Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Shona is an exceptional woman belonging to the classical mould living in modern times, a goddess living amongst commoners. She had been a sports person as a kid, the junior national shooting champion and currently is in her middle ages her early forties. Born in one state, educated in another, returned after a job stint in the US and now living her working life in a third state, her temperament always bears a stamp of ‘been-there-seen-that’. Nothing can spring a surprise on her. She remains street smart and careful at all times but in equal measures a dare devil, easy going, fun loving and innocent. Once while she was in a taxi driving to the airport, she encountered a huge traffic jam. The taxi driver was reluctant to move ahead as there was no certainty of when the jam will open up and he expected a lot of time to be wasted. He told her to get down and walk the rest of the distance. She very quietly told him, “Bhaiyya had it been your sister would you have dropped her here and left”. The taxi driver kept silent the rest of the journey, right through the jam all the way to the airport and then apologized to her.

Shona is to a very large extent is like an open book, very transparent and easy to read. Her expressions and thoughts are devoid of craftiness. She talks what she feels even at the expense of being ridiculed and laughed at. She instantly realizes that what she is the joke but is all poise and grace in her carry through. She would acknowledge others to laugh at her and, do it herself as long as it does not hurt anybody else other than her. She is very expressive about her expectations, her desires, and her needs and believes in keeping the flag of innocence flying high at all times. To use any kind of trickery or jugglery in expression with a view to trap or mislead is absolute deceit and foreign to her character. Once she wrote to me, “Please marry me Bo. It will be a marriage with just a small commitment of companionship. I will continue to look after my parents. Will be beside you where ever you are in whatever situation and also at times with my old parents and Lalitha aunty etc. That way I can be with you as often as I can.” Such honesty in expression and purity of thought is rare in this world and can be spoken only by an evolved soul.

Shona was born with a generous dose of spirituality in her. Once in her childhood she was greatly influenced by the Ramakrishna Mission sadhus and wanted to be a part of the Mission. However she was dissuaded by her parents and slowly over time she changed her mind set, became worldlier, inclined to go through whatever the world has to offer, laugh and cry, experience in depth every moment of her life. One of her staunch beliefs, “Life is beautiful Bo. The beauty is in the good and the bad. Let us not dissect a honeybee and see bubbles. Let it be even if it stings.” She however keeps in touch with her base through meditation and yoga, a regular ‘on-and-off’ routine. A common levity that we share is that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is her grandfather since she knows everything about his life and teachings. She often warns me that she will complain to him about me. Once she wrote,’ you go cycling alone. I know why you can’t take me. You are going with your Sagdeo friends. I never lie to my 15 year friend. Will let grandpa know……….’ Another time she wrote, ‘My dadu left my side a long time ago to be with you …. He loves you very much Bo’.

Shona is a gifted short story writer. She weaves magic with words and keeps the reader spell bound. The intensity of her narrative brings the reader right into the scene and makes them experience the event, the feelings. Her stories are simple but touch the emotional cords of the reader. The fact that she feels deeply about every emotion helps her in her writing. She says, “Both happiness and pain gives poetry. Crushes our ego. If happiness is day and pain is night, without one you wouldn’t have known the other. Both are great gifts of life.” The moment the reader reaches the last line, he finds himself begging for more. I am not a literary person like say Prantik but having read all her stories I can vouch that each one is a gem in its own rights. Someday if she finds the conviction to publish her works, all her readers will be better off. She also sings very well and is known in her friends circle for her good voice. Whenever there is a party she has to perform for all of them.

Shona is a protector, a source of succor to the sufferers in this world. She is capable of inspirational kind of selfless love. Parents love and protect their children but Shona goes beyond that. Whenever someone needs help she is the person to be contacted. Often her boss decides to throw a grand party and calls the town. He needs someone to cook good food. Shona does it herself and that too time and again. She sacrifices her comfort and happiness for the sake of others. Often she is the agony aunt for her friends. Sometimes when travelling together by train with her team, if everyone does not have a berth, Shona would share her berth and remain awake throughout the night. She writes, “Whenever I see someone’s pain and sorrow it grows inside me and I seek ways to help them get relief so that my pain gets less. Sometimes I can’t help and feel distressed.” To help the weak she can go to any extent. Once while driving her car to office through the fast and busy morning traffic she observed that some people were beating a small boy mercilessly. She stopped her car, rushed to the kid and fell in between him and the punching and kicking public. She got badly bruised in this process but luckily the police arrived soon enough. She learnt that the boy was caught pick-pocketing. She talked the police into letting him go as he had been punished by all the beating. She even went to the police station and signed as his surety. To quote her own words, ‘Love is the only solace, only hope. Without it a man becomes selfish and hard, a murderer of humanity and self. But love is pain. This acceptance lessens the burden.’ Such profound wisdom and compassion can only be seen in saints. I have no doubts about that one.

Shona is a child at heart, and her childishness flows forth as naturally as the sun rises in the east. One sentence that she can’t help saying and I have often heard it from her “Amio jabo”, whenever I tell her the names of places that I have to travel for my work. Like a child she is mischievous and craves for affection. We got to know each other through the internet and initially we only communicated over the chat. We made a pact that we will not talk to each other. She very soon broke it by making a phone call and of course it was my fault that we exchanged mobile numbers. She always prefers words of love and affection instead of words of advice. Whenever and it was most often, I sent her a message of advice she would call me kharoos. Whenever she gets angry her swear word for me was ‘goru’. A pretty poem that she made up for me went like this, “Suman Bose, khaye pocha mosh, bina karone gyan deya, hocche er sobche bodo dosh”. Another one was like this, ‘Gyan gyan ghan ghan koto kotha matha betha, Joto matha toto kotha. Joto kotha toto betha, Dhintaak dhin dhin tha…….’ She is simply great at creating verses on the jiffy. Another one of her messages which is great because of its simplicity and depth of meaning, ‘5 years old Bo asked his friend Shona, What is friendship? She replied friendship is when you rob my chocolates everyday from my bag but I still keep it in the same place….’ Once she surprised me by asking that she wanted a baby with me. For a while I didn’t know what to say. Finally I said that I don’t think I am capable to become a father. She told that it was a non issue, medical science has advanced to such an extent that age, sperm count, dysfunction, etc are things of the past. She just wanted a yes from me.

That she truly loves me I know. Once she wrote, “Love you Bo. Like a child, a mother, an angel”. That she is a soul mate I have no doubt. Without me prompting one day she said that she would call me Bob. Then for the first time I said to her that my pet name is Bobby. She said that she knew it. Bob later got shortened to Bo. I like it very much. Very early I said to her that she was sent to meet me by my parents so as to take care of me. Our contact was established in a very strange manner. She was searching the net on her ex-husband who incidentally shares my name and surname, when she stumbled on my blog. She read my sad stuff and wrote to me. With her love and care I could gain a lot of strength and confidence. Once she wrote to me, ‘This I promise because I feel a dictate of god in my heart to look after you. This will happen without any binding so do not worry my friend…….. My dearest friend.’ All that she wanted from me was simply to love her and marry her. But I broke her heart. I found myself inadequate in becoming a family man again. I am broken inside after my own marriage failed. I have no confidence that I can take responsibility of a relationship once again. Relationship has repeatedly been my failure over the years. I find no satisfaction in pursuing such things anymore and find more solace in detachment and pursuit of Buddhist ideals. I could see history repeating itself if I went ahead with her wish and so I told her that I loved her as much as I loved anyone else, I will be with her for all times to come but I am not going to marry again. She would not have any of that, she said, “Detached love is cruel. A selfish, coward mans love and I don’t want it. I don’t mind the suffering and gratitude I feel for real affection. I deserve to be loved”. I found myself helpless and no amount of explanation worked. She tried her best to make me see her reasons, “You don’t understand anything. You are believing what they are saying, giving up God’s gift. You see no goodness or love of me in the fear of hurt. Love is all we live for. Hope one day when you realize what you lost it won’t be too late.” And then one day she gave up, “It’s so sad that I depended on you like a baby and you crushed my heart… I hate you Bo… god may love you but I will never forgive you”. But Shona is very compassionate at heart, forgive me she did and very soon, “Dear God, keep my goru Bo in your arms. Protect him, comfort him and keep him smiling. I won’t be able to take care of him anymore so I leave him in your custody”. I can see two lonely life’s ahead, for her as well as for me.

Today she has met someone who loves her and wants to give her everything that she ever wanted in life. God be with her. As for me, I had met my soul mate in this life after searching for God alone knows how many ages, talked with her, and held her but could not take care of her.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tadoba Tigers

Tadoba, a bamboo jungle of about 625 sq km near Chandrapur in Vidarbha. There must be about 67 odd tigers in this jungle. The other variety of wild life consist of Leopard, Black Bear, Boar, Gaur, Sambar, Nilgai, Spotted Deer, Crocodile, Wild Dog, and a magnificent range of birds. However people from all over the world come here to have a glimpse of the tiger alone. Tadoba has therefore been named a Tiger Reserve Forest and the forest guards keep themselves abreast about every movement of this majestic beast. There are a few private resorts and a government one as well. Tourists are welcome for all the twelve months to this reserve forest but the major crowd comes during summer.

Soma, Prantik and I have recently been doing the rounds of forest resorts around Nagpur. We have been to Sillari and Bor together. Individually we have been to Pench and Kanha as well. We have seen a range of wild animals together but never the Tiger. After doing the rounds of Sillari a couple of times we were getting restless and then I suggested we visit Tadoba. They jumped at it and gave me the dates when they would be having holidays. I requested Sudhir Soman to book me the resort since the resort owner was his friend. He went a step ahead and paid for “two days and two nights” stay in the best room available at the resort. That was his way of saying thank you and I accepted quietly. Thank you Sir. Prantik had come with a boil at the top of his right thigh and suffered terrible discomfort throughout the trip.

Our first glimpse of the Royal Tiger Resort was way short of delight. The place looks new but there were no shade giving trees. It looked kind of barren and forsaken. Soma wanted to go elsewhere but with some reservations in mind we entered and had a look at the room. They both sort of compromised and relented since I was showing no sign of wanting to go anywhere else than inside the jungle. Though the rooms and ambience was excellent, the food was very restricted in variety and quantity. Unless one came early to the buffet table (yes food was by buffet only, no orders please!) one could miss a dish. The best part of the resort was its offer of wet towels to the tourist who came back after the four hour safari. It is refreshing after the hot, dry open to air jeep ride. The sad part of the resort was that breakfast is available only at 10.30 am after the safari returns and lunch is available right from 12.00 noon. The gap between meals is not enough, but their men keep knocking on the door cajoling the guests to have lunch on the pretext that food will get cold. The team from National Geographic, who were making a film about survival in extreme conditions and staying in the resort for over a month, was however enjoying. They used to get special supplement in their food of eggs which was never kept on the buffet table. One day the owner offered me omelet after I came back from the safari. By then Prantik and Soma had already had their breakfast. They couldn’t help ogling.

The first safari in the afternoon went of uneventful. We saw a lot many Deers, Sambars and Boars but the beast remained elusive. On one occasion we heard the Tiger growl but it did not show up. The jerks during the road safari left Prantik in a great deal of pain and he decided to skip the next one in the morning. Soma got up in time but was her usual lazy self and also dropped out. I had the entire open jeep to myself and enjoyed the early morning cool jungle. It is a very big jungle with hills and lakes. When the driver shuts the engine, the jungle is filled with sounds of the birds. The Drango, the Babbler, the Parrot, the Tree pie make loud sounds but there are numerous other chirping sounds. They create a symphony which in the morning specially sounds better than the ‘suprabatam’. Some part of the jungle is very old since the girth of the trees is huge. Most parts are dense and one can hardly see a few feet inside the trees. It is almost like a green and yellow bamboo wall. The animal inside can see us but we cannot even guess its presence. They carry on with the daily routine to search food, to feed self and children, to escape from preys, to survive. They all would have their own story to recount of escape, of surprise, of conquest and of care. The twist and turn of the tree trunk and its branches reflect a struggle of survival, to take over as much space as possible, to reach out to the sunlight. Over time the twist gets consolidated and prominent, as if it wants to tell its story of triumph to everyone who wants to listen. There are many tall trees which have shed their leaves as if in sympathy to my bald head. Their dry and thin branches extending towards the heavens seem to be a tale of either appreciation or prayer or anguish. The jungle flavor of the summer season are; Tendu tree very prominent with its green leaves, the Mahua tree very striking with its red leaves and the blood red flowers of the Palash tree is a sight to behold. The old and fallen trees are allowed to rot and serve as nutrition to the insects and reptiles. There are a few villages inside the Reserve Forest and one can see villagers moving on their feet or bicycles without a care. I suppose they do fear the Tiger and remain watchful all the time. They cultivate their land during the rains and wheat is the main crop. All life forms in the jungle go through their primary objective, to survive and procreate, to take care of self and off springs.

The second day afternoon also Prantik was in pain. At the last minute he decided to take the safari for reasons not clear to me. The forest guide who was with me in the morning called up the jeep driver saying that the pair of Tigers were sighted at the lake. The driver informed me and said that we leave as soon as possible. At last Soma and Prantik were ready. I didn’t tell them about the sighting. We could not see the Tiger the previous evening and so I did not want to create expectations. Our jeep reached the water body called Teliya and waited. The story of this tiger pair is that they were seen together since the past two weeks and were mating. Two week of mating? That was because the male Tiger was huge and the female looked a kid in front of him. This was explained as not suitable condition for mating. Whatever! The female Tiger would leave him once she decided it was enough. She would carry for about 36 to 40 weeks and then give birth upto a maximum of four cubs. She has to look after the cubs and protect them from other full grown male Tigers and the Wild Dogs. The news of the Tiger sighting in the afternoon at Teliya spread like bush fire amongst the forest guides. We were the third jeep at the lake and within a span of fifteen minutes there were more than a dozen jeeps full of people waiting with baited breath. On one side of the lake is the road where the jeeps of Tadoba some green and some white in color had positioned themselves. One amongst them was the National Geographic team. The people in the vehicles were speaking in hushed tones and were poised with cameras. There guards and jeep drivers were hoping that their tourists would return home happy so that their reputation would stand protected if the Tigers showed up. The sun was beating hard. Water bottle exchanged hands. Jokes were cracked in soft voices. Everybody was conscious that the Tiger is expected to show up anytime now and they hoped that it really did. The whole atmosphere was pregnant with expectation. On the other side of the lake were the Tigers, resting.

Then came a deep growl. Our guide said, ‘ssshhhhh....’ Then another growl. Now everybody from all the jeeps was looking at a single direction from where the sound emerged. Suddenly someone said ‘dekho, dekho’. The pair was walking one behind the other, the female was ahead and the male was following. Both were with their tails up, declaring itself to everyone around. The female was indeed smaller in size compared to the male. Both entered the water a few meters away from each other, from their hind legs. They immersed half their body and cooled themselves for a few minutes in the water. Both got up together, looked at the number of jeeps and went back into the trees.

The reddish yellow and black striped beast was magnificent indeed. They live by their own rules and nobody can dictate terms to them. They would rather die than live in fear or shame. They will kill only when hungry and never for hoarding nor pleasure. The guides say that a Tiger lives for about 20 years in the wild and 25 years in a Zoo. Only an old and aged Tiger will bother to stray near to human population and attack people attending call of nature or while picking fire wood and Mahua flower. The explosion in human population has disturbed the animal - forest balance. We venture into their space and selfishly call it ours. We kill the Tiger for sport and magical power. Maybe this is a collective human guilty conscience but to see the Tiger alive and free in the wild is a grateful and an overwhelming experience.