There goes the Wanderlust
There comes a time in the life of a travel blogger, like myself, when an experience starts getting rated as good, bad or forgettable based on its blog-worthiness. It’s when the urge to wander loses out to lust. The lust for eyeballs, clicks and views in this case. The reason, I reluctantly admit for not having written about this trip to a not so well known bird sanctuary called Menar in Rajasthan.
I had called it a day of adventure turned misadventure and moved on. Well almost, till my recent comment on a fellow blogger’s page to “enjoy every delight of this wonderful wild world”, hit the hypocritical me hard. If I truly believed in this idea, I had to revisit the so called misadventure, at least mentally, to try and see what my eyes missed.
It begins on a pleasant winter day in Udaipur. I round up 13 grown-ups and 8 kids, most of whom are friends I am hosting, promising everyone a day of ‘exploring and experiencing’. Suffice it to say the pressure to deliver is huge. It’s common sense that if you are on entertainment-duty, you stick with what you know. Not only did I not do that, I went to the other extreme of going to a place no one in the group had even heard of, including me.
On a blind date with the wild
Packed into 5 cars, mine leading the way, we start the 40 km drive to Menar Lake. Ever tried keeping track of traffic ahead, GPS on the side and a cavalcade behind? All this, while making frequent stops to ask locals for directions, most of whom are hearing about the place for the first time? Well, at some point this stops being fun and starts being funny. It’s when the rest of the party is no longer excitedly raising their thumbs and following you; they are making inquiries of their own. Not just by name, but with detailed descriptions, “Is there a pond…a place with water…where people come to see birds…tourists come…take photos of birds”? Then there is a point when it stops being funny and starts being frustrating. It’s when in a narrow village lane, 5 cars are making a reverse turn, one by one, to go into the next narrow lane hoping that the person pointing them there is more accurate than the last one.
After a while of this not so merry-go-around, we see water in the distance. To our hungry bodies and tired minds, it seems like a mirage in a desert. We drive closer to find an expanse of marshy grey with a smattering of what looks like ducks. “We came here to see ducks? pat comes the question to which the only response I would like to give is a physical one, but I play the charming host and smile. “There is another pond up ahead that’s larger”, a villager says. I cling to the tip like it would save my shamed-travel -guide soul and get the 5 car show on the road again. The bigger pond is big alright, but with a smattering of what looks like ducks! We get out of the car, the elders stretching their achy knees and knotted backs.
Wild with the Wild
Like true city slickers, under-informed about the wild and under-prepared for an outdoor adventure, we stand at the edge trying to spot distant birds without so much as BINOCULARS. There is a crowd of what looks like flamingos in the distance, but who the hell knows. Not one of us has any idea about birds beyond the sparrow, pigeon, crow and of course ducks. After my sheepish nods to questions like “Is this it?”… “This can’t be it, right?”, the rest of the party quickly moves on to take pictures to salvage the situation. Let’s not be unreasonable. I am not asking for a crystal blue expanse with millions of exotic birds to wait on us, perch on our shoulders and peck us with a kiss. Of course going by the ‘return my money’ looks I was getting, that would be nice. I was just asking for some water full of birds. I was wild with the wild for letting me down. So to get back, no blog, no fb pictures, no whatsapp updates followed.
As I revisit the day and my ‘enjoy every delight of this wonderful wild world’ comment, I realize, that I had not gone to Menar wearing my ‘Explorer’ hat ready to embrace nature; I had gone there with my ‘Super guide of a Theme Park’ cap on expecting to entertain my friends to a treat in the wild. For starters, I was a sucky guide. I didn’t do the basic preparation of studying the road map before heading out, did no prior research about the wildlife we hoped to find (that I learnt later is actually aplenty) which I might have spotted had I been patient, gone at the right time of the day and carried something as basic as binoculars.
More importantly, I set out on a blind date hoping to see a predictable prettied-up face. So judgemental was I that I didn’t embrace the wild for its bare beauty. I didn’t sit on the banks to take in the peace of the water; I didn’t quiet my mind to listen to the calling of the wind and the birds; I didn’t touch the grass or look up at the beautiful shady trees. Heck, I think it’s the wild that should be wild with me.
“Bless the wild for it puts on no show
With no fear, no effort, no obligation to be any other
It revels in its dirt and barrenness, just as in its plentiful lush
Bless the wild for being so whimsically wonderful”
The wild calls the shots. It may generously give you a rare sighting or tease endlessly for the same view. The day spent at Menar made me realize that there is no taming this shrew. And Thank the Lord for that.
Greater Flamingo, White Tailed Lapwing, Pelican, Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, Green Sandpiper, Wood sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Red wattled Lapwing, Norther Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Common Crane, Bar Headed Goose, Gralag Goose, Spot billed duck, Black Drongo, Green Bee eater, River Tern, Whiskered Tern, Pied Kingfisher, White Breasted Kingisher, Little Grebe, Siberian Stonechat, Yellow Eyed Babbler, Black Headed Ibis, Common Snipe, Jungle Quail, Crow Pheasant