By the time you read this, the monstrous atrocity that calls itself a wildlife resort, which is right now springing up next to Camp Forktail Creek, would have been completed.
A huge hotel that is designed to resemble a natural cave structure (Why? Because it’s the jungle, silly, and in jungles you have caves, and if there isn’t one then we will make it with foam, plastic and cement and then we will put CFL bulbs in the rooms and call ourselves Eco friendly), is being built right behind the camp.
Suri and Minakshi have fought their last losing battle with the government and bureaucrats who are openly raping the last remaining forest reserves. Now they are tired. They are done.
So, they have closed their camp, an Eco lodge, which was the refuge for real wildlife enthusiasts who came for bird watching, a holiday in the midst of a real forest, a hike with a picnic lunch, basically spending a great time leaving a very little carbon footprint. I mean these guys are fanatic about conservation. I had to pick up a cigarette butt I threw on the ground. I don't argue with Minakshi, never did, even in college. She's a six foot Amazonian woman from Shillong. If she tells me to pick up the butt I will.
No questions asked.
Personally I am not much of an Eco friendly guy. I like nature and would like to leave for my kids a planet where they will not have to kill each other for water and clean air. But I must confess that I am one of those dudes who will still uses plastic bags and don't ever wonder what happens to the garbage I generate. It never occurs to me. Staying with Minakshi for three days was an eye opener. These guys know.
When I reached the camp that evening, Suri was away on a guiding trip with some tourists and was expected only the next day evening. I had never met Suri and was very keen on meeting this man who married one of the most intimidating women I have known. (Come to think of it, all my female friends are intimidating. I am shit scared of all of them. There’s a Freudian thingy there somewhere)
So that evening, we spend hours over numerous cups of chai, catching up. Minakshi had over the years become more chilled. There was a strong essence of dharma in her. Not in the Buddhist sense, but in the Dharma and Greg sense.
Minakshi had her own worries. It concerned the sudden influx of 300 workers that have been brought in by the cave men to make their hotel. For one thing, they were a noisy bunch. As we spoke through the night, we could hear them shouting to each other over the din of machinery and general construction noise. The other factor, which concerned Minakshi the most, was their toilet habits.
These guys were shitting all over the place. I know by now you guys must be wondering why I keep going on about shit. Bear with me.
Minakshi has four Tibetan mastiffs. Loveable giant dogs. They are taken for a walk around her camp ground every day. After the construction started, the whole place had become a mine field of shit. You can never say when your foot will step into a pile and make you explode with rage and disgust.
Minakshi tried everything. She pleaded, then screamed and shouted at them. Nothing seemed to work. The 300 digestive systems were working overtime and her camp grounds were its target. So she struck upon a brilliant idea.
She brought out the ultimate Brahmastra, the divine weapon. Gods.
She got hold of calendars with pictures of Hindu gods and goddess. The she made posters of them and wrote underneath that in Hindi -
'Nature is God’s gift to us, please do not dirty it.'
She went and fixed them on trees all around her camp trail.
The result was mixed. The piles diminished by a small percentage. In fact, some, obviously atheist workers, had done the deed directly below the posters.
So she changed the tack and made small placards with the Om symbol to replace the posters. She claims that seems to have done the trick to some extent.
When we went for a walk the next day morning, (me being taken for a walk by one of her dogs who I was supposedly in charge of), we came across three piles deposited equidistance from each other.
Obviously this was team work.
Minakshi flipped her lid. She went up to the metal fencing of the construction site, where some of the workers were standing and let them have it.
Me? I was busy trying to disappear. A very difficult task when you are tied to a bear sized dog whose plan for the moment was to roll in the mentioned shit. Don't ask me why. They seem to like it.
Must be a Tibetan mastiff camouflage thing. Smell like the enemy.
So, Minakshi stood there with her remaining thee dogs, like a modern day Durga and spewing forth her rage. She made perfect sense.
Crapping on the trail, apart from making it unwholesome for a hike, also encouraged flies and wild boars. Moreover there's only so much shit the land can process quickly and convert to night soil. Open turds are unhygienic and the excess of it affects the water table. Ideally the builders are required to provide facilities for the workers. In the absence of them, they use the neighboring areas. Since it is a wild life reserve, it is quite natural that they would do the deed nearer to their stay, since nobody likes running into a tiger with their pants down.
Minakshi is aware of it. Later on when we spoke about it, she was quite sympathetic about the workers. Her motives were to influence the builders to do something about it.
Which they did.
Next day when we walked, we found that they have put a barb wire fencing across the trail, effectively blocking us as well as the workers. Suri who had returned the previous night was livid. He had them take it down. What they wanted was for the supposed Eco friendly resort builders to put their money where their mouth is.
In today's world, we seem to create a problem first and then appease ourselves by finding some half way solution for it, forgetting that our very presence is the problem. Minimizing our impact on our surroundings is something we seem to ignore. We do our bit by burning the garbage we produce, filtering the waste water we generate, purifying the air we pollute. I hate to be so cynical but that's how we do things.
I stayed at the camp for three glorious days. Catching up on the 23 years that separated us when we had last met.
After loading my gear on Ben and securing it properly, I left. Heading towards Ranikhet. My plan was to go and stay at the Haidakhan ashram at Chilianaula. Minakshi had also suggested that I ride towards Kesardevi later and meet a friend of hers who had spend six years with the Naga Sanyasis. Suri had planned my route very carefully, taking into account traffic free roads, scenic routes and access to repairs if needed.
My route for the first leg was Mohaan - Bhowankhal - Machoor - Bathrojkhan - Ranikhet .
Chilianuala, where the ashram is located is around 5 kms before Ranikhet.