(October 10th, 2011)
Betty and Jack, and the Tiger’s Tale
Two explorers, Betty and Jack,
Had an ancient magic map,
One that could take them far away
On wild adventures for a day.
One day at the zoo they saw
A mighty tiger give a roar.
A sign said ‘Tigers soon may be
Seen only in captivity
Hunted by man everywhere,
Tigers are now really rare.’ …
‘That’s awful!’ Betty cried with shock.
‘That’s something that we have o stop!’
They raced back home, jumped on their bad,
Turned on the magic map and said,
‘We are explorers, best of the best,
Take us on a tiger quest!’
That’s how the story goes … only we are eight, plus the driver, nine. We wake up at five in the morning, as we have to live at six. The fog still lies over the fields, and we get to see the sunrise from the minivan we’ve rented for the day. Cramped, the morning air still allows us to breathe, we have no idea now the day would turn out. The road is uneven, to say at least, that’s all we now for sure right now; have to watch our heads not to hit the ceiling.
We stop first at a place called Twenty Thousand Lakes. Thousand steps to reach it, that’s where it’s name might come from. Or from the fact that thousand birds can be seen … it’s full of stories around here. It only your imagination that can decide. The most translucent light I have ever seen, this very early gham light (sun light) over the river. It’s breathtaking.
By the time we’ve reached Sauraha, it’s about 8:00 am I think. We stop at Butterfly resort to order our food, from when we come back from the elephant safari: it will be a one round a clock day, we’d been prevented! The safari would last about one and a half hours, and I would get too see only what I have seen in Disney’s Jungle Book. Butterflies as big as my palm flying as close as a hand reach, elegant deer and agile monkeys following each other through the grass as tall as the elephant we are riding on, lianas of a crude green, think bushes that open out of a sudden in wide spots cut by the river … and the sun light, always the sun light, this incredible source of magic.
Chicken momo (a Tibetan dish, made from meat and vegetables wrapped in dough and steamed), Vegetable curry (cauliflower and potatoes soaked in spices), pakora (fried vegetables in batter, an Indian dish), kapse (fried Tibetan bread with butter and honey) … how can I take with me all these senses? It’s time for launch, and we want to taste everything!!
Another couple of hours part as from what would turn out to be the highlight of this day: playing with the baby rhinos at a feeding center deep inside the jungle. We forget all about the steamy ride, doesn’t matter we are soaking sweat. We are all children now.
And so we leave the baby rhinos rest, it’s already past 5 pm in the afternoon, we walk back through the jungle with big, big smiles on our faces and keep talking about the amazing experience we had just shared. We had stopped to the crocodiles in between; no, they don’t reach up to the rhinos! Not by far!
But for me, getting close to the baby elephant, teasing him with the food so that he reaches his trunk and trying to catch me, seeing him bouncing from one leg to another, waving his ears … it the last one stop I know I have been waiting for the whole day. This incredible day, a day like no other.
We haven’t seen the tiger, only his tracks into the muddy sand. That’s alright, he is very shy … we’ll wait for him, next time.
The school starts tomorrow. I go back to the rhymes of Betty and Jack, I have them written verse by verse on 32 sheets. Each child will get one, we’ll tell the story all together … once more.
Under their blankets, tucked up tight,
The children dream of the jungle night.
On the wall the map is glowing …..
Next time where will they be going?