Our excitement started when the Delhi Ajmer Satabdi Express chugged out of Delhi Cant railway Station. Our destination was Alwar, some 200 km away from Delhi. Alwar is a historical place but our main attraction was for a planned visit to Sariska National Park, 35 Km from Alwar. Sariska was regularly featuring in the front pages of almost all newspapers that time due to first time relocation of tigers. There were some 16 tigers in the forest prior to 2004. Sudden disappearance of tigers, tiger’s pug mark and even scratches in the rocks and trees caught the entire forest official unaware. Sariska is set amidst dense deciduous forest of Aravalli range in Alwar district of Rajasthan. This forest was once famous for Royal Bengal tigers and it was a favorite hunting place for the Maharajas of Alwar.
We alighted at Alwar railway station and immediately we were for a look out for a vehicle. To our surprise no vehicle was available near the station. We had no other alternative but to hire one auto rickshaw and we bargained for a good price. The contract was that the driver would take us to all the places of Alwar and then drop us at Sariska Forest Bungalow. Roads were not healthy and hence with the rickety auto we had a tough time during the journey. Even though the journey was tough but we were so excited that the pain could make hardly any impact on out spirit.
When we reached Sariska the lunch time was over but the Bungalow people were so nice that they cooked some food for us. We enjoyed every bit of it. We requested them to arrange one Gypsy for our visit to forest in the late afternoon. They obliged.
One point I missed in the beginning that Government of Rajasthan, Government of India and World Life Institute of India made a massive endeavour to relocate tigers from Ranthambore forest of Rajasthan. It is the first tiger reserve in the world to have successfully relocated tigers. They also made arrangement for tracking the relocated tigers through ISRO's reconnaissance satellites. First male tiger Dara was relocated by Air Force helicopter in June 2008. One tigress was relocated from Ranthambore Forest n 2009. At present there are 13 tigers and tigress in Sariska but the tiger Dara expired allegedly due to poisoning. Poachers in Rajasthan were responsible for the disappearance of big cat in Sariska. Now lot of protection has been made but still poaching is not totally stopped. Poaching is a big menace in India. Almost all the forests were losing big cats but now the situation is slight improved. Much bigger effort is needed to protect the big cat for which India used take lot of pride in.
The Gypsy driver was very adventurous and taking us through almost all the game trails cutting through long bushes. We were so much scary and frightened that I can’t describe with words. To our dismay we could not locate a single big cat even though we traced one pug mark. We stopped by one forest check post asked the sentry to locate one tiger. We knew that there were radio collars fixed to each tiger and they were tracking it. They told that the tigers had crossed the hill in front of us and were located at inaccessible area. Finally we returned in the evening and relaxed in the bungalow with a hope that we could hear at least roars of tigers. There was total silence in the forest but enjoyed the sound of silence. The next morning we attempted once more but in vain.
One may think that non sighting of tiger make a trip to forest unsuccessful. I don’t believe that. The beauty of forest is not the tiger alone; but its flora, fauna and serene surrounding. The air is rich with the fragrance of leaves and loam, damp too. Tree leaves dance to an unheard beat, whispering their songs to the wind. Dawn in forest is like a canvas of renowned painter. Early sun light streaks through the boughs in both brilliant and shadowy beams.
We left the massive realm of woodland for a journey to the Alwar station to catch train to Jaipur. The fond memoire of Sariska still prod me to make another trip.