Sunday, 12 September 2010


Bengalis are compulsive travelers. No other race that I know of can beat them in traveling. They know the remotest geographical locations on the face of this earth where nobody has ever set a foot on. This is most important because then a Bengali can take the credit of doing so before the others can boast of the same. They chew up the history, geography, anthropology of a place they are about to visit so that the guide accompanying them can be put to shame for lack of knowledge. They have the most extensive wardrobe which need not necessarily conform to their demographical/meteorological conditions. Kolkata (for that matter the whole of West Bengal) does not boast of extreme winter but a Bengali may proudly possess a few snow jackets with mink lined hoods in apprehension of loosing a chance to visit the Himalayas for want of proper clothing. You may even find the apparel of an Eskimo available with the diehard globe-trotter so that his may-happen-sometime-in-near-fu
ture Alaska visit is not marred by the lack of it. Even in the blazing stretches of Sahara, you may land up bumping into a Bengali on camel’s back shouting out excitedly to his compatriots (if they happen to survive) on spotting a hitherto unknown or uncommon variety of clump of thorny bush. When Bengalis travel they wrap their whole world in their suitcases which will and must include the technically best camera available in the market so that pics of unusual angles and frames can be clicked and stored to be brandished later with a bragger’s delight in the company of friends and foes alike. In short, the Bengalis are the biggest shutterbugs of the world.

Having said all this, I cannot resist recounting an anecdote recently told to me by my friend and colleague. I do not know the travelers personally. But my friend does. So, the story goes like this. My friend’s friend decided to visit the Sundarbans with the obvious aim of having a face to face tête-à-tête with the Royal Bengal Tiger(s). They were part of a group (comprising of a few more families) united by purpose. The husband of the lady (my friend’s friend) of course carried a new expensive zoom lensed camera to capture “the moment” forever. Nightfall the party (divided in two/three groups) settled in boats, for a ride through the thick forests, with the locals as guides and saviour in case of attack by the beast. They rowed through the jungles for a while before having the good (?) fortune of laying their eyes on the elusive beast that had come to drink water by the river side. The tiger, I believe, was so huge and monstrous in appearance (viewed even from a distance), that one look at it and the children started howling in mortal terror to the chagrin of the locals. The Royal Bengal tigers are great trackers. Once they come to know that somebody is following them they make it a point to get back at the innocent followers (read onlookers) by hook or crook. It was the nervous rebukes of the locals which brought the howling somewhat under control. My friend’s friend hugged her daughter so tightly to her chest that the poor child almost suffered from asphyxiation. But the all time best was the reaction of the husband who was so transfixed with fear that he forgot having a camera in hand let alone taking a snap. His wife was apprehensive that he might fall off the boat into the waters anytime as he seemed quite bereft of control over his limbs and therefore kept on tugging at his arm with one hand and clutching the daughter by the other. But thankfully no further mishap took place. Luckily the tiger was perhaps a little absentminded or dull witted that night and did not pay much attention to the tourists. It was after the beast had turned its back that relieved all cameras went up in air, including that of the awestruck gentleman, for hurried shots but alas of the back of the receding tiger.

After having narrated the story in all its gory details my friend confided that she too was planning to visit the jungles soon. I made a quick mental note of that for a subsequent diary post.

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