Kabini – A Green Galaxy!

Kabini – Hearing this word during my childhood only put the image of elephants in my mind, trying to cool off, for Kabini river was like an oasis during the scorching summer days. Originally Kabini was the name given to the river, a major tributary of river Kaveri. Now it is a popular wildlife destination. 

How to Reach: 

Located about 60km from Mysore and 205km from Bangalore, Karnataka, Kabini has swiftly grown to be a favorite among wildlife enthusiasts and those seeking to escape the cacophony of the Urban culture. It is a 40 minutes’ drive from Mysore and and about 4 hours from Bangalore. The nearest airport is at Mysore. 

History: 

It comprises the south-eastern part of the Nagarahole National Park and is spread over 55 acres of forest cover. Back in the days of the monarchy, this portion of forest served as the private hunting zone. Kabini has served as a hunting hotspot for both Indian and British royalty alike. It was declared as a national park in the 1980s and a tiger reserve in 1999. Apart from being a ‘murder the defenseless’ zone, Kabini was headquarters for the Kheddah operations. 

Let me give a little ted talk about Kheddah. Fortunately, or unfortunately Elephants have been a very popular part of Indian culture, traditions, and history. And Lord Ganesha being one of the most loved deity in India kind of added to it. From being a part of culture to capture and care for elephants in the 5th century, it became a business just like other things under the British rule in India. 

This was practiced widely in Karnataka, some other parts of South India and Assam. The mahouts mounted on domesticated elephants mostly female, would instill panic to a herd of elephants by lighting fire and making loud noises. They would then lead the heard (Read chased) through a funnel shaped path into an enclosure where they would then be trapped. 

This system was first introduced by G. P. Sanderson in the late 1800s in the Kakanakote forest on the banks of Kabini river of the Mysore state (You read that right, what you now know as Karnataka was originally called the Princely State of Mysore pre-independence). Thanks to the sensible souls who introduced the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 that banned the practice of the gruesome Keddah practice. 

Best Time to Visit: 

Summer: For all the wildlife enthusiasts, the months of summer are the best time to visit. Many wild animals migrate to Kabini from the neighboring forests to beat the heat in the river Kabini.  

Winter: For those who wish to just kick back and unwind, the months between October and February are the best. The cool temperatures, the lush green canopy, the salubrious breeze is a treat to all the senses. 

Monsoon: Between the months of July and October, i.e., during and just sometime post monsoon, the agricultural fields around Kabini are gushing with blossoms of marigold. This is surely a sight to behold for the young and the old! I must mention the sightings aren’t great during this season. And when the showers are raging, the national park could be closed. Going on a safari isn’t going to be a pleasant journey either, thanks to all the slush!

A Tangerine Treat!

About the Safari: 

Kabini Safari in the recent days has entertained the wildlife crazy folks with sightings of Black Panthers, Tigers, and herds of the gentle beasts (I mean Elephants, if you didn’t know by now)along with deer, wild dogs, Indian Gaur also known as bison, peacocks etc. There is a common saying in the jungle that “For every big cat we see four would have seen us!” 

You don’t just wake up one day and say “Ok today I am in the mood to see a tiger” and go on a safari, and a tiger will be waiting with garlands and a band set to welcome you.  The sightings are entirely dependent on a lot of factors videlicet the season, time of the day, the availability of food/water in the deeper sections of the forests, your luck, the good kharma points you have accumulated from all your previous births. 

We didn’t have enough Kharma points, so our safari was uneventful. But a friend was kind enough to share photos from his adventure with you guys. So here is a glimpse of what you could see at Kabini, courtesy of Kishore Sabareeshan. Do visit his insta profile for a sneak peak into the jungles of India.

The safari happens twice a day, once in the wee hours of the morning between 6:30 AM to 9:00 AM and at dusk between 3:30 PM and 6:00 PM. There are 3 modes of transportations. 

Boat Safari: This is arranged by Jungle Lodges and Resorts(JLR). And the rates are included with the room tariff if you are staying at The Jungle Lodges. Many other resorts also offer boat safari. But all these resorts go through JLR. 

Jeep Safari: This is also arranged by JLR and follows the same protocols mentioned in the boat safari section.

Canter (Minibus):  This facility is offered by the government as well as Jungles Lodges, or any resort you stay at, who again go through JLR. 

Many resorts in Kabini offer safari bookings. It is convenient if you are booking your safari seats through the resort you are staying at. And the duration is also better in this case. The drivers are determined to try and get you a decent sighting, as they are usually tipped well by satisfied customers if they’re shown any wild cat or elephants than just galloping deer. However, I must warn you that the prices for safari if you book through the resorts are exorbitant and start from INR 2000+taxes per person and are dependent on the resort you are staying at (based on how talented they are at looting you) and the season. 

You could also choose to book the safari from the government forest office at Dammanakatte. The rates are around INR 450 per person. If you have made up your mind to do this because of the difference in the pricing, hold on. While the pricing seems normal in this option, it has its challenges. During the peak season (i.e., summer and winter) you’d have to go stand in long queue at least an hour prior to the safari start time to buy your safari tickets. And during the weekends, even an hour’s time is not sufficient. And after all the toiling you need to have prayed hard to all the deities you can remember to get a driver for your canter who is has enough patience to take you through the right routes and stop and bring your attention to any 4 legged creature. I am telling this from personal experience, that I had a better knowledge and an eye for at least the pug marks, if not its owner. 

Stay

Owing to its popularity, a lot of resorts mostly luxurious have emerged in the vicinity of Kabini forest. Jungle Lodges and Resorts, The Bison(Not to be mistaken for the animal), Waterwoods, Evolv Back, Kaav, Serai, Red Earth etc to name a few. While all these places offer safari and other activities during your stay, they may charged additionally. Most of these places lure guests through their beautifully decorated social media profiles. I’d caution against falling for them and suggest you do your research before booking. 

We recently stayed at The Bison and Waterwoods. The Bison provides a luxurious and yet a good jungle experience with their ambience and the location. They are also have some rescued horses and a camel, along with few dogs and cats. Along with being adorable these (not wild) dogs give you some authentic “being in the wild” experience with their poop and pee in a lot of the common areas. We enjoyed our stay with good food and atmosphere in the luxury tents, however felt that the place is extremely over-hyped and over-priced. The place is not well maintained and could use some upgrades. 

Waterwoods is a beautifully located resort with good food and service. If you don’t mind rooms in a hotel kind of a setup located on the banks of the river, then this could be your go to place. They boast of a good-sized pool (closed due to the pandemic) and a huge farmland on their property perfect for a nice stroll.

Although heavy on your pockets, a couple of days stay at Kabini will not disappoint you.

Even a day’s trip to this forest,

Will be one of tranquilizing rest,

At the same time give you an adrenaline rush, 

I assure you your spirits will not crush! 

You could be witness to some spine-chilling tiger’s kill, 

Don’t judge the cat for this is nature’s drill, 

On one side it gives and the other it takes,

That is nature’s way to balance, but yes it aches! 

Kabini – A home to the wild,

A feast of glowing marigold field, 

An escape from the urban breath,

Another of nature’s magnificent bequeath! 

The Transient eternity!

You were attached to what once belonged to you, 

The friend with whom you grew, 

The dress that made you pulchritudinous,  

The childhood crush over someone famous!

That relationship you thought was forever, 

The song you thought you’d always remember, 

The town you wanted to dwell in your entire lifetime,

The energy of youth so sublime!

You presumed you wouldn’t befriend your entire life, 

Over the hatred for a friend from a childhood strife,

That job you tried but you couldn’t perfect,

All those relationships where you faced a reject!

The depression from the heart break,

Because of that relationship you didn’t realize was fake, 

The scar glaring from your cheek,

From an accident you didn’t mean to seek!

When you think you have it all, 

Life has its way to make you fall, 

And when all seems lost and despair,

Life shines light into your lair! 

Remember my friend today’s pain

It is a lesson, don’t let it go in vain, 

Yesterday’s joy is now a memory

Remember, forever is just a transient eternity! 

Her Rhythm!

While she stood entangled,

In the binds of her society,

She let the wind carry her dreams,

And bowed down to the norms laid.

She was but a mere puppet,

Being maneuvered around on the stage, 

Not in a manner she prefers 

But in a way the assemblage saw fit.

She knew she could be more, 

But a tiny trot in her own direction,

A string was ready to tug her back to position, 

Reminding her that her voice wasn’t hers. 

She didn’t belong there she knew,

She then surrendered to her fantasies, 

That lay captive in the realm of her mind, 

The ones she’d nurtured so long. 

She was never going to be understood,

She knew she had to break those shackles,

And slowly the notes in her life’s song would alter,

And her feet would follow their rhythm!

The Mysuru Palace

Believed to be the fourth to stand this ground, 

It’s three predecessors had catastrophe all around!

Struck by lightning the first went down,

Demolition took the second amidst public frown! 

The third went up in flames, making way to the extant Phoenix!  

Reborn from ashes over a century ago,

The Mysore Palace is an exuberant show! 

Many Kings and Queens have come and gone,

So have a million nights and dawn!

This Palace remains an epitome of grandeur!

Illuminated by a million incandescent,

This Palace’s royalty is prominent!

Even in darkness it emanates a sense of strength, 

One that’s felt across its breadth and length! 

Its mere sight is a sense of pride and of gaiety! 

Tweet your Pride

Responsible Recreation!

While staying at home was a mandate,
For our physical well-being,
Stepping out today was great 
For our mind and soul’s freeing!
 
We began to pedal away,
Just when the Sun started to peep out,
It’s always the journey they say,
But our destination stole the show, no doubt!
 
The golden rays painted our face,
The glittering water kissed our feet,
Little kingfishers adorned the skies with grace,
Being surrounded by nature was a gratifying treat!
 
Overwhelmed, a bead of tear trickled down my cheek,
Joining the ripples of water marching in a parade,
Flowing in a labyrinth, a purpose they seek,
And on their way a million lives they aid! 
 
While we are tuning ourselves to a new normal,
Let us treat our surroundings with compassion,
And cease all deeds that’re abysmal,
Care. Support. Be a Paragon of Responsible Recreation! 
 

A Dream!

I remember that day when I fell asleep, but I was cold

And then woke up in your warm embrace

I believed I had a happy life before all this,

And now happy has a whole new meaning

What a dream it has been,

And to a paradise my life’s akin!

I heard someone say that everyone has that one friend for life,

For me our moments are worth a lifetime

You are a friend, a mentor, a savior, an angel

And now life is a smooth sailing ship

What a dream it has been,

Reminiscing our time together I always grin!

I wish you were around and You know what they say about

If I had a penny for every-time, Well..

I’d be a millionaire, but still couldn’t have you around

And now all I do is keep waiting

What a dream it has been,

Wish there wasn’t time’s distance in between!

I dance out of sheer joy to the tune of your voice

Wisdom, Compassion, warmth, and love you glow with,

Even at times when most things around are all gloomy

And now I believe in that silver lining

What a dream it has been,

You are the yang to my yin!

Covid-19 : Nature’s Anti-Virus?

 

Not too long ago when I visited Chikmagalur- A scenic hill station in Karnataka, with a bunch of dear ones, I was perched on a boulder that gave me a panoramic view of the place. And this view did not encompass long chimneys puffing smoke, chugging and honking automobiles, or proudly standing concrete structures. This was one that brought peace to the mind, joy to the eyes and a smile on the face. While being lost in this gaze at nature, I noticed something that was hidden in plain sight. It was the shape of a ‘?’ in the midst of the wide area of trees! Now it took awhile for me to comprehend what I was seeing. While I am not sure why, this revelation had me dumbstruck with so many questions proliferating my grey matter.

How much harm are we causing the planet? Where do we draw the line? Will it be too late by the time we realize?  I know some of us are doing the right thing, but is it enough? When will this stop? Will the planet ever get a break? And so many more. These questions stayed afloat in my mind ever since. And now while we’re amidst one of the most challenging situations of our times, the same image sprung up in my head but this time with some answers.

 

Yesterday I remembered a sight,

A question camouflaged in a dense thicket

I was in awe of what I’d espied,

Felt like Nature was asking us to Introspect!

 

We’ve fought many a war,

We’ve felled many a forest,

We’ve left the ozone ajar

We’ve set the temperature at its warmest!

 

Industrialization, Urbanization, Civilization,

Planet’s destruction in the name of advancement,

And as a befitting answer to our action,

We’re challenged with a situation all too poignant!

 

Schools are locked,

Offices are functioning remote,

Our whole race is shocked,

For a tiny microbe has us by our throat!

 

The roads are deserted,

The minds are jaded,

Hoping the worse is averted,

And the Contagion degraded!

 

Looking to the laptop finishing up some WFH task,

I only wish we were done hiding under the quarantine cloak!

Looking up to the sky I ask,

Is this some kind of an early April fool’s joke?

 

That’s when I noticed the sky was clearer,

The air was lighter,

The birds were chirpier,

Felt like Mother Earth got a breather!

 

Once this is all over,

And I know it will be, 

For this deadly virus we’ll clobber,

Never forget two things; because we’re paying a great fee,

Be grateful for what you’ve, and incept to co-exist with Nature! 

 

When you finally step out, 

Thank those in the frontline who’ve risked it all, 

For while you sat in, they were on the lookout,

They’re our heroes in this brawl! 

 

When you finally step out, 

Smile your brightest at everyone, Never miss a day, 

Give a friend an extra hug, Never be in doubt,

Accomplish what you can today, Never say another day! 

 

Once this is all over,

And you finally step out, 

Live, laugh, love, let go of that anger,

Only for things of happiness let us scout,

Let’s be grateful for what we’ve, and incept to co-exist with Nature! 

  

PS: For those of you who missed it

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One random day I sent a message to a friend of mine, Hareesh, “I wanted to invite me to your house in Kerala in January for the Pooram festival”. I bet he would’ve wanted to reply “Wrong number” and block my number, instead he replied ” OK! I will check with my mom and let you know!” And then forgot all about it until I received the ticket details from Hareesh to Thrissur. I was ecstatic! Growing up, I’d always heard about this Pooram festival and all I knew about it was that there were a lot of beautifully decorated elephants involved. And as petrified as I am of them, they’re a very interesting species.

A month later our day of travel arrived and we all wrapped up our work earlier than any other Friday, packed our bags, and 6 of us got into the bus in Bangalore and were on our way. The pictures of fully decked elephants were so stuck in my head that I didn’t realize that I was in for a treat bigger than that.

Located about 27 kms from the city of Thrissur, Anjoor is a small village that belongs to Thrissur district, Kerala. Although spelt as Anjoor(also Anjur) it is pronounced as Ani-Yur. We got down from our buses in Thrissur and took local buses to reach Anjoor. Hareesh’s house is a 10 minute walk from the bus stop and a peaceful one through narrow but clean roads. His aunt staying in the house adjacent to his was smiling ear to ear upon seeing us which woke all us sleepy heads right up! Standing at the doorstep of his house was a really pretty lady draped in a traditional Kerala Saree with a tinge of nervousness on her face. She was Hareesh’s mom.

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While everyone were busy unloading their luggage and exchanging pleasantries, I was busy elsewhere. I was lost in this place. The place was so quiet and serene that I could hear the dried leaves crushing under my feet. The chirping of birds, the mewing of the neighborhood cat, the sound of my breathing – I could hear all of this without any interrupting noises from man made machines.

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Aunty had a wonderful spread of authentic Kerala breakfast of appams and curry all ready for us. Once our tummies were full I just grabbed a bean bag plonked it outside the door and threw myself in it with a copy of Sudha Murthy’s “The Old Man and His God” in my hand. Sitting there, I could actually smell the peppers that were set to dry in the sun, the curry leaves being fried inside in the kitchen and the petrichor! There was not one bit of pollution in the atmosphere. And the best part about the place is that there are no compound walls dividing homes there. There are just small farms/gardens and beautiful houses in them. No fences, no divisions! All of this was too much for us to fathom. For the first time while traveling we didn’t want to go sight seeing, we just wanted to relax in the front yard and absorb as much as we could.

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Halfheartedly we got ready and left to an elephant sanctuary that was close to his house, called “Anakotta”. What used to be a palace in the olden days, the 11.5 acres of land now houses about 59 elephants, all maintained by the Guruvayoor Temple authorities. The elephants here are participants of many festivities throughout the year locally. After paying an entry fee of rupees 10/= we walked amidst these tall pachyderms, watching them being cleaned, fed and trained.

From there we headed to Chavakkad beach. This lies on the Arabian sea coast and is by far one of the cleanest beaches I have visited. With not too many people around us, peace and tranquility was in abundance. Again with no background noise of vehicles, or people, we could hear the sound of waves, with no plastic strewn everywhere, we could walk feel the unadulterated sand under our feet. We just watched the sun set while letting the waves come and steal the sand from underneath us.

We’ve been to many beaches, played in many waves, but here we were in a trance!

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Next day was the day of the Pooram festival and we were to visit the Parkaadi temple in the morning. Me and Boomika went all “Be a Roman while in Rome” and shamelessly borrowed the Kerala Saree from our courteous host, Hareesh’s mother. His relatives helped us both clumsy girls into their traditional attire and we were all ready to leave with a gang of his cousins. Draped in “Mundum Neriyathum”, and riding in a fleet of Royal Enfields on those roads had a different level of Swag to it. The whole day was consumed in the elaborately celebrated Pooram festival.

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After a tiring day the following day was a breather before we got back to sitting at the desks, staring at the LCD screens ,inhaling the puffs from one too many automobiles, and trying to fit into our corporate lives. This day tickled the religious nerves in us and had us on the way to one of the most religious temple towns in South India- Guruvayur! It was a mere 8 Km ride and with these bunch of stud machas, it took a couple of blinks to get there. This town houses the famous Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple. If rumours are to be believes, this temple has its origin because Lord Krishna had asked 2 sages to bring his idol from the temple in Dwaraka to Kerala. This temple is centuries old and unfortunately allows entry to only Hindus. With the conflicting thoughts we stepped out and headed home to pack our bags and bid good bye to the Lady of the house who had been such a great host to us all!

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“Waves are like relationships. Some come hard lashing at you and leave faster than they came, leaving you hurting. Some come close to you but are too scared to approach and retreat. And some come slow and nice, touch you tenderly and sweep the ground from under your feet!”

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