So it was settled. An old friend from my Welham Boys’ days called up and invited me to his luxurious tiger resort called Tigergarh in Madhya Pradesh, which is a mere three-hour drive from the city of Jabalpur. This sleepy MP town, famous for OSHO, is the birthplace of Bhagwan Rajneesh. For me, it was like going for a pilgrimage. I was excited to see the enlightenment banyan tree where OSHO gained enlightenment similar to the one in Bodh Gaya where Buddha became the awakened one. I wanted to capture this tree and shoot it, but alas, the garden where the tree stood was closed in the afternoon and would only open in the evening. My Spice Jet flight costing Rs 6000 arrived at Jabalpur in the afternoon from Delhi and I had to miss the tree. I was happy to be in the city of the master.
Within three hours, I reached the forest area of MP and was invited by Gagan to take a walk around the Tigergarh lodge. It is a very well done setup with eleven fully AC and fully equipped luxury rooms for elite guests. The place has a small pool and you get the glimpse of the forest area from the jungle lodge. Every day, there are morning and evening safaris that run deep into the jungle in search of the sacred tigers. My sole purpose here is to catch a glimpse of the tiger and photograph the animal. Let us see if I succeed.
At Rs 4000 a night all-inclusive with the meals, it is a reasonable affair and does not hurt the wallet of a budget traveller. One pays a bit extra for the safaris – 5k or so for each trip. However, if you get to see the tiger, the trip is worth it and real value for money. The neighbouring land has water reservoirs where the villagers get their water. One can see cow herders and local farmers walking up and down the various jungle walkways. The villagers use bicycles to move about as most ladies on the village stay indoors to do the household chores and look after the kids. The government has installed toilets in the local village schools but no one uses them. The kids still go outdoors for the loo. This is due to the lack of water and pipes connecting the toilets. The villagers complain that toilets stink at night. While going to the loo outside, the smell just evaporates into the air. I think we need Akshay Kumar to visit this place and teach the villagers about hygiene, as his message of public toilets is yet to catch up in the villages of Bandhavgarh.
We walked out to the village in the evening. I, for one, was fascinated with the huge orange sunset that stared at me from the sky. The villagers were walking their cattle back home after feeding them. Yes, the jungle feel was sinking in. I am happy that I have not booked a return ticket yet. I might just stay here a wee bit longer.
The dinner today was a homemade meal of chicken, chapati, dal, gobi vegetable and shahi tukda for dessert. Gagan was quick to teach me how to hear the jungle sounds. I have begun to differentiate between the night sounds of owls, deer, birds and insects. The jungle has its own sounds and noises in the night and I was getting to know them.
But it is the roar and walk of the majestic tiger of Bandhavgarh that I really want to see.