By Shruti Kesavan:
“A vacation is like love – anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.” –Anonymous
Ever wanted to just disappear from your office table piled with unfinished files or even detest going back home to an unclean room? This is something which all of us invariably experience every waking day of our lives. Even if we are comfortably ‘placed’ in our AC rooms we still yearn to feel the natural fresh air on our tired faces and still wish to hear the gentle stream flow nearby. There is always a part of us who wants to be the little girl/boy again, to just relax and take in the fresh air and a vacation is something that gives us that much-awaited experience.
There I was with my family of five, covered with bags from head to toe, with my head phones hanging from my ears having no clue where we were heading as it was a surprise visit to somewhere I didn’t know. Coming from a family which makes instant plans, we had no clue about our final destination. All we were asked to do was pack our bags and get up at five in the morning. We did as we were told, half drowsy and half-awake anticipating what waited for us on the other side.
Residing in Bangalore, the only things you would know would be traffic, pollution and more pollution so we expected anything else but these three things. As we were travelling, we slowly saw the big multinational companies disappearing and started coming across the other side of the city. Then we realised that we were off to Mysore — a paradise on earth for the retired folks, to see more greenery than we could possibly imagine in Bangalore. We drove through small villages and fields where we saw young children and men working, the elders under big banyan trees braving the scorching heat with squinting eyes, trying to decipher who we were, a not so scary scarecrow and lots of tender coconut vendors on their bicycles. This was sufficient evidence for us to know we were no longer in or around Bangalore. Mysore, being nearly 250 kilometres away from Bangalore seemed a pretty easy distance to cover in nearly three hours.
The amazing part about vacations is that even if everyone seems to be doing their own thing we still feel united and still feel we belong with each other. There it was- my brother listening to his favourite music, my uncle snoring away to glory, my aunt cutting us some fresh guavas, my mother reading the news paper and there was still a feeling of belonging and oneness with the family. As we reached Mysore we realised the marked difference in the temperature between the two places. Though Mysore is way hotter than Bangalore, it makes up for the presence of fresh sugarcanes and green fields.
We visited the Mysore Palace which has a number of elephants lined outside it and people dressed in their traditional best waiting for a glimpse of the prince. In and around the palace were small shops where they sold souvenirs for the visitors. Be it colourful handmade wooden toys or key chains, they had something for everybody at very reasonable prices. Then it was revealed to us that we were actually going to Bandipur and not Mysore. We had to get there by noon and hence we drove past the city without spending the much required time there.
Within an hour, we had reached Bandipur. The place is well known for its Tiger Reserve and the forest regions around it. As we arrived, we had to check into the jungle lodge as we were already running late by the assigned schedule. In the lodge, every family is assigned a cottage. Fascinatingly, each cottage was named after an animal or bird; it varied from Monitor Lizard to Paradise Fly Catcher to even Racket Tail Durango. We settled for Red Munia. Next was the excitement for a safari into the tiger reserve.
It would be safe to say that it was an experience of a lifetime. The safari lasted at least an hour; twice a day and we saw animals we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Be it the majestic tiger himself, or a family of elephants. We saw various types of birds which we would not even have dreamt of and a whole lot of butterflies flying in and around our van. A group of deer sipping water in the pond or a beautiful peacock with her little ones, one second you would see an otter whisk past you and then a curious wild buffalo stares at you. You experience and simply soak in everything that the place has to offer.
After the safari we were driven back to our lodges and greeted with snacks and tea. In the three our time we were given for ourselves to assemble later for a movie, we gorged on food and rested for a while, while hearing the sweet chirping of the birds in the nests around the lodge. We were sitting in a tiny room with no television or laptops and yet, were happy and satisfied. A strange irony indeed!
In the movie screening, they aired a documentary titled ‘Save The Tiger’. It was both moving and terrifying to see the truth about what happens to these wonderful animals and how they are beginning to disappear. After the documentary we were served food and introduced to the bonfire where different families came together and spent time talking and dancing. We were not allowed to stay out after nine and were all sent back to our cottages where we were allowed to sit and talk as much as we wished.
The next day again started early with the bell boy waking us up for the next session of the safari, where if we got lucky, we could see more animals. If we didn’t want the safari we could also go for a morning walk around the lodge. The lodge was filled with cats and dogs living mutually for a change. Maybe it was just the environment which made even the animals ecstatic!
As we drove back with the memories still fresh in our minds, we reached Bangalore somewhere around nine at night. There it was- the same traffic and the same pollution waiting to welcome us to the place we call home! It’s been almost three months since we had been there, but the experience and memory stays right in the back of my head and very close to my heart. Bandipur is indeed a place one must visit, especially if one resides in or visits Bangalore.