A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

Elephants and Tigers and Yoga, Oh My!

“Our vision is that we are staying in the animal’s home.” After a bumpy 3-hour car ride due to our driver (whose phone ring was a song with lyrics “Sing me a song, and you won’t be alone, forever and a day…”) not following clear signs, telling us he’s lost because he wanted to stop and have a coconut and make us pay, as well as driving on slow dirt streets, we arrived at an eco oasis, greeted with cool scented towels, coconuts, and a delicious lunch. 24 hours and 2 safaris later we were lucky enough to have spotted: the ever-elusive tiger (context: an Indian wildlife photographer friend has had just 8 sightings in the last 6 years), a leopard, barking deer (they sound like dogs), wild boar, wild cattle, peacocks, monkeys, many birds I can’t identify, spotted deer, a crocodile, elephants, and a little toad named Norbert who snuck into our cottage. (Click on the collage below to magnify it.)

Despite a comedy of errors complete with my being attacked by bed bugs, from which I am still sporting sexy red welts and in slight itch-o-rama mode (I was just growing spots to fit in with the leopard...), being in nature and breathing clean air was a relaxing and very welcome respite. The night before I got bed bugs, I said, “With all the cheap trains I take, it’s a wonder I don’t have lice by now.” Insert obvious karmic joke here.

So about that tiger: cruising up the Kabini River between Nagarhole and Bandipur national parks, our naturalist guide heard birds chirping fiercely to warn each other of a predator’s presence. We waited and watched as a mid-sized female tiger sauntered out of the trees to the river’s edge. She lapped up water in a way I can only describe as the tiger equivalent of daintily sipping tea with a pinky held out from a porcelain handle. We watched for 20 minutes as the jungle queen gracefully drank, surveyed her kingdom, and then slowly strolled back into her forest. Our guide, whose nickname is Mowgli, was high-fiving me, as excited as a little boy at Christmas; the way his face lit up I could tell he is in the right profession. If we could only all be so enchanted with our work. The leopard was spotted the next morning a bit far from our jeep in the forest, lounging in a tree watching potential prey on the ground, and only looked up once when our guide made repeated calls. He was so good at calling the animals, I told him to teach me to call an elephant to use for summoning Bombay taxi drivers. We can all practice with this video:

I also spent some time in Mysore, the birthplace of yoga, now a Western-comfortable retreat of a city with a beautiful Maharaja’s palace, easy pace, relatively clear air and warm assortment of international souls, complete with organic smoothies and idyllic French bed-and-breakfast feasting opportunities.

Then I spent one night in the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore, which both more polluted and slow-paced than I expected. A friend took me to the 13th Floor where I sipped fresh lime soda and dined on tandoori appetizers overlooking the city, then to an Israeli trance DJ spinning at Club Nero where I saw an Indian who looked so much like a pirate (read: all in white, long curly brown hair, chest hair overflowing, adorned by gold necklaces) we named him Johnny Deepu as we watched 20-somethings standing in neat formation, one foot apart and facing the DJ, doing what I call the Indian T Rex dance (elbows to your sides, alternately lift your arms, and if you’re brave also shift legs slightly side to side)—all before the 11:30 city curfew. I was impressed with and endeared by the attempt, MG Road. It’s better than much of Bombay “dancing” with two people awkwardly facing each other shifting from side to side, girls shaking their heads and hair back and forth and avoiding eye contact. Two questions, though, Bangalore: (1) why do the ric driver info cards list a category for driver blood type, with no types listed on any I saw?, and (2) why do you refer to servers and rickshaw drivers as “Boss” when they are mostly so rude?

The following day I was lucky enough to meet two more amazing American women, one who let me fly with acroyoga http://www.acroyoga.org/ which was not only fun, it delightfully also stretched and back-cracked me in ways a chiropractor can only dream of (and flattered me by calling me “flexy”), while the other served a delicious lunch of rice, cucumber, sambar, and Jamaican fried fish on her rooftop balcony. (Photo caption: Deep breath out with an ahh)

Before I moved to India I was a careful, bike-helmet-wearing sort of girl, and now I'm riding on the backs of scooters without a helmet, and ignoring old women who likely rent the babies they’re holding when they start poking my arm to ask for “Change, madam.” India doesn’t tap on the glass of one’s boundaries, she completely shatters them. When I left for this little sojourn, I was feeling stressy with a lot on my mind (work, visas, lost wallet…), and the 9 + 3 hours from Bombay to Mysore to the park wasn’t exactly relaxing. Sometimes India takes so much out of me, and then when I let her, she puts so much more back in...

Posted byValerie at 1:39 PM  


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