Quieter streets. Hardly any horns. A couple of camels pull carts laden with boxes.
I arrive in Ranthambore and breathe out. It’s great to step away from the big cities of India and into the countryside. The air is fresher here, especially early in the morning.
I’m back to full health after food poisoning in Agra. And most importantly, curry is back on the menu – yippee!
The first thing I do in Ranthambore is find a pool. Aaaaah, the relief of jumping into cool water after the dusty sauna of Delhi and Agra. It's like drinking a cold glass of fizzy lemonade!
The main attractions of Ranthambore are the tigers.
An article in Sanctuary wildlife magazine says that for tigers, the time is now three minutes to midnight (where midnight = extinction).
Now I am close to the wild tigers, I become very aware of their rarity.
On board our open-topped canter we come across lots of wildlife in Ranthambore National Park.
There are black-faced monkeys, hanging about on walls outside the entrance to the park.
A crocodile patrols the lake – just his eyes and nose are visible on the water’s surface. I shudder that I would never have noticed that croc in the gleaming water. They are stealthy beasts, that’s for sure! There’s a baby deer on a tiny islet in the middle of the lake – unaware of the approaching crocodile.
We see another croc later - he's hanging out on the bank, looking out for a bite!
There are antelope and samba deer munching on grass.
A pair of cheeky mongoose trot by searching for eggs to steal.
Loads of birds, including this Indian ruffus treepai – I watched this bird cleaning tics out of antelopes’ ears and bumholes – mutually beneficial symbiosis. How fantastic relationships are when Nature’s in charge!
I think nothing more of it during the safari – but later on the man appears at the rooftop restaurant in my guest house. It takes me by surprise when he arrives – I really hadn’t expected to see him again. I’m reading a book behind sunglasses, so I glance in his direction.
He fits fictional husband Adam’s physical description (tall, smily, Michael McIntyre-ish). And I know he’s a keen photographer from the safari.
Adam’s come to town, I think! I smile at my thought process – but secretly I am hoping it's him. Bloody rom coms!
But then the man speaks really loudly on his phone for half an hour – nope, this isn’t Adam after all!
I finish my food and head out for a walk on Ranthambore Road. I recall a conversation I had with a bright and very beautiful Eastern European woman – Eva – when I was in the Philippines in May. I met Eva and her husband Ivan on Siquijor, an island renowned for magic and witchcraft.
As the sky was turning neon one evening, Eva shared with me why her relationship with Ivan worked so well after 10 years together. I had asked Eva lots of nosey questions, you see, having observed that they were so relaxed in each other’s company – I wondered what their secret might be.
Eva had a successful career in banking before meeting Ivan – he is a professional sportsman and his job requires him to move country most years (as he gets contracts for each sporting season with different teams across Europe).
Eva knew that to be satisfied with her relationship, Ivan needed to demonstrate ‘traditional’ masculine qualities such as strength, leadership, the ability to provide for a family.
In Eva’s words, she was looking for her ‘lion’.
Eva also said that it is very important to their relationship that Ivan knows he is her ‘lion’ – so, Eva explained, she must allow Ivan to be her lion by stepping back from the roles he is fulfilling in their relationship.
Eva also said this – ‘to find a lion is really quite rare’ - and at the time, I thought yes, that's been my experience!
A lion? Really?
Isn’t this dumbing down?
Eva has chosen the roles of Wife, Home-maker and Mother and those roles do not conflict with Ivan’s roles of Security Provider / Main Breadwinner – and Eva says this is why their relationship works so well.
I’m sure House-husband and Female Provider works equally well for some people – but the main point is that the roles don’t conflict.
In Ranthambore, I think back over my previous relationships and I have to agree with Eva – the main points of conflict and ultimately why we split up arose from overlapping roles. And, I also have to admit, from me not trusting that my partner would be able to fulfil those ‘lion-like’ roles in our relationship.
The difference between being single and being in relationship...
I belong to the generation of women who have been brought up to believe there is nothing I cannot do. These days, even motherhood can be ‘achieved’ safely as a single female.
But within an intimate relationship, Eva’s words resonated with me – a ‘lion’ appeals to me. I love the idea of being Wife, Home-maker and Mother in partnership with the right man. And that doesn’t mean giving up my identity or personal interests.
Time to hand in my anti-dependence...
“I can do everything by myself!”...
I’ve had this attitude most of my life. Why ask for help when you can prove you can do everything all by yourself? Even if that means struggling through alone, feeling confused or frightened?
Travelling in Asia solo is teaching me that always going it alone – proving I can do it all by myself, dammit – well, it’s not always emotionally intelligent. It’s like the toddler showing her Mum how well she can eat, when in fact she is throwing food down her front.
Of course, trying new things and making mistakes are essential facets of learning. But I see that emotionally intelligent people can easily decipher when it’s better to depend on others for help, support, advice, encouragement, love, direction etc.
Emotional intelligence is in fact INTER-DEPENDENCE – helping others when I can but also admitting that I don’t know everything (haha!) and trusting other people to help me when necessary.
And the fact is, I am enjoying my new ‘relationship’ with fictional husband Adam...
Even as a notional figure in my life, Adam has already supported me in so many situations travelling solo in India. Especially with managing the amount of male attention you get here as a solo female traveller.
Yes, you could argue that Adam is my construct – in reality I am supporting myself – but at the same time, Adam is also something outside of my conscious awareness about myself. Adam brings qualities to my travelling experience which make me feel safer – he is, indeed, a lion!
A second attempt at tiger-spotting...
I go out again on tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park, hoping of course to spot a tiger or two.
We go through the Secret Garden entrance covered in tumbling tree roots.
An hour into the safari, we hear the alarm call of the samba deer which means there are tigers in the area. Our canter spins around A-Team style, heads full speed for the track that will take us around the lake to the location of the alarm call. We race over bumps, fly past tree branches.
‘Indian rollercoaster,’ the guide cries out as we career down tracks to get to the other side of the water. So much fun!
The search is thrilling. Everyone in the canter scans sections of forest. We all hope for glimpses of the enigmatic masters of Ranthambore National Park. I feel so much respect for the tigers, managing to outwit dozens of safari vehicles full of tourists, all of us with fingers ready to click camera buttons.
The deers are now quiet, munching calmly on grass.
The sun drops in the sky.
The tigers elude me once again.
Respect for rarity
I think about the elusive tigers when I return to my guest house – even though I haven’t sighted them, I have had my Ranthambore experience with them.
My tiger safari experiences remind me of Eva’s comment about the rarity of finding a ‘lion’ in a relationship. I agree with Eva. Fictional husband Adam is indeed a rare breed – but just like the tigers of Ranthambore, I now do believe Adam’s out there somewhere, simple as that. That’s a big mind shift for me and I’m grateful for it.
And just like the tigers, the idea of meeting up with Adam is now exciting for me.
I’m welcoming him into my life on my travels in India...so I believe, anyway!