The intercom hummed into life and I sat up with a start, the eye mask still wrapped incongruously around my face. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our descent to Hamad International airport…”. I had fallen fast asleep. I buzzed the stewardess for a wake-me-up cup of tea as the large Airbus turned and settled into its long descent towards Doha. The sun was just beginning to peep over the horizon.
|Tyger, tyger, burning bright|
|In the forests of the night,|
|What immortal hand or eye|
|Could frame thy fearful symmetry?|
A few years back, I had written an article on our family trip to Ranthambhore, India, in the hope of seeing a tiger. I decided to write this post on the same topic but with a different emphasis. Recently I came across data on the alarming decline in the tiger population in India, mainly from poaching. This is fueled by the insatiable demand for tiger body parts, mainly in China. Can we sit back and allow this magnificent beast immortalized in the famous poem by William Blake, the first verse of which is quoted above, to simply disappear from the earth? Certainly not. In this post I describe the awe and joy I felt coming face to face with a tiger in the wild.
Can a centuries-old way of life exist side by side with modern life? A good question. The Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania provide a good case study.
We were badly in need of a vacation, a change of scenery, a place to relax and recharge. Was there such a place within a short drive? I went to the local AAA office and had a chat with an agent. “Lancaster County or the Land of the Amish,” she said. “Perfect,” I thought.
Be prepared, be practical, and be positive.
In the wee hours of the morning on August 8, a fire in the Atlanta headquarters of Delta Airlines led to a power outage and caused a global meltdown of their computer systems. This caused delays and cancellations of more than 2000 flights over the next two days. It also disrupted scheduling and turnover of flight crews, issuing of boarding passes and baggage handling. How a simple power outage could lead to global shut down of an international airline like Delta is a separate discussion: generators and backup systems are meant to avoid just such a scenario.
Among crocodiles and gharials
After the spectacular elephant safari (last post) where we saw a one-horned Indian rhinoceros, we went on a dugout canoe trip on the Rapti and a walk in the jungle. The dugout is hollowed from a single long tree trunk and can hold around 15 people. It is narrow and quite shallow, we had to squat single-file at the bottom of the canoe. The tour guide instructed us to sit still and not make any sudden movement because that might capsize the canoe. As we glided down the Rapti, he pointed to the banks. There were large gharials and mugger crocodiles quietly sunning themselves. I quickly withdrew my hand I was trailing in the water. I fancied a crocodile eyeing me for lunch through half closed eyes.
After Pokhara, we were on our way to Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal and I was looking forward to seeing the wildlife and getting some good photos. But the picture of Annapurna at dawn was still haunting me, I was indeed fortunate. The day was clear and I kept turning my head around to see the Annapurna massif slowly receding into the distance. I felt a twinge of regret.
Nepal, the land of high mountains, secluded valleys and dense jungles, has always held a fascination for mountaineers, trekkers and adventurers seeking an escape from their humdrum daily lives. Geography has indeed blessed this land. It hosts some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas to its north and hot and steamy jungles of the Terai to its south. It has swift clear rivers suitable for rafting, challenging peaks for mountaineering, soaring thermals for paragliding and verdant jungles for wildlife viewing. Having a wild, adventurous streak in me, I had always secretly dreamed of a Nepali adventure. On a trip to Kolkata in December 2014, I finally turned that dream into reality.