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9 Profound life teachings of an Indian wildlife safari.

Have you ever wondered what life is all about? What is the grand purpose of life, of living?

All of us, through our learning over the years, gather a set of qualities that we subconsciously define as the hallmarks of a good person, the stepping stones which will guide us through life and its many ups and downs! I have the list, just like you do too! 

While sipping Chai on a frigid Kanha evening many moons ago, as twilight metamorphosed into a dark and hauntingly beautiful night, a sudden revelation dawned upon me. What we learn from a genuine wildlife safari in India are the exact same qualities that we apply to our lives too! It made me think deeper and come up with these 9 qualities, the 9 ‘shining beacons of life’ as I now call them!

It made me conclude that a safari is just like life, with its many ups and downs, joys and sorrows, hope and despair, ecstasy and misery!

Confused a bit? Read on!

I am listing the 9 qualities that we learn on an Indian wildlife safari, the 9 shining beacons of light, which when cherished and cared for, can transform your safari for the good, just as it would transform your life.

1. Contentment:
Accepting everything just the way it is, neither complaining nor yielding to the circumstances is the first principle of a safari. There would be days when superlative sightings (Read many tigers and leopards haha) that you have always dreamed of would present themselves with awe-inspiring regularity but there would also be times when you end up disappointed and dejected. Accept the way it is, for this is Nature's grand plan of maintaining balance and equilibrium. Nature is the greatest leveller, my dear reader. Be gracious in defeat, graceful in victory, and your soul shall never be tainted.

2. Excellence:
While being content with what the situation and circumstances demand is of crucial importance, this neither means you give up nor does it signify a half-hearted approach. Whatever you do, do it with all heart and soul, without thinking of the reward. Ultimate joy is in the process, the great art of being in the present. A tiger sighting is a matter of chance, we all know, but there are many things in our control which should be done with absolute efficiency, perfectionism and dedication. You can be the first one at the safari gate, choose the most dedicated and experienced driver, have all your senses alert so as to listen to jungle sounds and track the animals with the utmost passion and perseverance. This is excellence, which when married with luck, helps you in achieving great things!

3. Detachment:
One evening on the radio, the great late Ram Dass was telling a famous anecdote about the way you catch a monkey in India. You drop a handful of nuts into a jar with a small opening, he explained. The monkey puts his hand into the jar, grabs the nuts, and then finds that he can't get his fist out through the opening. If the monkey would just let go of the nuts, he could escape. But he won't.

Attachment leads to suffering, Ram Dass concluded. It's as simple as that: Detachment leads to freedom. Strive for detachments in all you do, and you shall do it with all heart. Go for that second tiger up on the hill or the mating pair of leopards down the bamboo grove, but don't let the greed and attachment toward achieving 'everything' consume you. Try your best, but if it does not go your way, be content. Be happy.

4. Sensitivity:
Sensitivity can be perceived as being weak and very emotional, but it also means that you are kind and caring. Compassion for all living beings, big and small, is one of the greatest hallmarks of a good person. The way we treat those that are seemingly weaker and more vulnerable, defines who we are. In your passion and commitment to strive excellence and go for the tiger, do not overlook the lesser beings, trust and respect them while treating them with dignity and love. Be it a tiny spider trying to build a web or a newborn chick trailing behind its nervous mother (seeing your safari car), have love for one and all. Kindness is the greatest virtue, and before you know, it shall be your biggest asset too.

5. Compersion:
Compersion, in simpler words, is the antithesis of jealousy. Deriving genuine joy and pleasure witnessing another's enjoyment of something is not an easy thing for many of us!  The jealous, they say, are troublesome to others but a torment to themselves. A wildlife safari indirectly teaches us to give us on this disease of sorts. Imagine you have woken up at 4 AM and queued up at the safari gate and then tried your level best, with the utmost dedication and focus to track the tiger, but unfortunately you miss. Your friends in the other jeep meet you at the hotel, 7 painful hours later, and they are beaming from ear to ear. They have been witness to an incredible tiger sighting as they 'show-off' their photographs on their cameras. This is your biggest test, my dear reader. Do you sulk and lament at your misfortune or are you genuinely happy at their joy?

Compersion is defined as “an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy.”

6. Patience:
Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a healthy and positive attitude while waiting. In failure and defeat, in sadness and sorrow, you have to be patient, biding the bad time with grace and dignity. In the jungles, when on safari tracking tigers, there have been instances when for hours at end we waited at a waterhole for a Cat to show up. With the intense heat and humidity, presence of a million flies hovering over you and serious exhaustion dampening your spirits; it is your patience that shall be the greatest teacher. The one who embraces patience succeeds at dealing with adversity.

7. Passion:
Follow your heart, follow your dreams and do not ever let the flame die. It is the fire in your soul and the enthusiasm in your being that shall propel you forward through life! Believe in whatever you do, and do it wholeheartedly, with great love and ardour! For me, personally, passion is the single greatest drive for what I do. Believe me, dear reader, doing 400 safaris every year, waking up at 4 AM every single morning and ensuring the enthusiasm and devotion does not wane one bit does require copious amounts of love and unconditional passion!

8. Empathy:
Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of others, be it happiness or sadness, hope or despair. Empathy does not necessarily mean you agree with them, but usually goes beyond that. Being empathetic towards other human beings and animals alike is a very important building block for a good and successful person. A safari teaches you empathy in many ways, all of which are open to each individual’s perception. Try it out for yourself and do let me know!

9. Resilience:
Resilience is nothing but toughness and tenacity, that of the mind and body. How well and efficiently we recover from adverse situations defines how resilient and tough we are! In the marvellous journey that life is, a number of difficult situations confront us, and that is when our toughness and persistence is tested. Out of suffering and eventual resilience have emerged the strongest souls, the ones who went on to change the world! Similarly, difficult situations would arise on a safari too and you would have to experience the pain and overcome it for ultimate joy!

What do you think of this list? If you feel like I missed a quality or two, I would love to read about it in the comments below!