Sunday, November 14, 2010


This time the arrangement was a hush-hush affair. When I called up, my friend and senior colleague, who had had a mishap at Jim Corbett National Park a few months back, maintained a stony silence on how he intended to spend his Dushehra or Diwali holidays. However, on the last working day, before paying his compliments of the festive season, he informed me that that he was leaving for Ranthambore National Park (in Sawai Madhopur District, South-eastern Rajasthan) in the coming week and was quite sure he would be lucky this time in spotting a tiger. This season, thanks to CWG, we got a holiday on the day of the closing ceremony which was a Thursday. Next day was Durga Ashtami which again was a holiday. So, a Thursday and a Friday clubbed together with the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) meant consecutive four days off. My friend had applied for a few more days’ casual leave. Thus, a total of seven days! A whole week! Enough time to befriend a tiger and his entire family! I thought but did not show much enthue and wished him a quiet good luck.

But at the last moment, the trip had to be postponed slightly as his wife suddenly took ill. My friend did continue with his leave but to “wife sit” as he told me later.

Apart from this short delay, there was no other untoward incident to dampen my friend’s spirits. I knew he was excited but camouflaged it well and pretended to be extraordinarily busy prior to leaving for Ranthambore. Therefore, no phone calls, no elaborate discussion on arrangements made – just a simple “bye-bye” a day previous to departure!

The week passed by, Uneventful. My friend was to join on the next Monday. Monday came and went. Tuesday followed. No sign of my friend. I assumed he must be submerged in work being away for a whole week. After all, he headed a department!

Wednesday the phone rang. Yes, it was my “long lost” friend brimming with uncontrolled joy. He waslucky this time! Not only did he see a tigress but also her cubs gallivanting in the open jungles. He vouched never to visit the zoo again. A caged beast was an eye-sore now after having seen the entire family in their natural surroundings. “But why did you not ring up on Monday and give the good news?” I asked. He explained that he had extended his leave. “Why the delay in arrival?” I was sure he must have overstayed at Ranthambore itself. But the answer came as a shock.

“Well! Every good thing has a price tag, my friend,” He said. The story went like this. After the successful safari, the family had boarded the Ajmer Shatabdi from Ajmer (the visit to the Dargah was also included in the tour) on the due date. The coach was mostly full of pilgrims returning after paying their homage at the Ajmer Sharif. They carried heavy luggage but the train had limited space to stow them. As the train chugged on, one of the heavy suitcases toppled over from the luggage rack on top and hit my friend’s head. He almost saw stars as the mighty case crashed down on him. Fortunately medical aid was readily available on the train. A Colonel, who was a doctor in the army and was also traveling in the same coach, rushed to help. First aid was given immediately. But there was profuse blood loss. At Rewari Station, when the train stopped, announcement was duly made for emergency help. The assistance came in the form of the compounder as the Doctor on Railway’s roll was on leave. The man carried a heavy box which looked more like a railway gangman’s tool kit than that of a medical practitioner. One look at the box and my friend decided to forego the help so generously offered.
On arriving at Delhi, the first stop was made at the hospital. The gaping wound was stitched, antibiotics swallowed and two days’ extra leave got sanctioned over phone to recuperate from the shock and the cut. So much so for stealing a glimpse of Elsa’s daughters!!

Notwithstanding the traumatic experience, my friend proceeds undaunted to Bandhavgarh National Park, in Madhya Pradesh, by the end of this December. He plans to spend his New Year in Nature’s lap and in the company of the “regal clan”. Time and leave permitted, he may include a round of the Kanha National Park (which is nearby), as well in his itinerary. Going by the looks of it, I am quite sure that nothing less than a “cozy chat” with the Big Cat shall suffice or satisfy my friend in his forthcoming adventure. Needless to say, I eagerly wait to record the heart to heart conversation in my blog!!

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