Travel: Ranthambore Tigers

imageWe decided to take a walk on the wild side today and ventured southeast of Jaipur to visit Ranthambore National Park.

It is about 160 km away from the city, which realistically should only be a 2.5-hr drive, however it ended up being around a 4-hr drive given the poor state of the roads outside the larger cities, the slower pace due to a sandstorm, and the traffic that is classically India.

After arriving at the park entrance, it took Nick some serious negotiating and the help of the local policeman to secure spots on a safari vehicle for us. The individual that had guaranteed us seats earlier in the day was unable to deliver; fortunately, he refunded all of our money.

Credit: Himangini Rathore Hooja

Credit: Himangini Rathore Hooja

Ranthambore is one of the largest national parks in Northern India, covering a total area of 392 sq. km. Declared one of the Project Tiger Reserves in 1973, it became a national park in 1980. The sanctuary is best known for its tigers, and it is for this reason that we visited, with hopes to see one in its natural Jungle Habitat.

 

Unfortunately, this did not happen, despite the tiger population being at 61 – the highest its been in the last decade.

It is important to recall that the species native to India, the Bengal Tiger, is classified as endangered, with less than 2,500 existing worldwide, and a downward trend. As with most creatures on the endangered species list, poachers are a constant threat to their existence.

imageThe sad truth is that the rarer the animal is, the higher is the asking price for their meat, skins, and bones on the black market. Too many individuals are concerned with appearances and are constantly finding ways to display their power and wealth.

 

We did, however manage to see some of the other native wildlife, and even spotted paw prints in the dirt!

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Travel: Chaos of Delhi

imageAfter finally meeting up with Nick at the Delhi Airport around 6 AM (his flight was delayed by 2 hours on his way out from Dubai), we hopped on a Metro to reach our hotel.  Emerging from the metro station, I was quickly overwhelmed by the site that greeted us. It can best be summed up in one word: Chaos.

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India is the most populous democracy in the world, with a staggering 1.2 billion citizens. However, despite being the world’s 10th largest economy by GDP, and the 3rd largest by PPP, this nation struggles to align its modern ambitions with its financial limitations.

 

After securing its independence from British rule in 1947, a period during which Mahatma Gandhi yielded significant influence,  India continues to face the shackles of corruption of corruption and poverty. It is home to the largest concentration of people living below the World Bank’s poverty line of $1.25 a day.

Chronic malnutrition of children is rampant across the nation, and the socio-economic disparity between this nation’s states has only continued to grow. India can only tax about 0.1% of its population, and then these funds are directly used to feed its poor, leaving little flexibility for the money to be allocated elsewhere.  It is a sobering reality to see all the day-to-day battles these individuals have to endure.

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The street clamours for attention with the loud yells of the rigshaw drivers bantering for business and the constant beeping of horns as cars dodge each other, and people, as they drive the street.

 

We decided to take a rigshaw to our hotel, since we were a little disoriented after our tedious travel. I’d describe riding in a rigshaw as a harrowing experience, filled both with excitement, adrenaline, and an ounce of fear. There is little regard for right of way, and the drivers bravely weave their cars in and out of traffic. We like to laugh and call it taking a gamble on life, akin to playing a round of Mario Cart.

 

 

 

 

Travel: India

So, I apologize for disappearing this past year. Unfortunately, certain responsibilities come with being an adult. This includes things such as acquiring a job, paying my own bills, and being thrust out of my mother’s nest into the real world.,

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I’ve gone from growing up in New Jersey, to attending Graduate School in California, and finally settling in Texas. And yet, I feel discontent. During school, hard work paid off by manifesting itself in the form of grades, but a career, and subsequently long hours, is only gratifying in the form of wealth.

 

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Its fact that wealth doesn’t buy happiness, but savoring the little moments, and cherishing time spent with family and friends does. I can’t deny that I am grateful for the niche I have built in Houston. I do enjoy what I do, and there’s a certain thrill I feel whenever I drive past a building I worked on, or when I finished modeling a complex building. Yet, I feel incomplete. There’s a certain yen I have to explore and discover all the beauty and history that our planet has to offer, and it’s not something I can do with my career while chained to a desk.

imageAnd so, with some strategic planning and the benefit of not having to use my vacation days to visit family, I have managed to scrounge up a sufficient amount of days for my next big travel venture. This year, it is India.

imageDespite a 36-hour total travel time to New Delhi, and an overwhelming sense of unspoken questions that I have left behind in Houston, I’m excited to explore this diverse nation with one of my best friends from high school.Because, for me, travel allows me to keep things in perspective.

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I think that as Americans we can become blinded within the bubble that is patriotic egoism. Exploring different cultures and countries allows one to understand what simple freedoms we enjoy and to really appreciate our place in life.