Travel: A paean to Panna – brunch feature

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I swing out of bed with some difficulty, but I still don’t know whether to bring my toothbrush or go back to sleep. No Bengali bath smoke wakes up at this strange hour, unless Brazil participates in the World Cup or accidentally falls in love.

Outside the window the night is black like a cast iron pan. The morning seems far away, and even the leaves on the trees don’t rustle to explain Jagadish Bose zindabad, we’re alive.

The national park consists of several areas, including extensive grasslands, a plateau and dense forest
(
Saubhadra Chatterji
).

Because I invested a lot of money and my wife is almost ready for a new morning safari in Panna National Park, I am wearing a cardigan, thermal innerwear, half-sleeved shirt, long-sleeved sweater, jacket, muffler, woolen socks and a monkey hat, and maybe I will find our jeep safari.

Sweetie can’t

Between the silhouette of the bushes a cheerful young body bends down to greet us with Namaste. He’s driving a jeep on our last safari in Panna. With a torn blue pair of jeans and a light green windbreaker on, he smiles and tells us he has been in the business for three years. To make some extra profit in reliability he adds, Ballu, that he’s got a brilliant guide waiting for us outside the gates of Madla.

Sambar is one of the favourite dishes of Tiger
(
Saubhadra Chatterji
).

Our last two trips have been overshadowed by a missed chance to see the tiger. We heard a few phone calls, went through the jungle and hovered back in the dust, but we didn’t notice a cautious predator. The previous guide was a grey beard. Raja ji can only be seen if he wants to be seen. If he doesn’t want to be seen, you can’t see him, even if you’re in the woods all day, he told us.

A deer spotted looking for a partner in Panna Forest
(
Saubhadra Chatterji
).

Meanwhile the sky shines with the prospect of a sunny day. Unknown birds chirp. Morning fog has accumulated under the trees like a fence. In the distance lies the Ken River like a rich python who has just finished his meal. The innumerable sounds and smells of the jungle come to life.

Left, young man .

We pass dew-covered bushes that glisten like a Punjabi bride. Some curious deer stopped grazing to test us. There are barely 10 safari jeeps, because Panna is not as glamorous as his colleagues Kania and Bandhavgarh. Drive the jeep through the pollen of wilted grass until we reach the Y-shaped intersection.

The pond hopper is waiting patiently to catch fish for breakfast
(
Saubhadra Chatterji
).

Nine jeeps turned right. Our driver, Ballu, is left-handed. From the back seat the Führer warns: Oh, Ballu, why did you choose this path?

A young conductor, boiling with energy like a pressure plate, answers: Saab ko tiger dihana hai.

The Ken River flows like a rich python that has just finished its meal, just as the sounds and smells of the jungle come to life in the morning.

The next half hour we walk through vast meadows, along ponds that have formed in the middle of the rocks, on undulating terrain, while the soft morning sun covers the green with its luminosity. We see wild boars happily poaching the ground for insects and dozens of deer chewing grass in peace. The pond hawker sits at the edge of the water, while an eagle and a dragon explore the world from the top of the tree. The gentle breeze blowing through the jungle with the fresh scent of Tandu leaves is so invigorating that I’m pretty sure it was a good idea to get up early.

Call to action

The high roar of a deer pierces this apparent calm. The car stops immediately. The guide, armed with his years of experience, whispers: This is Call, Sahab. It’s the deer calling. That means there’s a tiger around.

A few phone calls followed quickly. The conductor also discovers a peacock that starts to scream and flies away from the obvious danger. A foggy morning, all ready for action on the banks of the Ken River.

A male Sambara eats the leaves of a tree in the year
(
Saubhadra Chatterji
).

We look forward to our perhaps first attempt with a tiger in the wild. I went to Jim Corbett, Sunderbans and Casiranga, but every time the tigers were hard to catch. One day a befriended photographer offered his consolation after an unsuccessful attempt: How can you see a tiger when two adult tigers don’t normally come to the same place?

The conductor’s eyes move like fish in an aquarium. We’re staying put. Ruchira’s already washed his glasses. My index finger’s on the Nikon bolt. The protocol passes quickly as the tension rises for the desired meeting.

Jungle patch

At this stage Ballu thinks he has a better chance of seeing the tiger on the other side of the bush. An angry chef screams: Ballroom, carpets, yeah. The bullet turns its head: Come on, sahab ko tiger dikhana hai ki nahin?

Take a boat safari on the Ken River, which meanders through the forest, especially in the late afternoon
(
Saubhadra Chatterji
).

The engine’s roaring, and we’re in a hurry. The grass is high here and it is almost impossible to catch the big cats moving around. Next to the water tank, a deer family likes to drink water and walk around. In their eyes, there is no fear of death.

The grass here is very high and it is impossible to get big cats moving. Next to the water tank, a deer family likes to drink water and walk around. In their eyes, there is no fear of death.

The conductor curses the ball under his breath. Ballu quickly turns around and goes back to where we suddenly stopped. Five minutes later we’re back at the river.

A couple of Indian scimitars are knocking. The crocodile comes out of the water to swim in the sun. On a dirt road we see a series of fresh pagometers stamped on the tire tracks left by spy jeeps full of tourists.

Just a few minutes ago a tiger came here and if we had taken a stand, we would have applauded it.

I’m devastated. The conductor is angry, and Ruchira accuses me, as usual, of a fiasco. But we don’t have to worry about Ball.

The sight of a crocodile warming up in the winter sun is a reward for tourists on river safari
(
Saubhadra Chatterji
).

Sir Ji, don’t worry, he’ll come and see me at tea break, I’ll give you the tiger video with WhatsApp next time. You can see Pannan tigers in Delhi. You can show the video to your friends.

P.S. My colleague Shivani Singh is back from Tadoba. Have you seen Tiger? I asked him. We’ve seen five of them, she beamed down with glee.

I’ve already started planning a trip to Tadoba.

Biography of the author : Saubhadra Chatterjee is the editor of the Hindustan Times Politburo, who loves Slacker as much as he loves Ronaldo!

From 15. March 2020