A Semester in India: Ranthambore National Park & Rural Rajasthan
SAWAI MADHOPUR, Rajasthan— During our five hour bus ride from Jaipur to Ranthambore National Park, our eyes were opened to a new side of India: rural India.
With tidy farm fields extending far into the horizon, the landscape looked remarkably similar to the American Midwest. Numerous power lines — part of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to electrify all Indian households — hung above hunched over farmers and their families curating their crops by hand.
Passing through villages and small towns, we noticed a ubiquitous rural north India staple: cow-dung patties. Next to the road, on roofs, in front and backyards, on street dividers, cow-dung patties — cow dung mixed with hay and dried in the sun — were everywhere. Used for cooking and heat, the cow-dung patties are sold for 1–2 rupees (1–3 cents).
As we approached our destination city, we saw white domes peeking above a tree line. My mother said jokingly to our guide, “Som, can we stay there?” He smirked. Our bus took a left turn and bounded towards the palace. Sure enough, it was our hotel.
After lunch, we headed to Ranthambore National Park in our safari jeep. Used by the Maharaja of Jaipur as a hunting reserve until 1970, Ranthambore contains Indian leopard, striped hyena, sloth bear, but most notably the Bengal tiger.
Ardent safari hat sellers and langur monkeys welcomed us into the park. As luck would have it, I spotted a leopard 30 minutes into our game drive. While the Bengal tigers alluded us on this first game drive, we would have another opportunity to spot the kings and queens of Ranthambore two days later.