Thekkady 4

The whole reason for Thekkady's existence as a tourist destination is that it abuts the 777 sq. kms. Of Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary surrounds a large artificial lake that was created when the Periyar river was dammed in the late nineteenth century. One of the things one does in Thekkady is to take a boat ride on the lake, in the hope of seeing some of the wild animals which live in the sanctuary. So we did that.

It was actually my second visit to Periyar. My first was when I was still in college, and had come over to Madurai for a couple of months to study Tamil. I took a bus to Periyar with a friend for a weekend. I wrote about the boat ride:
In the morning we took a two-hour boat ride around the lake and saw beautiful scenery, several herds of wild elephants and a few deer, bison, wild boar and birds. I took several pictures of the elephants, which came out as tiny black dots on the edge of the water. My family made fun of me after I got back and showed them my slides, saying "Look! It's the elephants!"

So this time I thought that I could bring home some more photographs of small brown blobs, of which I could say “Look! Those are the elephants!”

We sat on the upper deck of a two-decker, large boat –a crowd of people, and many screaming babies. There was a group of French tourists, Malayali Muslims with ladies in burkhas, families from numerous other parts of India – R said, “This is a group of many hues and cries.”

sitting on the boat at the jetty; a smaller boat to the right of ours

We spent almost two hours pottering around the various branches of the lake, seeing nothing much except for a few deer and a wild boar. At first, people cried out at every fallen log (“Mugger!” - crocodile) and boulder ("Hathi!" - elephant), and the French tourists kept saying "Oiseau! Oiseau!" (Bird! Bird!). But then they became resigned to not seeing much except green and green, and the characteristic dead trees rising from the water of the artificial lake.

Don't miss the deer, near the top, just to the left of the center of the book. I have drawn a helpful arrow, but it's not very visible in this scan

Finally though, as if it were deliberately kept for the end, we did come upon a group of about ten elephants grazing near the water’s edge. I took a photograph, and here it is -- Those are the elephants!

Something very nice happened a couple of days later. I'd been drawing in my journal everywhere, and one day a waiter at the restaurant, Mahesh, said that if I liked, he would draw me a picture of Periyar Lake. And he did, and presented it to me. Which brought tears to my eyes, as everything does these days - why does the world have to be so touching? Here it is -- much reduced in size. It has elephants bathing in the lake on the right, too.

And one more Periyar story, from my first visit, when I stayed at Periyar House, inside the Sanctuary:
After dinner: D was very nervous about the possibility of running into wild animals, so we walked only partway down to the lake and sat on a flight of stairs. Suddenly D said, "There's an animal over there -- let's go back" and walked up the stairs. I looked, abruptly realized that there really was something there, and scurried back to a sort of moat with a baffle over it, to keep animals out. Then I looked and looked, and when nothing moved I called to D, who was farther up, that it couldn't be an animal and that I was going to find out what it was. I crept up on it, and suddenly it turned its head and looked at me, and I said, "Oh! It is an animal!" and ran up the stairs. Then I noticed ghostly white bundles of laundry lying about, and realised that the fearsome beast was the laundry man's donkey.

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