Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you,
they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”
Bernice Johnson Reagon"
Life in a small town should be simple and relaxed, but the concept of a smart city has not just affected the infrastructure of these laid-back cities but has also changed the perception of the residents. Everyone is in a rat race… the city feels like a beauty pageant where contestants are constantly competing with their own clan and are being continuously judged and ranked not on their physical attributes but the diamonds they adorn, popularity in kitty groups and the brands they flaunt! The chase for the tiara is unending and ruthless, one has to be fluent in attributes like gossiping, diplomacy and being “one-up” … all it does is break ones confidence and lower ones self-esteem. Friendships become skin deep and artificial, there’s no love or concern for the others feelings.
When your current situation no longer gives you happiness or isn’t helping you grow, you must have the courage to move on and take on what you truly believe in. Risking to tread on a different path to fulfil your journey does not mean that you are lost or will be left behind. The problem is, a lot of us give up because of the fear of rejection or of the fear of missing out. I have realised that when I’m in the midst of nature, in the simplest of camouflage clothes, sitting on the ground, eating fruits directly from the tree, with dust in my shoes and tan on my face… I’m in my happy place! Sometimes socialising gets a notch too much to handle and that’s when I turn to the main character of the movie Chachi 420 – ‘chachi ke paas mushkilon ki saari chabiyan hain.’ I don my bird watching gear, pickup my camera and disappear into the wild. Nature gives me an instant and enormous sense of peace and tranquility; it calms me down and reintroduces me to myself. It is deeply rewarding and completely satisfying.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been birdwatching in and around my city and it was time to upgrade, to get out of my comfort zone, turn my plans into reality and start travelling to wildlife destinations away from home. It’s difficult to always find the company of like-minded people and you cannot be chasing others to find your destination, you have to make your journey happen by yourself. I had been following this gentleman on Instagram, Suyash Keshari, who is a wildlife presenter, filmmaker and conservationist, and I was really impressed and inspired by his work and passion for nature. I enrolled for his “4D 3N Wildlife Safari Tour” in the Bandhavgarh National Park, under the banner “#safariwithsuyash.”
Elated I was, for it was my first solo trip to the wilderness and the thought of being and staying amidst nature has always excited me. I reached my resort, the “King’s Lodge”, a day earlier and was already in awe of the rustic look but comfortable feel. The tour began with a big high of seeing a huge python on campus just after dinner and the very professional way the staff at Pugdundee safaris handled the reptile, ensuring my safety while I took its pictures. The other tour members were arriving the next evening and I was the only guest in the resort that night, yet I was made to feel so comfortable and safe that all my fears of travelling alone disappeared!
I was on a room sharing basis with another girl (Aashna Bhagwatprasad) and had my fingers crossed that she should be like me, my wish was granted, but little did I know what drama was in store, from the other guests. I had carried my basic cloths that I wear for my bird watching trips, looking like a rough and tough militant from the south, doing the two things I had come in pursuit for - being amidst nature and being my carefree self. When I entered the dining hall the next evening, I was shocked to see some of my counterparts on the tour- they were nothing but replicas of the society I had come running away from! There was no escaping, I thought to myself, my heart broken into a thousand pieces, the tour had started so well and now it was going to end up turning into another kitty party.
Luckily for me, we were divided into 3 jeeps and mine was one with three other hardcore photographers (Nilakshi Lohi, Pradnya and Praveen Kanniah). I had my first official tiger sighting (blessed with 4 different tiger sightings thru the trip), clicked a python barely 2-3 feet away, heard strong leopard calls, did my first walk in a dried river bed, bumped into some cute jackals who refused to give us way, photographed a Gaur at night fearing it would run our jeep over, managed some great birding, snapped some amazing landscapes, did a night safari and made some new friends. We did have a few episodes of the ‘desperate housewives’ series on the tour with the other guests but eventually the trip turned out to be more fun, loaded with adventure and a great learning experience.
I guess you cross people from all wakes of life everywhere you go, there truly is no escaping. The aim is to not get influenced or disheartened by their behavior and keep treading the path that gives you joy and happiness! Time is the most precious resource we have at our disposal, life only lasts so long, feel gracious for each minute you’ve been gifted. Time will pass and seasons will come and go, plan, prioritize, and spend wisely the hours you have. Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life it’ll only lead to anger, regrets, worries, and grudges. Take the risk and start the journey of fulfilment.