Shaun Mehta

An informative blog that provides insight of my sometimes mundane, sometimes wacky life as a writer and teacher. To learn more, please go to:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Travel Log #5 - Southern India

Internship at Infosys Technologies, Mysore Campus.
April 2002

I am an East Indian born and raised in Toronto who traveled to Southern India for the first time. As an aspiring writer the dynamic subcontinent fascinated and inspired me. During my 8-month stint in the country, I completed an exchange at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), an internship at Infosys Technologies in Mysore, and found some time to travel and write. Through my journey, I grew to love the people and land, despite having a few misadventures along the way. I hope you enjoy some of my travel logs:

A colleague at work told me that a Jungle Lodge Resort that he knew of was an incredible place to spend a weekend. Skeptical, I picked up a glossy brochure from a local travel agency and did some Internet research. Both the website and brochure convinced me that this was where I wanted to spend my last weekend in Southern India. Apparently British Royalty had stayed here, and I was excited at the thought of taking an elephant safari and boat ride through the jungle where wondrous exotic wildlife frolicked in their natural habitat.

I booked a tent – there were no rooms available – rented a car and went to “paradise.” After a 2-hour drive, my driver and I entered an enormous dead forest. And when I say dead, I mean apocalyptic dead. There was nothing but charred black bush and nasty crippled looking trees. It was as if a huge fire had ravaged everything. This was definitely no lush jungle.

After I had checked into my tent, I learned that the actual safari was another hour drive away from the resort. My excitement returned as I hoped the landscape would be less morbid. The safari jeep picked me up and we drove for an hour though, yup, more dead forest. We then circled around dirt roads for another 3 hours and saw a few scrawny monkeys. It was pathetic. Miserable, I kept thinking of the glossy brochure of the tiger sitting in the verdant foliage. We suddenly drove beside a river where in the far distance a group of elephants were bathing. I asked the driver whether we could drive closer so I take a photo. “No,” he said.

That night, I lay huddled in fear as a ferocious thunderstorm raged outside my tent. Red-eyed and exhausted, I was taken for my elephant and boat ride at 6:00 am the following morning. After an hour on the jeep, we reached a small camp where our elephant should have been waiting for us. I sat in the jeep for half an hour before the guide suddenly turned around and said: “The elephant escaped and ran deep into the forest last night because of the rain and joined a group of wild elephants. He will come in half an hour.”

I was impressed. Apparently our guide was telepathic. He also added a few minutes later: “When elephant comes you get 30 minute joy ride. No safari.” I wanted to toss the glossy brochure in his face but it was back home. I wanted to scream at the man, but it would have made absolutely no difference. In India, I have learned that you must merely accept.

After another 40 minutes the driver said: “Elephant not coming.” So we drove yet another hour through the lifeless woods until we reached the river. Actually, it was more like a muddy pool of water. I climbed into a circular skin-hide boat and my guide rowed to the center of the “river” and pointed to birds I could not see and said names that I could not begin to pronounce. The guide did point to a crocodile in the distance, its eyes and nostrils just above the brown surface. It seemed to me to look more like a dead stump of wood jutting out of the muddy water. I asked if we could move closer. “No,” he said.

That was my authentic Indian safari. I should not have been surprised as the colleague from work who had recommended that I go to the resort was a shady figure who was fired for sleeping with the staff. Personally, I am looking forward to visiting the Toronto Zoo and actually seeing real animals at fifty times less the cost. On the bright side, I did take some lovely pictures of dead trees.


At 7:55 AM, Blogger Kelly Boland said...

Very well written! Having never been to India, these were a pleasure to read! I love the way describe everything and make it so easy to fall into the story


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