Travel Makes You Humble, Crocodiles Makes You Wise

Jamina Vazheparambil Raju
Thursday, November 23, 2017

This time I’ll just stick to just one place – Chitwan -- a place that that I visited on an extended holiday in Nepal.

It was mid afternoon in March. It was not too hot in Chitwan. I must it was comfortably warm during the days and pleasantly chilly in the nights. It took me a long drive of about 8 hours (and at least 3 hours through the baddest imaginable road ever) to reach this place -- a place that looked like it was at the end of the world and in another century. The ride was that long. The place was so remote.

The sheer beauty of the place but more than made up for the ordeal it took to reach there. It was silent, calm, relaxed. The world as I knew it was far far away. I had arrived here the previous afternoon.Deers came out of the forest in the evening to drink water from the lake. That was some sight to behold. I didn’t know if I was in the era of the Ramayanas with deers and such ancientness and beauty of nature around me but the sheer fact that I was on the other bank of the river sipping on my cup of hot chocolate on the deck of the resort frankly was a matter of shame. This was their world and we humans out of our infinite wickedness and selfishness were invading theirs.

A deer came out of the grassland to the river bank to drink from the water

And then came more of them.

I was taken for a nature trail and a short elephant safari the very morning. The lunch was sumptuous and my guide and wild life expert Mr. Asok was the gentlest human being one could ever wish to meet. I was in Pokhara, the basecamp for Annapurna treks the previous few days and it was holi – the festival of colors. Kids and young ones were all over playing with colors and of course taking selfies.

Selfies on the street

It was from this scene that I travelled to Chitwan, only to realize the Terai (low lands) were celebrating the Holi the next day. It meant holi continued for another day and now this was village style.

And guess what! Even the ducks weren’t spared!!!

The Tharu village were inhabited by the people that belonged to the Tharu tribe. They had their little village The women in the village went looking for clams in the water. I was pretty much concerned about them with few crocodiles on a muddy patch in the middle of the river. But both the crocs and the women they seemed to have an understanding about this and both pretty much seemed to ignore the other. What a way to live. Live and let live. Perhaps us sophisticates must take a cue.

And this afternoon, we were back in the jeep proceeding through unending fields of paddy to the bank of East Rapti river. And there a canoe was waiting for us. Nepal is famous for its mountains - eight of the world's ten highest mountains are in Nepal. But here I was in the Chitwan valley, bordering its national park and this was nothing short of a dream

Monkey on the wire in Kathmandu

Thakali Cuisine. The main dish is millet.One of the most satisfying meal with a grand ending with salted-tea whitened with yak milk.

A doe and her young one

Well,cocks will be cocks. Cock fight in progress and with no humans to interfere or incite or bet on, thankfully.

The very morning, I saw Gharials basking in the sun on the very grounds of my resort. The Great Indian Gharial. I knew nothing about crocodiles. Asok told me Ghariyals are in the critically endangered list and they have a conservation program going on, and we were headed there to the very site. He noted that it's easy to identify them from other crocs, them having a pointed snout and they eat fish and they do not prey on human beings. Marshmuggers on the other hand can be dangerous. And this particular waters had both.

The Gharial, a critically endangered species of crocodile, here seen on the banks of Rapti river meditating on something rather important.

Now I am supposed to ride on a canoe that's just half a meter in height and practically all immersed in water and I am in it wondering when a crocodile is going to spring up and surprise me. Asok tells me we are going through shallow waters and the two canoe guys know how to steer and know where the crocs are. As if!

I'm already regretting the decision of having made this trip. :D Why did I have to leave. Why oh why. Did I take up a holiday to end up being the meal of a crocodile in some obscure and remote place. Suddenly my urban existance - the very nonsensical routine and the air-conditioned comforts all suddenly seemed meaningful and the weight of my foolishness dawned on me.

Well I but had to keep a straight face and acted brave that this was life as usual for me. I sat as if it was another stroll in the park but hell I knew what I was going through.

I’ve visited just a dozen countries and I know I haven’t seen much. But wherever one goes, we learn as much about ourselves as much as we learn about the place and humanity in general. I am not going to sit here and spell that wisdom comes if you go on a vacation. But that canoe ride made me come face to face with my deepest fears. It was just silly fears. It was not about crocodiles that might be there under the dark waters – underneath an otherwise uneventfully calm surface. It was also how much precious was our lives no matter how much we overlook the real gifts that we have. We are always after something else while we are so forgetful and sometime abusive of the treasures we really have already. Well travel might have made me humble, but that crocodile, it made me wise. So you know what I mean when I say that.

Sitting on that canoe, feeling threatened for life – for real or for illusion, I realized there’s nothing I wanted to change, I just wanted to get back home and to the silly nothings. It’s funny. Paul Theroux (my favorite travel writer incidentally) has said, “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect”, which is so true. Now from the comforts of my mundane life, I wish I was on that canoe once again.

Express your comment on this article

Grammar Police
Monday, November 27, 2017
that's interesting.

some deep thoughts in there too. congrats.

~Grammar Police

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