Rajasthan & Agra: Class VI Excursion
by Riad Mahmood
Date: Sun, 10 Nov 2013 21:48:32 +0530
The Sound and Lights show at the Agra Fort left us with thoughts of what the Moghul Empire and Akbar must have been like. It was a very enlightening experience that gave us a marvellous history lesson. Akbar seems to have been a man who had a progressive vision for India. The children walked away with different questions that I am sure will be taken back to their history classes in Bangalore.
Our journey to the much awaited Ranthambore began after breakfast. As we drove out of Agra we once more recollected all that we had seen and heard. The journey back into the huge state of Rajasthan was long but interesting nevertheless. There was a sense of anticipation in the air. Questions about forests and animals started to crop up. The great 'Tiger' was now on the minds of one and all. This fascinating creature can draw almost anyone's attention. A chance to try and see one is ever so tempting.
I eventually told some of the children about the demise of my grandmother. I was immediately comforted by them and it left me with a sense of comfort. Children can be a source of genuine solace. Thank you my young friends!
We made a short stop at Keoladeo National Park, a paradise for those interested in the species of birds. The children were impressed by what they saw. The weather was actually pleasant and at times getting nippy. A jacket was what the doctor ordered.
The park was huge and we had to ride in the good old rickshaws. I am sure this was a first time experience for some. The rickshaw riders are guides as well.
They give you a run through of what you may see. Everyone in this nick of the woods seems to know a thing or two about history or nature.
Many of the drivers, guides, hawkers, sellers, speak French or Spanish. Some funnily enough put on a strange American accent from time to time. I guess this is expected considering the number of foreign tourists that come to these parts of the country. Every time you see a bird you jump off and run towards it. At times if your rickshaw is at the back of the line you may miss seeing the bird by the time you get there.
The countryside from Bharatpur starts to get prettier as you progress. Most of the journey has good roads other than a few bad ones. As you get closer to Ranthambore with a setting sun the air starts to feel crisp. This time of the year is nippy. The air also feels clean with hardly any pollution. People here live a quiet life, agriculture being the main source of income. Life feels basic and simple.
Our lodging was typical forest type cottage style. The moment you entered the hotel/forest resort you got a feeling of being close to a jungle of sorts. It was rustic with an ambience that suited its purpose. It started to prepare you for the forest. We were up at five in the morning to be at the gate at six. The big question was would we see this majestic animal and if so how many.
Ranthambore attracts many tourists from all over the world - The 'Tiger Reserve Park'. After a few checks and verification procedures we were well on our way into this absolutely magnificent reserve park. It was very cold through the ride for the first two hours or so. The roads are rough and the canter drivers really know how to manage their vehicles with guile. The children I could see were all there with eyes wide open and minds full of thought and anticipation. The wait for the great big cat was on!
We kept seeing spotted deer, wild boar, a ton of birds and a few more animals. But the wait for the rare species was on.
We kept stopping in the hope we would spot a Tiger. They say it could take you at least two to three safaris to see one. We saw a few very recent footprints of this great animal. The cold hung on for a bit until the sun popped out to warm us all up. This live class on the animals, the forests, the trees and birds was well worth the effort. The guides and drivers would probably make fantastic teachers as they not only have an in depth knowledge of all this but tell great stories that have the children gripped. That to me makes a wonderful educator.
We drove and drove through this gorgeous forest waiting for the main attraction. The terrain here is hilly from time to time. You also have a few valleys. The air is fresh and crisp, almost unreal. Canters and jeeps keep moving along in hope. One canter was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Tiger. They captured it on camera and proudly showed it to all of us at one toilet stop. Our children found some skulls of some sort and took pictures with them.
For one last time we stopped and looked for a footprint but to no avail. I guess we need to make another trip to get lucky. Some say they see the Tiger every time they come and some say they never have. Jungle life!!
I can see a sense of independence and maturity coming into the children and they have been managing very well. They have seen quite a bit. Even though we did not see a Tiger the trip to the forest was well worth it. A must see for all of us as it is definitely one of the finest in the country.
Founder, Head Start Educational Academy