The first conservation area that I remember going to is the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan, India. The first one I’d ever been to, however, was when I was very young. We went to Kaziranga National Park in Assam, famous for its Greater One Horned Rhinoceros. My family went on safari on elephant back. I, unfortunately, have no recollection of this treat. Besides, as it turns out, the elephant ride and the rhinos didn’t capture my interest. According to my father, who loves to tell this story, I was more interested in the cow that was crossing the road in front of our jeep on our way home, squealing “Ow! Ow!” with delight as soon as I saw it.
The Bird Sanctuary was one of my favorite things about living in Bharatpur. You could take a rickshaw through it – something I did, sandwiched between my grandmothers. There are two memories that stand out more that the others however.
The first is of when we had family come to visit us, my maternal uncle, Sammy, being among them. My parents planned a bicycle ride through the Sanctuary for everyone. I got to perch on the crossbar of my uncle’s bicycle. Somewhere half way through the Sanctuary,while I was enjoying the view, the wind snaking its way through my braids and the view and stuffing my mouth with sweeties that I got the fright of my young life: A baboon, taking a fancy to my treat, jumped onto my uncle’s arm. Whether it jumped up from the side of the road or dropped down from an overhanging branch, I don’t know. All I do remember is turning my head to find myself within 30 centimeters from a pink bottomed beast with its mouth wide open, fangs dripping saliva.
Presumably his mouth was watering with the anticipation of stuffing the remaining sweets into his mouth! I was too startled to do anything but stare. Before I could digest the fact that I was close enough to be well and truly mauled by a wild monkey that was probably rabid and carrying a number of other diseases, my uncle shook it off his arm and into the bushes. How Uncle Sammy did that without getting a single scratch, I’ve never discovered.
The second memory I have involves snakes: Continue reading