monkeys, langoors, barasinghas, black bucks, bisons, boars, peacocks, mongooses, eagles, owls and plenty of other flora and fauna. When the sun harshness is reduced, it would set a perfect stage for mesmerizing jungle landscapes. Evergreen Sal trees, bright orange fallen leaves, brown tinted bamboo and yellowish meadows would offer a great canvas to thin curvy roads.

End of the evening would again engage us in scanning water bodies for the big cat, as it’s his time to wake up, have water and fight scorching heat by dunking into it. Again, what we would get to witness, was complete stroke of luck, like in the game of poker. Striking similarity, made us assign this, some teen patti terminologies – we would refer “a mere glimpse” as “pair” , “more than 1 tiger in a frame” as “color”, “road show” as “sequence”, “hunting scene” as “trio” and “no luck” as “pack game”.

Although this set of safaris did disappoint us a bit, by a mere “pair” most of the times, we believe there is always a next time and promise “Kanha” we will definitely return. After all, sighting a tiger is just a small part of the overall chain of wonderful experiences and there is no paradox intended ☺

Beauty of closely observing birds and animals in their natural habitats, of dawn and dusk, sunrises and sunsets, virgin forests, abundant flora and fauna and pollution free fresh air – surely leaves the soul purified, mind refreshed and heart overjoyed. As someone rightly said, this connect that the woods have to offer, no wifi in the world can!

In love with the rainy season!

Someone recently happened to ask me – ‘Which is your favorite month?’ and it took me almost no time to blurt the answer out ‘August’.

I have always had a whirlwind romance with rainy season and for that matter, all the rainy months are apple of my eye. Each one adds its own flavor to present the dainty dish.

June marks the onset with lightning and thunder. It adds its own scent too, in the form of ‘petrichor’.
July is its boom period. Heavy rain pours being its true charm.
August has the perfect blend of not little and not too much rain. Sun and rain manifest a cordial relation to embellish August.
September waves it a good bye with serene tungsten lighting and lightning and thunders yet again.

May be it is the amount of rains that makes August special for me. As if sun and rain keep playing hide and seek and rainbow is the nature’s way of calling out “Olly olly oxen free”.

The green carpet that gets laid as soon as it starts drizzling makes everything around, look like a colorful landscape. Every nook and corner seems decorated. This makes the setup perfect for some wonderful outings. Plan a hike – where you get to completely submerge in nature’s beauty while actually getting soaked in rain. Or plan a visit to nearby hill station – fog, mist, waterfalls will drown you down in their mesmerizing views. Waterfalls around you will be so many that your group can actually get a personal one. Lip smacking plate of locally served onion pakodas and steaming hot tea will surely be cherry on the top.

Rains are enjoyable from home too. There is no pleasure like watching it rain like cats and dogs from your window while sipping your customized self-brewed cup of coffee. Birds fluttering their drenched wings and Animals seeking shelter, Car wipers waving all the way and bikes snaking through the pot holes, Kids jumping into the water puddles and adults trying to completely avoid them, Farmers thanking the rain god and regular office commuters blaming him for the wrong timings. This makes for a perfect rainy day scenario.

Rain sometimes transforms the easy daily routine into a nasty one. Daily commute to office has to bear the burden of huge traffic jams. Walking in the rain is yet another task – adjusting the umbrella according to the direction of wind and walking slowly and carefully in order to avoid getting mud painting done on the clothes. Rainy season surely makes one put their creative hats on and develop their own sartorial style that can either hide the mud paintings completely or can at least dry them off sooner if you have to erase them. Despite of all this, i think, the uncertainty that the rain brings in, definitely adds to the thrill of it.

As a kid, I remember, my joy knew no bounds when it rained too heavily. Getting to bunk the school and spend entire day playing in it, sailing colorful paper boats through the rivers flowing all around, will always remain a fond memory.

Well, I can simply go on and on, wax lyricing about it. I am completely head over heels and rainy season makes me fall in love with itself over and over again.
If something refreshes me more than the cup of coffee, it is surely the howling wind, pitter patter raindrops,dancing trees and the romantic weather.

Mr Waghdoh ! 2/22/2016

fb_img_1483013154813Sometimes all you need is a short break, close to nature, away from hustle and bustle into a peaceful setting. The place chosen was Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. With no network coverage and only plants and animals to surround, there couldn’t be a place better chosen.

Plan was made, tickets and hotels booked and we were off for a short vacation. Royal tiger resort was going to be our home for the next four days. Right from waking us up at 5 am to making safari arrangements, Mr Ravi the hotel manager took our charge.

Day 1, we headed to jungle full of hopes to spot the royal king, but ended up seeking satisfaction in the flora instead of fauna. And yes of course we had delicious food served to cheer us up.

Day 2 was a lucky one, with a close sighting of leopard and short sighting of tigress Sonam and her four cubs, we were delighted enough in the 1st half. Second half was cherry on the cake. With the mighty king of Tadoba Mr Wagdoh, walking towards us and posing for more than 30 minutes, what more could we expect? We returned to the hotel, full of smiles. Hotel owner Mr. Bapat’s comment – “today you would not mind even if I don’t add salt to your food” was apt enough. We were still in Mr. Wagdoh’s aura, browsing through his pictures, discussing his style and thanking our luck.

Good time flies away soon and so did our 4 days. Now it was time to head back to Nagpur. Seeking quick blessings of Tekadi Ganpati and shopping delicious orange barfis at Haldiram, we boarded our Indigo.

Today in office, I couldn’t stop myself from telling the tiger stories. Hoping to see Mr Wagdoh and many others once again soon!!