Looking for a tiger in India.....part 4

The story so far. Having left Mumbai on a tiger search I broke my leg in a remote rural area of Rajasthan. I met up with a tour group pretending that my leg was sprained. We went to Ranthambore National Park and I saw a tiger. Now I needed to get home.


That afternoon we were to take a train to Bharatpur to visit the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. The woman with the heart problems was now in a wheel chair and I was stilled half hopping and limping. We were travelling first-class, didn’t want to see the rest of the train. The seating was a two-tiered bunk with the lower bunk configured to be two seats. There was a little ladder to the side to climb to the upper level. In the carriage with us were Indian families who had made nests for themselves on the upper bunks and were having picnics. They didn’t have to worry about dropping food on the floor of the train as there was a healthy, happy family of rats scurrying up and down the carriage cleaning up the mess. My bag was open on the floor. Not wanted any stowaways I quickly picked it up and closed it. I was sitting reading when I became aware of something else scurrying. It was an Indian, I won’t say gentleman, he scurry up the ladder beside me and spent the rest of the trip peeking over the edge of the bunk at the top of my head. Spies, rats and the smell of curry; wonder what the entertainment was like in steerage. We stayed at the cutely named Birders Inn. A small hotel with a very pretty garden.



The Keoladeo Ghana National Park is a large wetland bird sanctuary but because of a continuing drought there were not a lot of birds. Like most Indian parks this used to be a private shooting park for the Raj of Bharatpur. The Park has a tally board recording all the Royal shoots, on some days more than 3000 birds were shot. Indian wildlife breathed a collective sigh of relief with the demise of the Raj. It is now a United Nations World Heritage site. It is a man-made and man-managed wetland. The reserve protects the area from frequent floods and provides grazing grounds for the village cattle. Every year thousands of migratory waterfowl visit the park for their winter breeding. Except this was summer and there was hardly any water and we saw deer,cows, turtles and monkeys. But I can’t complain, after all I’d seen the tiger.





Now back to the van for the drive to the Mogul city of Fatehpur Sikri and on to Agra. The woman with the heart problem was eased into the back of the van across seats. And I eased myself up the steep step. I was thinking what would happen if one of the group died. Would we still go on?

Fatehpur Sikri is a wonderful example of the lunacy of the Raj. It was built in 1571 by Emperor Akbar and abandoned in 1586. No-one bothered to check if there was any water to supply the city. There was none. This was lucky for the local villagers as they proceeded to pilfer building materials from the palace and you can see parts of Fatehpur Sikri on shanties in the surrounded villages. The city is one of  the finest examples of a Mughal walled city with an intricate blending of Islamic and Hindu styles of design and architecture. It is now undergoing massive repairs and restoration. Although just outside the gates touts are selling carvings and tiles that have somehow come adrift.





Then we headed off to The Sheraton in Agra. The woman with the heart problem was headed off to hospital and for a medical evacuation back to Australia. My leg was now a greenish, yellowish colour and my ankle was only twice the size of the other one. This was the longest lasting sprained ankle I’d ever had. I was getting better at hopping and ignoring the odd looks. Although the heritage palaces that I’d been staying were very grand it was great to be in a modern hotel with few stairs and elevators. The plumbing also worked well and there weren’t groveling retainers around every corner.



Our first port of call was the Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort. It was built by Akbar between 1565 and 1573. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city with fabulous views over the Taj Mahal.  Here Shahjahan, Akbar’s grandson, spent his last few years as a captive held by Aurangzeb (Shahjahan’s son). Shahjahan languished and died looking at the Taj Mahal where his wife was buried. The Taj was designed to be completely symmetrical but in an act of real nastiness, when his father died, Aurangzeb buried him asymmetrically. Family feuds among the Raj were pretty vicious. Parts of the complex are stilled used to billet and train elements of the army.




The next morning we were up early to see the sunrise on the Taj Mahal along with around 1000 other early birds. There was a mad dash for the entrance with me hopping along behind. Wait for me, hop...hop, wait for me. No photographs really do justice to it. As the sky changes, the building also changes. The Taj Mahal was built by Shahjahan as a memorial for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631 giving birth to their fourteenth child.







The group minus one. I'm the one in the bottom row with the pained expression.

Later the tomb of Satti-ul-Nisa, chief  maid of Mumtaz was added. More mosques built by Sirhindi Begam and Fatehpuri Begam were added to the Taj Mahal complex. These buildings are exquisite with  their calligraphy and detail. They are built in a red stone and are a great contrast to the Taj.




By now we were all tired and tired of each other so it was with relief that we set off for Delhi. The group were spending the last night having a group hug at a hotel downtown. I decided to stay at the Taj Palace in Delhi and drink champagne. I was staying on for a couple of days to explore Delhi before flying back to Mumbai. Because of my leg I didn’t see too much but I hired a car for a day and went to Humayun’s Tomb.The tomb was built by the orders of Humayun's widow between 1565 to 1572. It was designed by a Persian architect and had garden features and grandeur that had not been seen in India before. In the complex there are other tombs that pre-date this. It was a very hot day and every tomb had heaps of stairs so I didn't see as much as I should have.



I also drove passed the Parliament buildings and stopped to take some shots of the Delhi Observatory. The observatory was built by the same architect who created the Jaipur Observatory.






I went to the Delhi Cultural Centre which has a great selection of fabrics and embroidery. This, so far, has been the only museum I’ve seen in India that is really well cared for.





It was with relief that I arrived back to Mumbai and met up with Omar, he was staying near the office in Andheri. I spent a couple of days holed-up nursing my wounds expecting great sympathy. Instead we went on a walking trip around Malabar Hill. As you would guess from the name, it’s a hill. It has ups and downs and many, many steep staircases.







At last we were on the plane back to Melbourne. We arrived on a Sunday and, being worried about my slow healing sprain, I went to my doctor on Monday morning. Because I was walking he thought it was just a slow healing sprain but as a safety measure he sent me off for an X-ray. Later that day a nurse rang from the surgery. The first thing she asked was “are you standing up?” I said yes and she barked at me to sit down immediately. I had a displaced fibula break. The bone had sheared through and slipped, it required urgent attention. The surgeon was concerned that because I had been walking for three weeks on a broken leg and had just been in a plane that there could
be other issues. As it turned out, by being mobile, I hadn’t allowed clots to form so he was ableto operate immediately.



By the end of the week I was back home. Our bedroom is on the second floor so Omar had transformed the library on the ground floor into a tribute to India. He covered all the books with vibrant saris and had set up a bed for me. Omar hit on a great way of getting me up, he fed me porridge every morning and lamb chops with peas and mashed potatoes every day for a month.
It was out of desperation for a change of menu that I finally made it to the kitchen.


It took a couple of months before I could throw the crutches away. But it was worth it. I GOT TO SEE THE TIGER!!!!!!!


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