“Climbing Everest involves so much more than I ever dreamt. People on our return would be only interested in whether we reached the top. It was as if the weeks of endurance counted for nothing, when in reality they count for as much as the summit.”
While strolling in the backyard of my cottage at ‘Tiger’s Den’, Bandhavgarh, I read these lines again and again from Bear Grylls’ “Facing Up” as somehow they resembled my own circumstance, though for me it was never about scaling a mountain.
I vividly recalled how I arrived at Bandhavgarh about a week ago. The excitement was at its peak. Only the thought of seeing tiger roam free in its natural abode was sufficient to give an adrenaline spike. But as Shakespeare says, “fate is a cheating harlot”.
Despite numerous safaris and early morning set-offs in all the three zones vizTala, Maghdi and Khitauli, no dice of luck seemed to roll in my favor. The exasperation of not sighting a tiger had almost eclipsed every bit of gratitude I had while visiting this place. Time was running out and disappointment had set in. Once I was back to my world, among my family and friends, only one question would be hurled at my face, “How many tigers did you spot?”
Sitting aside a camp fire at ‘Tiger’s Den’ resort, I encountered a French couple who had been at the place since a substantial period of time. Marc and Francois had arrived in Bandhavgarh over a month ago and all they had sighted was a glimpse of striped tail that disappeared into the wild when their companions on safari had shrieked in excitement.
However, they believed that perseverance is the key in the wild. We decided to do a safari together the next day. After surfing for three hours in the woods, as we rode out the couple was content as they believed that tiger has seen them, if not vice versa.
We went on to hangout more. I explored some local temples of great charm that I had never known otherwise. At the evening I headed towards a local river bank and witnessed a quiet, beautiful sunset which gave birth to what I call one of my most profound poetry. Bandhavgarh also offers an extensive range of artifacts by local folks. My visits to Malay café and Her café were frequent, for the visitors mostly comprised of artists and writers. Sometimes the discussions would plunge deep into philosophies.
Human nature hungers for adventure. An adventure has its risks. Plethora of stories mouthed by Bandhavgarh’s guides about accidents and lives lost in the national park. My solitude was spent in pondering if it was worth it!
On the last day as I drove back to civilization, I was surrounded by many thoughts. The wild is fascinating for it has no law, rules or conventions. The mighty returns home at the end of the day. Bandhavgarh is the boundary where civilization ends and something raw begins. There’s more to it than spotting a tiger. The eerie silence of the night, the chill in the air of dawn, nocturnal noises made by rare insects, indie cafes, travelers from distant lands, artifacts waiting to narrate the stories behind them and unexplored temples. During my travel I never saw a tiger. Yet I’ll visit it again, hoping to uncover layers of things I still don’t know. May be, as I drive, some deer at the peak of its youth will jump across the road in full grace, giving me a sight never witnessed before!