In search of tigers
Hands didn’t freeze this time in the early dark-morning drive from Barhi to Bandhavgarh. We had picked up gloves the last day from some place between Khajuraho and Barhi. Once in Bandhavgarh, it was pretty easy to get a jeep. We had reached there early enough – safari had started only half an hour back and there was enough time for a good ride inside the jungle. Soon began the search for tigers.
When we ran out of cash
Suddenly, we realized that we didn’t have enough money to pay the jeep-driver (after the safari would get over). It was a late realization of course. In the excitement of catching up a jeep, we had totally forgotten to count our cash. We needed to pay the dude 2000 bucks but we had only 1980, and that included every single coin that we had. It’s not that we didn’t know we were low on cash when we reached Bandhavgarh. We had even enquired about ATMs – which the place didn’t have (the nearest ATM we were told, was 20 kilometers away in a place called Umariya). The thing is, we never knew we didn’t even have enough to pay the driver! What if he didn’t agree to spare those twenty bucks when the time to pay money came? And even if he spared those twenty bucks, were we supposed to drive all the way to Umariya in search of an ATM, without a single penny in our pockets? What if after reaching Umariya, the ATM there didn’t work? The bike was already on reserve. Everything looked so shitty. I decided not to think about it. I decided to think about tigers instead.
Tiger-centric thoughts and the elephant adventure
I wondered how safe it was to sit in a bloody open jeep while being driven in a jungle where you expected to find tigers – wasn’t it like being extremely accessible to those beasts? Bandhavgarh has the maximum density of tigers in India – 60 of them within 450 square kilometers. I am sure that since they were offering such safari-services there (for about 2k per jeep), it must be a safe thing and all that, but still – what if there were a tiger who was as weird as me? The jeep-driver and the forest-department guy giving company to Tiwari and me were not even carrying guns. But you know what, sometimes you don’t really care whether a tiger attacks you or not – sometimes you just want to be there right in front of one.
So much for the tiger-centric, tiger-fearing and desperate-to-see-tigrish thoughts, but the fact is – we saw no tiger for a long long time. If we came close to any thing that can be described as an adventure, then it was being chased (for only a few meters) by a more naughty and sweet than dangerous, black kid of a mother elephant. The forest-guy told that the problem was not in being chased by the kid, but in the fact that when the kid runs for something, the mother runs for the kid, and you never know what she may do to the jeep in the process – especially if the jeep get stuck and the mother-child couple end up coming too close. Later we saw the mother as well, but when with her, the kid kind of behaved and we passed by without much trouble.
When we finally saw a tiger
After Haathi mere Saathi and loads of deer and monkeys (who after having spent five years at IIT Madras fail to classify as non-domestic animals and therefore naturally don’t excite Tiwari and me at all), just when we were about to exit the jungle boundary – we saw a troop of tamed elephants, topped up by tourists. There were several other jeeps too, queing up on the path ahead, where stood these elephants. A tiger had been found.
The animal was hiding behind bushes and to get a better view of the beast, junta were busy shifting from jeeps to elephants at the rate of twenty bucks per person. Lol – who had the money? But the fact is, we could see the tiger right there, through the bushes, sitting in our jeep – not the full tiger may be, but let’s say about 1/10th of it. What we saw – the yellow and the black stripes was enough to confirm that there indeed was a tiger. And man, after all those tiger-centric thoughts, finally after having spotted one (or one tenth if it pleases you) I was feeling all pity for that animal out there, hiding in the bush, surrouned so heavily by so many people and elephants. It was almost like getting a chance to peek through a small hole at a slum-girl taking bath in a public bathroom and jerking off behind the walls. I really felt sad for the tiger.
When we finally found money
To our delight and relief, the driver happily accepted 1980 bucks as his fee – he said it was okay. He even went ahead and gave us back all those coins and ten rupee notes and said that we could get breakfast for ourselves. And then he left. Sweet of him. We needed more money and Tiwari figured out where we could find it – at a shop which said it accepted cards! Yes it worked, the shopkeeper agreed to give us some money and swipe the amount from our credit card – fantastic! So we took 300 bucks from him, Tiwari even bought two jackets and then he decided to find the driver and pay him all the remaining money. Yes, when it comes to keeping accounts clean, you cannot really beat Tiwari.
Our only problem was that we didn’t even know that driver’s name and he was so not in sight any more. So we enquired – we aksed folks at the place where we had parked our bike if they knew who that guy was and soon we had the answer – Ravi, that’s what his name was. Then we asked if they knew where he lived, and soon we reached the place where he did. Tiwari went inside, first ran into a different Ravi, then to the Ravi we had been looking for and finally gave him the 50 bucks that we owed him (which Ravi – the sweet driver accepted only after sustained insistence from Tiwari).
When we ran into a river
Next target was Banaras (Varanasi) but it was too far away – almost 400 kilometers. Plan was to take a break either in Rewa or further ahead in Mirzapur. Bandhavgarh-Rewa-Mirzapur route had some amazing landscape and when we came across an insanely clean stretch of river – we just had to swim in it. Barhi had already made us very non-allergic to getting nude in public. So this time, in broad day light, we rushed towards the river in our underwears, carrying a towel, a camera, a video-camera and a tripod, and then tried to make some gay soft porn as we flashed our wet bodies to the camera as well to few admirers sitting besides the river – they were labours working on a bridge-construction happening nearby. We even inspired at least two of them to dive into the river.
When the cops caught us
Mirzapur must have been less than 50 kilometers away and sun had just set when at the MP-UP border we were asked to show vehicle papers and all that. The stupid thing was that all the papers except our driving licenses, were inside my bag and my bag was sandwitched between Tiwarii’s bag and the bike-carrier, tightly wrapped with 10 meters of rope. But the cops won’t listen and we wasted ten minutes untying everything to take those papers out. Fun followed after that because apparently we didn’t have two things – 1. pollution certificate and 2. a proof that the owner of the bike had given us his bike for this road-trip. Guess what we were told next? We were told that bike won’t go anywhere anymore and we could catch a bus to Mirzapur. And guess what I told them, I told them – sure, no problem, do the paper work and tell me the process to follow thereafter. I guess that annoyed those guys. I called up Neelabh and told him (with the cops listening) that the bike had been seized before Mirzapur and that he should not worry because I would follow all the procedures, stay in Mirzapur for 3-4 days, go to court and all that and then get the bike released. I guess such kind of talk annoyed those cops further. To be frank, I was very serious about what I was saying. For strange reasons, I didn’t feel like bribing those guys out there. I felt like facing the consequences of our faults and if the bike-trip had to be cancelled in the process, let it be.
The annoyed cops enquired if we were students and then we told them that no – we were not. I told them how I had been working as an advisor to the Government of Orissa and that how important a break this bike-trip was and how it was now spoiled becuase we had forgotten to carry a paper which said Neelabh had given his bike to us. I told them that it was our fault and therefore, they should definitely file a case and seize the bike and tell us the complete procedure so that we could prove ourselves innocent in court, meet the SP if need be and ensure that the bike is returned safely to Neelabh.
I guess the cops gave up. The one holding a pen and threatening to file a case, acted well, because till the last moment he kept holding his pen, as if he was about to put things on record and seize the bike officially. When we said ‘please go ahead, it’s getting late- we have to get going fast and meet the SP tomorrow’ for the nth time – one of the cops who seemed rather inspired by us, asked the dude with the pen to drop the case. LOL – that was so funny. Suddenly they showed a change in heart and told us that we could leave. It took us another 15 minutes after they told us to leave, to actually leave – that’s how much time it took to tie our bags to the bike-carrier. But the cops were friends now and they even sent someone to show us torch-light and all that as we were setting up our bags on the bike. We thanked them as we left, waved them good-bye and they told us not to stop anywhere before Mirzapur, in case any stranger waved his hands at us – lol, not again!
Whoever we asked for directions to a hotel, directed us to just one hotel – hotel Galaxy. Double-bed room came for 700 bucks, that was like seven times the money we were being asked to spend compared to the last night. We took it anyway. Just like Jhansi, the bathroom here had a bath-tub too and this time it was clean enough to be tried. So I filled the tub with hot water and lay naked in it for long and then I just had to shag under-water. It always feels good to jerk off when you haven’t had a chance to do so for so many days – and especially if Khajuraho happens to be one of the places you have been to, in those ‘many days’. I am glad Tiwari skipped bath that night – instincts at work I guess.