Serendipity of Pravin Gandhi – making pleasant discoveries by accident: Manas Tiger Reserve

contd from Part-1: how we arrived at Manas Tiger Park, from Calcutta

So finally we had arrived at Manas Forest Lodge in the Assam state of India. It was a one -storeyed wood building, camouflaged in trees. I could almost sense the presence of the famous hunter Jim Corbett, polishing his rifle in this lodge before setting out to kill a man-eater tiger (actually that was in Kumaon, thousand miles away).

The Forest Lodge, Manas Tiger Reserve

The room was small but comfortable and decent. We were well attended by the cooking staff to whom we gave the provisions we had bought from Barpeta. At breakfast, lunch or dinner time, they would grandly ask what we would like to have, as if we were sahibs of the British Raj. We were the only occupants of the big house, so it was kind of scary at night. Next morning however, when we took an elephant ride, we saw a colony of homes and families of the forest staff, and felt relieved.

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Rooms at the Forest Lodge, Manas Tiger Reserve

Stone steps led down to a white-water river, acr.oss which lay the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. The river which came down in a curve to our right, straightened and turned down to our left.

The place was pure, simple, uncomplicated joy. The only sound was that of the lapping of the river over rounded pebbles and an occasional bird chirping. It was a peaceful, happy place and we were blessed to be one with its ambience.

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The pebble bank across the river is the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan

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Kinds lazing away on their own

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Everyone enjoying the serenity of Manas, individually, doing her own thing

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Bench on the River Bank.
This picture captures the happy, relaxed moments of the kids who make their own connection with the place

We hired a boat to cross over to the Bhutan side (no Visa required), and strolled about one kilometre to where there was a little summer palace for the Bhutan king, guarded by a solitary watchman who let us peek into the windows.

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The King of Bhutan’s summer palace

The elephant ride – two elephants accompanied by a baby calf, was uneventful. There was no hope of seeing the boss – the tiger – so easily and during the day. The elephant does not need a path, it makes one, as we discovered when it cut through the foliage and twigs slapped us on the rebound. The elephants stopped at a clearing where a family of wild elephants grazed. I wondered, was it curiosity, or a longing to be with them?

Next day, after lunch, the ambassador from Barpeta Road arrived to take us back. On the way, we stopped at a hut and its inhabitants came out for a photo. The driver of our cab didn’t want us to stay longer for this was hostile territory.

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With villagers

We were ready for the 2nd leg of our trip – to Gangtok, Sikkim. We would have to go back the way we had come, upto Jalpaiguri and take a vehicle from there into the hills of Sikkim. However, we failed to get confirmed seats on the train and boarded a packed general coach. The passengers – all locals – were so friendly and so curious, and so nice! One of them, a youngster took it upon himself to get us sleeping berths for the night part of the journey and kept chasing the Ticket Collector asking him to help my family. He eventually succeeded and we got to sleep till Jalpaiguri at dawn the next day.

After staying at Gangtok, visiting the India-China border, the famous Rumtek Monastery, we moved to Pelling in West Sikkim. Read about it here:
Part-3: Pelling-Hillay-Sombaray in West Sikkim
Part-4: Babu of Darjeeling


Pravin Gandhi, author, “One at a time – short stories to muse by”

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