Reaching Dhikala Forest Rest House
With each passing milestone that had Dhikala written on it, my imagination started to picture how it would look like. Well, in 1994, there was no Google, no online information or images of Dhikala. I was relying purely on the hearsay, and some recollections from the readings of Jim Corbett. Expectations about the accommodation were not high. But the keenness to stay in a Forest Rest House in the deep forest was.
The last mile towards Dhikala is a beautiful stretch of tall Sal forest with a canopy on top. The only light in the otherwise dark surroundings was the shower of sunlight rays beaming down from the top right across to the bottom left. Some termite mounds on either side of this wide track suggested a healthy forest. A Sambar deer on hearing the sound of our vehicle looked at us, waited for us to pass, and commenced his chores.
At a distance, I could see a well-lit opening and some outline of low and old buildings. This was the last leg for the athlete who saw the thread at the end of the race.
Heaven was finally upon us. We entered the Dhikala complex. An old chant from my subconscious came to the fore of my mind:
In the Land beyond my dreams
Where no clouds come
and golden dreams dwell
I sit by life’s well,
In the land beyond my dreams.
– Paramahansa Yogananda
Even today with a plethora of information and images available on the internet, nothing can prepare you for the experience at Dhikala Forest Rest House.
Our driver showed us the Reception, and as my friends proceeded to fulfill the check-in formalities, I decided to stretch my leg muscles and explore the area. A broken pathway led me to a deck. While on the deck I saw my childhood painting. A bright sun peeping between the two hill peaks. Beautiful river in the foreground. Some birds of prey in the clear blue sky. Few monkeys eating fruits on the nearby trees, and some animals feeding in the grassland. Only two things amiss were a woman coming from a well with a water pitcher on her head, and a small hut with a charpoy outside with an old man sitting with a Hookah.
Someone calling out my name suddenly disturbed my painting. My friends were going to the rooms.
Meeting Jim Corbett
I moved to go towards the rooms, and what I saw with my eyes froze me in my tracks. A double storied beautiful lodge in front. My mind wandered off again and I saw, Jim Corbett sitting in his shorts and having his favourite drink, tea. His rifle was hanging on the wall behind him and his popular hat on the chair next to him. I saw him relaxing after an arduous walk searching for the man-eater, and mentally planning his next move to pin him down. My ears heard some voices from yesteryears talking. His cook asking him what he would want for lunch. I was about to talk to Jim Corbett when I was brought past forward with a friend calling out to me.
We proceeded to see our room. I took two steps up and turned back in the verandah to see my childhood painting once again. The wind speed had increased. The sound of the rustling of leaves on the tree in front deterred me to go into the room. A Rhesus monkey family with a couple of young ones was sitting on the swaying branches and eating some fruit. A sounder of wild boars was on the edge of the river to my side. Across the river I could see a couple of dozen Crocodiles and Gharials basking in the sun. A quote from The Jungle Book came to the fore:
Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries
And your strife
I mean the bare necessities
Are Mother Nature’s recipes
That bring the bare necessities of lie
– Baloo, The Jungle Book
I entered my room and found a humble abode of my next two days. A basic room with two separate beds, clean flooring and an old fan working noiselessly. I took a quick glance at the simple bathroom, and thought of settling down in the verandah with a cup of hot tea and the book that brought me to this wonderland, “Man-Eaters of Kumaon”.
The cool wind comforted my face, and the silence around intermittently broken by some bird-chirping put me to sleep. I slept like a baby in the lap of my mother nature.
To be continued….
Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered.
Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park.
Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here’s a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger.