How Grandeur & Pomp Crept Into The Safari

 

Royal Migration Camp  – A Royal Lounge in the Serengeti – Circa 2017

Royal Migration Camp is not just an ad-hoc dream of men setting up a camp in the wilds of Africa. Anyone can do that. It’s about recreating the romance of a forgotten era, where men were wild and the wilds were in your backyard, where turntables played a scratchy tune and champagne was served at breakfast as the wine turned sour on a rocking seat, where your valet prepared your hot water bath and the house maid tucked you into bed with a hot cup of cocoa.

Camp fit for a King – Nawab Vicar-ul-Umra Hosting Royalty at his Private Tented Camp – Circa 1890

To truly comprehend the soul of our camp, we would like to take you on a journey back in time, when the mad scramble for the world unfolded and countries tripped over each other as they painted the globe with colors of their flag.

One such country, with her magnificent people, set in the British way, had its flag flying on most parts of the world. From steamy jungles to vast deserts, from thriving ports to far flung trading posts, generations of Englishmen and women sailed to challenging posts and carried with them a part of their homeland that they treasured with utmost zeal. Whether they came as civil servants or through the army, whether they came for trade or to settle in plantations and farms, traditions of back home were religiously preserved. They worshipped in steeple churches with gothic windows, raised proper children, with proper nannies, they changed for dinner, drank tea at 4 pm and always had their evening drink that they called a sundowner.

Staff Quarters for Edward Prince of Wales Arrival at Camp in Bhopal State – Circa 1921

Though most adjusted to their country of residence with ease and even took on local traditions, their insistence to form, and nostalgia for home, remained sacrosanct. They adapted to the weather, that could be hot and humid, built bungalows that resembled of home with ivy running on walls and over time they accomplished making subtle differences to their life to such an extent, that the colonists resembled one another outside their country than at home.

So impressed by sub-continent royalty were the British, that they included and imbibed the splendor of the Raj into their lives. This pomp stayed with them even after they were posted out of India. The Anglo-Indian slang, Indian food, custom and traditions were exported through the world, especially to Africa and especially on Safari.

The saheb & mesaheb, both now travelled with a retinue of servants, they had Indian curry with a ‘chota peg’. A new language adopted from Indian dialects became their lingua franca. Their furnishings were adapted for a warmer tropical climate and Mughal Motifs came into their furniture and furnishings. They were familiar with spice, porcelain, ivory, and the myriad hue of textiles found all over India. Memsaheb had truly walked the streets in earnest, maids in tow. She had taken in the sheer grandeur of the palaces and households of the rich in India and took this with her wherever her husband was posted. Rich silks and satin draped the rooms. Oriental carpets, Japanese scrolls, hanging photographs, pictures and brackets to keep china, books and paper and a piano found pride of place in her house. But once you crossed the threshold, she, the impeccable British wife, ensured that the husband would be reminded of their home in Bath or Cambridge. It didn’t end with the fixtures and fittings in her house, in her attempt at making her family feel at home, she always ensured that the values of civilized behavior had to be followed, both by them as a family and their guests. As Indian staff worked at her house and Indian noblemen and gentry often visited her, they too absorbed her British ways. Over time the world changed. Religious and cultural boundaries were crossed. A social integration never seen before gripped the colonies in its open and permeating embrace.

Staff at Royal Migration Camp  – Preparing Your Bath As The Wilderness Drifts Past  – Circa 2018

Shops back home in London, understood this and started a line of products to meet with this booming market. In England, to ease reluctant passengers more gently into the unknown of their future, elaborate preparations were made before the colony officer even boarded the ship. By the 1880’s large stores were established that catered to every need of the traveller, no matter where in the world he or she was going. ‘The Army & Navy Store’ would supply and pack everything from the tent, to the furniture and fittings, a bathroom with a tub and more. Even verandahs were packed with care and shipped. The silver was kept separately as were the clothes. Burberry made a special sturdy cloth that would withstand the thornbush and khakhi safari suits and bush shirts with a military touch of flaps and buttons became the fashion of the day. 335 pounds of clothes were permitted on the ship. The trunks had to be lined with tin to protect against insects. Shipping the colony had become big business and the Indian royals too, grabbed every bit of item they could get hold off. Formal meals mimicked elaborate dining of back home with an oriental carpet, potted palms and cane chairs, silver and bone china crockery and Queens cutlery. Dinner always ended with a dance and you will be pleased to know that dinner at camp also ends with a dance.

MAK Nawab of Pataudi, my maternal uncle, former cricket captain of India leading one of our angling expeditions into the wilds – Circa 2006

The Victorians loved travel and they certainly loved adventure. Planters had to ride many miles to get to their plantations up in the hills and mountains. At the plantations, their bungalows stood on steep hillsides amongst swaying pine trees, so reminiscence of home. Come summer those who could afford to, would gather porters, servants, children and escaped to the hillside with their furniture and piano intact. Such touring on a large scale was established by the Moghuls in India and it was exacerbated by the likes of Lord Curzon. This would, in time become the norm for the safari as these habits were exported to Africa where the safari took on a fresh hue. With over a hundred porters in tow, each porter was given 56 pounds of gear, equipment and supplies to carry on his back. Outdoor cane chairs with white damask tablecloths, folding tables and cane baskets would be taken along at all times on safari. As wine did not travel well, champagne was used instead. Thus the orange juice and champagne became popular as a breakfast drink. Gin and Tonic was drunk more as a prophylactic against malaria as the tonic in earlier days had enough quinine to neutralize the malaria virus, making it a perfect drink in the tropical land of mosquitoes.

Our Mahseer Angling Camp on the banks of the River Cauvery. Camps were set up to mould in with the surroundings. This was a temporary camp that we moved when the water rose – Circa 1999

The officers of the Colony were extremely conscientious sportsmen and when they went on a hunt, they left no imprint behind. This was easier said than done as the camps were large. The saheb and the memsahib had a tent with an attached bath and toilet. The saheb always had a separate office tent where he worked and she a place to do her make up and keep her womanly things that she so treasured. The mess tent would have a separate kitchen and the lounge tent where the couple entertained was always large with enough seating, at times it even had a piano. The armoury tent was always guarded and stored the ammunition and the different weapons to be used by both the host and hostess and their guests. Staff quarters were set at the back with a separate kitchen. As only the host and his friends, those that sat on his dining table were allowed to shoot, the lower staff turned to fishing and in their free time would head for the nearest stream or lake. This is why there was a desperate lunge to get to sit on the table with Indian royalty and their colonial officers. Whilst books were written on hunts jungle lore, regaled the many battles that the staff fought with fish. Of these fish, the mahseer would be king and took on such mighty legends that in the end even the royalty and British nobility took to fishing for mahseer.

I am a child of a million such stories regaled of our family on safari, repeated over and over again till each took on a legendary tale of its own. It was not just about the tiger jumping over a jeep and pulling Ramzani, the head of armoury with him, it was also about the staff and how they fought monster fish as they were pulled them into raging rivers. Such stories tend to grow with time. A five-pound fish landed on a bamboo rod would become a fifty-pounder monster in a few decades. One Bhopali even told me about an ancestor who jumped from his jeep onto a man-eating leopard’s back and throttled it to death. I laughed hard with the rest of us. The one thing that you never do is stop a jungle man telling his story in mid stride. He will take that as a grave affront and maybe never speak to you again. You must let the story teller tell his tale and then applaud him the good old way by shaking your head vigorously and exclaiming “wah wah.. kya baat hai. What amazing strength. What a hero your ancestor was.” Knowing fully well that maybe his ancestor never even owned a jeep or saw a wild cat leave alone leap onto its back!

To relive my past, after I walked out of cricket, I took to the jungles. As I never liked to hunt, I took up the rod and ran a mahseer angling camp for many years landing many a hundred-pound leviathan. I daresay this size will grow with my grandchildren.

When exclusionary Indian laws started to throttle eco-tourism in India, I set sail for Africa bringing with me whatever subtle colours of the Raj I could muster, to Tanzania. This is where you will find me now, lost in a world that can only be recreated in Africa for unlike India, Tanzania is not embarrassed of her past.

Nawabzada Saad bin Jung

Why Does the Great Migration Come to Ndutu?

An Incredible Sight – The Great Migration Thundering Into Ndutu

It’s been happening since the beginning of time. Nothing has changed. Come December the great migratory herds make their way south into the short grass plains of southern Serengeti. The migration comes in waves. The advance is bravely led by the effervescent Thomson’s Gazelle feeding off the fresh grass shoots that sprout in the region, followed by the wildebeest, zebra and eland. Predators like Cheetah and nomadic lions follow the herds. This movement of these nomadic lions causes a stress on the indigenous lion prides of the region as these males are forever in quest of breeding prides and can wipe out entire generation of lion cubs after killing the dominant males of the region, if they ever get a chance. As far as lions go, it’s the survival of the fittest and the wariest. Lion prides have to be careful of the Maasai that stay in the region next to prime water sources, through the dry season. If a lion kills a Maasai cow, it’s at grave risk of being killed by the Moran. Though the NCAA is doing wonderful conservation in the region, and many Maasai clans have stopped the age old tradition of killing a cattle lifter, there is always that odd chance that a bunch of warriors intoxicated by tradition, can take the law in their hands. Lions are no fools and they have learnt, over time to stay well away from these pastorals. At the same time the dominant male lions of the region have to stay in the peak of their health for any weakness can invite the wrath of the nomads. So whilst the arrival of the herds brings with it an abundance of food, it has its danger too.

The Maasai have always known about this great movement of animals as their cattle are affected by the calves that transmit a killer virus. They move out of the short grass plains before the arrival of the calves.

The calving takes place anytime between January to April. Half a million wildebeest females time their calving to perfection. The biggest killers of the calves being hyenas, the calves are dropped within a short window of two weeks, between 9 am and 5 pm. There being security in numbers. The large packs of hyenas head for their burrows in those hours preferring to hunt in the darkness.

The wildebeest calve in these short grass plains because of the natural minerals present in the fresh grass that sprouts with the onset of the short rains. The grass ensures that the calves get the best of nutrition in their weakest and most vulnerable of moments, when the young calves start to graze and from their mothers nutrition rich milk. These nutritient rich endless grass plains are fed by the short rains that start in November and continue into December. Then because of a complex geographic phenomena caused by the winds, the great lake and the mountains, the rain continues sporadically till March when the big rains come. By May when the grass is too course to feed upon, the herds start to move again following the rains and the fresh graze. They head north by north west via Moru Kopjes and Seronera into the Western Corridor.

We at the Royal Migration Camp will be following them into the western corridor this year and then onto the Mara Region for the great river crossing later in the year in July.

Note: Every now and then you will see a wildebeest calve running against the wave of migrating herds. It might attach itself to your car. Do not try and help it. It’s been estranged from its mother and is trying to find her. If the lost calve runs along with the migration, the chances are great that he might never find his mother and die of hunger. The mother knows that’s its estranged calve will always run back and against the movement of other animals. She too does the same with a greater chance of reuniting with it again.

Wildebeest running past camp.

One of the greatest experiences in the world is to hear the constant thunder of these migrating herds and to smell the soil and revel in their dust as they run for the sheer joy of running.

 

 

Viceroy Lord Minto & Lady Minto Head for Tiger Country – Circa 1909

Lord & Lady Minto Inspecting Bhopal State in a Viceregal Buggy.

In the days of the Raj, one of the foremost challenges of the Crown was to take decisions in regards with its colonies, be they in Africa or India, that would either subjugate the colony by force and keep them uneducated and warring amongst themselves in order to govern them and plunder their resources or allow the colony to blossom in its own culture and celebrate their traditions. The second choice would augur well for the peoples as they would then have access to education and reform, even a transformation of their thinking that would ultimately lead to independence from the colony, paving possibly, a path to a progressive democracy.

Of the many Viceroys that came to India, each with his own plan and his diverse thinking and administrative prowess, Lord Minto believed in reform. Back home he had 14,000 acres of lands with a castle and a wife who was Queen Mary’s private secretary. He was the perfect choice of an educated and experienced gentry, who could run the British way across the world. He had served as the Governor General of Canada and recruited 400 Canadians to strengthen Sir Garnet Worsley’s force heading for Khartoum to rescue General Charles Gordon. He was the imperial choice for Viceroy of India, after Lord Curzon’s resignation.

It is universally believed that his reforms changed India and Indian thinking. He expanded the legislative councils in India and gave them the explicit right to debate on issues relating to the people. This meant that the British Government would now have firsthand knowledge of ground level reality in India and could take well informed decisions in time. It also meant that the people of India now had a representation in how they would be ruled. It would be their first step to independence. Minto’s decision to include the Indian into the British way also meant that emphasis on education was given greater weightage leading to a more robust middle class on the backbone of which Indian society would recover from social turmoil. When societies get fragmented and divided, they are either pulled deeper into the mire by their middle class or they recover from damage because of their middle class. Macaulay had a powerful following when he said that educating Indians would lead to them thinking they could be independent from the Crown of England. Christopher Lee, writes in his book, Viceroys, “Certainly in 19th-century India there were those British who could not imagine themselves being subjugated to jurisprudence exercised by, say, Indian magistrates. Thus Lord Rippon was effectively bowing to the insecurities of the British in their own Raj.” Lord Minto did not practice nor preach these thoughts.

Morley, the watchdog, was moved in place to keep an eye on Minto, it mattered little. “Morley saw India from the banks of the Thames; he believed India did not quite grasp the possibilities for the future. Minto saw India from where he stood every morning and believed, correctly, that London did not understand.” Christopher Lee – Viceroys.

And so, it was, my grandmother would often tell us, when Minto arrived in Bhopal on the 12th of November 1909, he spent many hours with Her Highness Sultanjehan Begum the Ruler of Bhopal learning how ‘sharia-rule’ in a minority Muslim region could best be applied on a majority Hindu state.

 

Lord & Lady Minto with HH Sultanjehan Begum and the young Princes of Bhopal

My great grandmother explained to him how the Begum’s had taken control in a male dominated fundamental Islamic society. She narrated the story of the first Begum of Bhopal and her daughter, as they declared the start of the rule of the Begums, on their first day at court by removing their veil and proclaiming that in Bhopal, because of the diverse mix of cultures, no one religion or tradition will dictate what their subjects must do. Every subject would have a voice. Each subject must decide the right and wrong on their own, based on their own traditions.

Lord and Lady Minto were extremely impressed by the Begum’s outlook to governance and would discuss the many issues that plagued Indian society. This, later on, would have a substantial impression on Minto, and I daresay on the very history of India, for it was Minto as Viceroy who empathized with the plight of the Muslims and allowed them a free hand in the formation of the All India Muslim League. A brilliant move by the British if the intention was to fragment India forever, for that decision, along with his reforms, would lead to the independence and partition of India and consequent massacre of 1.5 million beautiful people in 1947. But he was not to know. He died in his beloved Minto Castle in 1947, believing what he had done was right, he had empowered the minority and bought a nation into the folds of education.

From what I have been told, our family too believed that Lord Minto meant well. He had no intention of fragmenting India by his decision to allow the Muslims a special status in India. He had always fought for the underdogs, that was the British way and he had believed that the minority would need protection. My family agreed with that.

Personally, I think, bringing the Muslim League into India was a huge mistake. Lord Minto should have worked at implementing policies that would unite India across both religion and caste. Had he done so, India would not have been partitioned and neither would we be a fragmented lot, divided by religion and caste. This, of course, is easier said than done as the Muslims were, and I daresay, are, still seeped in blind tradition of exclusivness in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This has always led to conflict. Asking the Indian Muslim to change tack and join the Indian ethos would have been a next to impossible task. Nonetheless, I believe he should have attempted the impossible for didn’t the Crown of England do just that, attempt the impossible and conquer the world?

  Laying the foundation of Minto Hall. 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Humans Really Know When Elephants Attack?

A friend driving us in the ‘Tarangire-Manyara’ Corridor where he owns a camp!

Do humans really know when or why elephants attack?

The answer is no. I have heard many an expert claim that he can read an elephant’s mind but I know, deep inside his heart is thudding, when the elephant charges. The truth is that no matter who or where, whether one is guiding in a vehicle or on foot, whether one has spent three weeks in the bush or three decades, the answer remains the same, No. Like human’s and every other animal in the world, elephants too, both in the distant and near past, have experiences that mould them, that effect their behavior and form their character. That is why when an elephant is subjected to a stimulus, it reacts in a manner unique to that individual. At the risk of repetition, it must be stated that every elephant has a character of its own and no human will ever know what that is. The one crucial aspect that trained guides take into consideration, when driving in the bush, is an exit plan. It’s inbuilt in our system to always have an exit plan, especially in elephant and buffalo country.

It’s true that the longer you spend with elephants the more you can guess what their reaction will be to a particular stimulus. With experience you tend to predict their reaction and take relevant action in time. Head up, head down, tail up, tail down, low rumble or shrill scream are all clues of the animal trying to tell us something. Subconsciously, guides put all these symptoms together and then take calculated action. Action which is always a calculated guess for one never knows when the animal will behave in an unexpected manner. Unexpected as it does not fit in with the normal mould of elephant behaviour. Once the guide is committed to his decision, he hopes that the percentages are with him. More often than not, they are. When I train our guides, I always insist that all animals be given respectful distance and that every guide have an exit plan when things go wrong and the animal does something different. The ways of the bush are quite amazingly unpredictable, they beat the odds in the long run and when the animal does something extra ordinary, the untrained guide often finds himself praying hard.

Add to this the need to please the guest, a photo of a charging a elephant dust flying or even an unarmed expert trying to impress the camera for social media, taking on a charging elephant on foot and we have a situation where more and more animals are subjected to uncalled for harassment and unnecassary risks are taken. We at Royal Migration Camp frown on such practices and believe that our imprint in the wilds must be minimal and the disturbance to wildlife as negligible as possible.

Between Ally, Shaaz, Sangeeta & I, and our guides we have a joint experience of over a hundred and fifty years handling ourselves in the wilderness. We often discuss these experiences and always end our training with two very clear unanimoius agreements; (a) Always respect the animal (b) Never take wildlife for granted.

The Arrival of the Railways – Circa 1800

 The First Train Going to Bhopal

German East Africa (GEA) was far larger than Tanzania. It included present-day Barundi, Rwanda and the mainland of Tanzania. GEA’s was over 994,000 square kilometres, nearly three times the size of present-day Germany, and double the area of Germany then. Much like the East India Company, the German East Africa Company first took roots in the region and in the guise of expanding the German Empire in the Africa Great Lakes region, ostensibly to fight slavery and the slave trade. With this in mind the army was sent in to quell a revolt against the German East Africa Company in late 1880.  the German army was sent in to put down a revolt.

Slavery was never formally abolished, and most colonies preferred instead to curtail the production of new “recruits” and regulate the existing slaving business. It was a profitable venture and they would need fresh supply not just of slaves but also of white gold (ivory) and the immense minerals that lay in central Africa. Trade would benefit but only if they could get into the heart of Africa, to the great lakes, before the British. Gold mining in Tanzania dates back to the German colonial period, beginning with gold discoveries near Lake Victoria  in 1894. The Kironda-Goldminen-Gesellschaft established one of the first gold mines in the colony, theSekenke Gold Mine began operation in 1909 after the finding of gold there in 1907. The Germans knew that a railway was needed to feed the system.

It was around this time that the British too were planning to get to cut across inhospitable tribal lands and put a black snake through the very portals of Maasailand. They started to build the railroad from Mombasa, through Tsavo and up to Kisumu, on the banks of present day Lake Victoria. Whoever got to the great lake would control Central Africa and the German’s knew that.

GEA started the Usambara Railway in 1888 in the race to get to the heartland of Africa. The aim was to connect the Port of Tanga to Lake Victoria passing south of the Usambara Mountains. The 3 ft 3 38 inch gauge was chosen. Due to undercapitalization the company had to be taken over by the state in 1899. Thereafter the line was run by the Ostafrikanische Eisenbahngesellschaft (East African Railway Cooperation), a company which had been created to build and operate the Tanganyika Central Line from Dar-es-Salaam to Kigoma. The track reached Moshi on 26 September 1911 and traffic on the whole line commenced in October of  1911. The final link to the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika was completed in July 1914 and was cause for a huge and festive celebration in the capital. Within no time with absolute German precision, harbor facilities were built or improved with electrical cranes, with rail access and warehouses. Wharves were remodeled at Tanga, Bagamoyo, and Lindi.

Dar es Salaam became the showcase city of all of tropical Africa.

The Bhopal Station – Receiving the First Train on 18th of Nov. 1882

Meanwhile in Bhopal too, a railway was planned and implanted in the 1800’s.

Her Highness Qudsia Begum the Ruler of Bhopal (1819-37) negotiated a railway line through Bhopal in Central India and provided funds from her personal account as distinct from state funds for the construction of part of the railway.Her daughter HH Sikander Jehan Begum the Ruler of Bhopal (1847-68) took the idea forward, and conceived the building of a railway line that linked Bhopal to the national grid. Both the Begum’s had recognized the importance of the railway connection for their State and spent private sums of money to help build the railway. This was a far-sighted move, strongly supported by the Resident, Sir Henry Daly, as the railway junction was virtually a cross-road strategically placed in the center of an economically thriving colony. It would bring prosperity and importance to Bhopal. It would connect India from north to south and from east to west. Trade would flourish and it would ease the movement of troops. Sikander Jehan’s dream of a railway line in Bhopal was realized several years after her death and even Qudsia, the lean old dowager died two years before the first locomotive steamed into Bhopal on 18th November 1882, during the reign of Her Highness Begum Shahjehan the Ruler of Bhopal (1844-60 & 1868-1901).

The town of Bhopal expanded to receive the railway and became an important economic cross-road for India with the railway station becoming a hub of activity with engineers, maintenance crew, station masters and lines men, many of them Indian Christians, forming a colony of expatriates and adding color and variety to Bhopal’s ethnic and cultural kaleidoscope. Successive rulers of Bhopal enjoyed the privileges of the railways,

His Highness Hamidullah Khan the Nawab of Bhopal  (1894-1960) was provided with an additional compensation of Rs. five lakhs per annum from the Indian government to maintain his private train and the railway community in Bhopal.

As youngsters we would travel to Delhi in our train and at the wedding of my uncle, Nawab MAK Pataudi, part of the baraat, us included, stayed in the Bhopal train with its own kitchen and pantry and staff quarters. It was immensely luxurious and pleasurable.

To me it was fascinating to read the many challenges that the Railway faced in Tanzania and India. Both terrains were difficult, a vast wilderness filled with all kinds of predators took its toll yet in the end the need to connect the world of trade and to ensure quick transport of troops outweighed all other considerations and the railway was constructed with great speed.

Nawabzada Saad bin Jung

The Cricket Tree

I have been fighting hard to vanquish the lopsided theory espoused by today’s cricketers that ‘I know more cricket than you because I have played more than you.’ Thats utter rubbish. All three in the picture above (Grandfather, uncle and I) played the game as amateurs, for the love of the sport. The question was never am I a bigger player than another, it was always about playing a sport in its truest spirit, about living life in its truest spirit. 

My grandfather Nawab IAK Pataudi got a hundred on debut playing for England against Australia. He disagreed with Jardine on ‘Bodyline’ and walked out of the team. He believed cricket was a sport, a unifier and not a war to be fought and won at any cost, He refused to sacrifice the spirit of the game.He never played for England again but came back to India and captained India.

My uncle, the one eyed genius MAK Pataudi, always walked when he got a snick. to him too it was about playing the game in its truest spirit. He did exactly that all his life.

When i started playing cricket i realized the only thing that was missing from the sport, especially in Hyderabad dressing room, was this spirit. The spirit of a team, the spirit of a mate for whom i would give my life, the spirit of playing for my state, the spirit of being an amateur cricketer who loved the game to death. I had heard stories about my grandfather from Lalaji (Lala Amarnatah) and wanted to be him, i would hide behind curtains and listen to my uncle and MLK Jaisimha and others speak of both the ladies and the game of cricket that they loved so much. I wanted to play that cricket and not any other. And i must say that my playing for Haryana, after my extended illness, did give me that satisfaction, albeit for a short time. That dressing room was so perfect. That team was so lovely to be a part of. I remember playing a match at Faridabad. Kapil Dev was also with us. He had a muscle pull and was in discomfort. He knew that i hated fielding and loved my time in the slips, talking crap with Salim our keeper. he hobbled over to Mid off till I realized what was happening and forced him to stand in slips and rest but not before i hugged him in the field out of sheer affection and immense respect, for not only a great player, but a wonderful human and a friend. That was the cricket that I had heard of hiding behind the curtains and i am so lucky that i got to see it with some amazing people.

The cricket tree is a statement. It states that all cricketers are one. I would never compare myself to a genius like Tiger Pataudi if one was comparing, but this is not about comparison. Its about the spirit of cricket in our blood. Its about love for a beautiful sport and how, we as a family, were able to take that love down three generations. I wish the youngsters of today would learn from this but they won’t. the professional in them won’t let them. And that saddens me.

Even at the Royal Migration Camp one thing that both my wife and I have tried to install is the true spirit of safari. We are working hard to make sure that we retain the romance on safari, else it would useless asking you to spend time with us in the African bush. I do hope that when you come and stay with us, you will feel the true spirit of being in the bush. Till then stay safe.

 

 

Finding Anania – Circa 2012

Anania manning the lounge!

How we found him, came by him, I am yet to learn but there he was standing in front of us and we didn’t recognize him. True. At first we had no clue who he was or just how talented and loyal he could be.

We were packing camp at Arusha on our way to Seronera, that’s when both Sangee and I first noticed him. He meant little to me then, till i saw the way he held himself. Proud and humble. Polite and confident. Ally Kea informed me that he would be part of our team at Seronera, working under Captain David. He was hired as outside help, a maintenance and setup man.

The advance truck left a day earlier to get the permits sorted and unload. We arrived the next day and started to set up camp.

That’s when i really noticed Anania in a service industry way. His demeanor was perfect to be out in front manning the lounge and the dining tents. His training started, not that he needed much as he was a natural.

Anania has become an integral part of our camp ever since. He was there when the buffalo rolled in uninvited and for the lion charge. He was there as the elephants drifted into camp and when the rhino tripped over a rope.

Finding trained staff that are used to the needs of the service industry is tough in both rural India and in far flung places of Tanzania. The “Colony” was always packaged to perfection in British East. For centuries it’s been the British way. Training was also moulded around that need. Tanzania was German East where the German’s had a small presence compared to the British in Kenya. The majority of the people in Tanzania never did have the opportunity of seeing a white man let alone meeting him. Never having the opportunity to move on with the new world, they stood with time in their own proud and unique manner.

Most of you will not know this but Tanzanian culture is very unique. It places huge emphasis on social graces and on respect. If you do not go to the funeral of your fellow villagers, or attend their weddings and ceremonies, you can be rest assured that you will walk alone in your time of need. If you do your bit for society, your fellow villagers will give all they have for you in return, including their lives. The people of Tanzania trust with abandon and its this one attribute that pulled me to spend the rest of my life amongst these beautiful people. Anania to me defined the Tanzanian. Proud and trustworthy. Respectful  and willing to give you your space yet being there for you when you need him. There really is no challenge in moulding a Tanzanian to the eco-tourism industry. He is born and bred to serve with dignity and respect. He will not be servile yet he will be a part of your life, a member of your staff, that you could never live without.

I am sure you will enjoy meeting Anania and speaking with him when you visit us in the Serengeti.  We are proud to have him as our core team member.

 

Edward Prince of Wales in Bhopal. Circa 1921

In 1921 the Prince of Wales did an extensive tour of India. The future King Edward VIII was on a royal visit to India. He travelled to Bhopal in the private train of the Viceroy. He was met at the station by Prince Hamidullah Khan of Bhopal.


Bhopal State elephants welcoming the Prince to the city.

They got on well and went on duck shoots in the many creeks that fed the lakes of Bhopal. The royal entourage spent days together hunting big game on elephant back.

A durbar was held in Bhopal honouring the Prince but that was after he had spent enough time at Chiklod the private hunting lodge of the family.

Note
I do not hunt for i believe there is a time and place for everything. In my growing years that time was over. A conservation Law should have been introduced in India post 1947 and hunting banned immediately after independence. Sadly that didn’t happen and the wildlife of India was devastated in the 1950’s. Many believe we lost over 90% of our wildlife in that one decade alone. I was but a child but i could see the destruction all round. Pre-Independence, the rulers controlled who shot what and where. They knew about carrying capacity and severely restricted killing of any wild animal. Arms licenses were only given to a few and hunting was reserved for the royalty. Even the nobles would need a royal decree to hunt. Post independence in India, with fire arms being made available to all and sundry, with hunting blocks springing up everywhere, those that could afford to hunt in their quest to emulate their royalty, without any comprehension of carrying capacity, went out and decimated our wildlife till hunting was banned in 1972. Till date we in India do not have a stand alone and comprehensive ‘Conservation Law’. We have a protection law instead. ‘Protection is required when all efforts of conservation fail’ the sarakar fails to understand this basic assumption of conservation and has instead chosen to give India a draconian Protection Law, leading to severe conflict. 

 

The Inside Story of How Duchess Acquired a Top in the Serengeti – Circa 2017

Duchess before she had a top, being driven by the Princess of Panna in the Serengeti!

Duchess, our old faithful Toyota Landcruiser 4×4 especially designed by us for safaris was a free spirited lady, strong of character and frame and sexy in her curves. She was an able friend and would never let us down in times of need. Be it was charging elephants or snarling lions she stood her ground with contemptuous ease.

She was the very first safari vehicle that we had purchased and needless to say both Ally Kea and I were desperately in love with her and spent more on her than we did on our respective wife’s. She repaid our confidence with every kilometer that she ate up with ease. She did creak a bit at times but nothing that couldn’t be fixed.

She was the talk of town. She turned heads and people looked at us with envy, every time that we drove into the endless plains of the Serengeti. Elephant herds would part with respect and buffaloes would snort their praise and she well enjoyed their complements.

Till one time, in the short grass plains of southern Serengeti,  we came across this leopard on a rain soaked evening, with puddles galore and the colors of the rainbow reflecting the sun on every grass blade till as far as they eye could see. Shaaz and I were out with a few guests and we marveled at the sheer beauty of the feline as it climbed and descended the umbrella thorn tree a few yards from us. Close to us was a close top research car and suddenly without warning, the leopard jumped onto the bonnet, even as the researcher desperately tried to wind up his windows. The feline was only trying to get a better look over the tall swaying grass and calmly walked onto the hood of the vehicle and sat down. This is when Duchess lost her nerve and decided to scoot.  She drove us straight back to camp in terror and insisted on getting home to Arusha. She was terrified and would not be placated till a solid top was welded on. It makes me complete she whispered.

She is back in the Serengeti now with a solid hood. She still rules the Serengeti and elephants and buffalo still bow to her as she flows past. When you come and spend time with us this season in Ndutu, we will try and find the leopard that drove our Duchess to get a top. Till then stay safe. Take care.

Lord and Lady Mountbatten – Trusted Friends of the Family – Chiklod, Bhopal State – Circa 1948

Standing L-R – HH Hamidullah Khan Bhopal, Lady Mountbatten, Lord Mountbatten, The Begum, IAK Nawab of Pataudi

Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, born Prince Louis of Battenberg; 25 June 1900 at Frogmore House, Windsor, Berkshire, England.

In March of 1947 Lord Mountbatten was summoned by his cousin King George VI and asked to rush to India to handle the accession of the Princely States with the emerging Dominion of Democratic India. The King informed his cousin that he must tread with care in the coming negotiations, since the princes enjoyed not only a two-hundred-year-old relationship with the Crown of England but also direct treaty relations with Britain and these would inevitably be broken with the onset of independence. King George cautioned that the princes would find themselves in a dangerous vacuum and urged Lord Mountbatten to persuade them to accept the inevitability of the transfer of power and come to an amicable arrangement with the new dispensation.

Lord Mountbatten was no ordinary man. He had fought in both World Wars, was a British Royal Navy Officer and a statesman of repute, uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and second cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II. He had been the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command (1943–1946) in WWII and the King had immense faith in him which is why he was sent as the last Viceroy of India in March of 1947. Upon achieving his objective of the formation of the Dominions of India and Pakistan, he was requested by the India to remain as the Governor General. He did so till 21 June 1948.

Lord Mountbatten was a good friend of the both the Bhopal and Pataudi families. Bhopal was Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes at the crucial juncture of independence and Lord Mountbatten had chosen to give Bhopal a prior look at the general outline of the Independence Bill, even before the Congress and the Muslim League for he believed that HH Bhopal would not divulge its contents as his word was more likely to be kept than that of politicians.

Needless to say that all the people in the photograph above spent many days in the jungles of Chiklod, our private shikar gah, I daresay they were finding solutions to the many intricate issues that needed to be resolved with the accession and as my grandfather once had confided in grandmother, “My mind works best when i am lost in your beautiful jungles.” Beautiful they were the jungles of Bhopal!