Bandhavgarh’s human inhabitants are articulate and imaginative with word usage, so there are many words and phrases endemic to it. Here’s the beginner’s pocket-glossary to the commonest of them in regular circulation.
1. मिला कुछ?
Transliterated: Mila kuch?
Structurally: Interrogative sentence
Literally: Found anything?
Semantically: Found a tiger?
Somewhere in Bandhavgarh when your vehicle encounters another and the question is popped, don’t wonder if the allusion is to a lost article or that the query is posed in general spirit encompassing all wildlife. Make no mistake, for this question means “Did you find a tiger?” Saw an Indian pitta showing off its colours, or a green vine snake slithering in its svelte form, a savannah nightjar sitting tight or even a rusty spotted-cat sunning itself? That’s splendid, but sorry; it doesn’t count as an answer to this question, and should you choose to answer so, the most likely response you’ll receive is one of relief, that the questioner didn’t miss “anything”. Fret not either if your guide or driver answers on your behalf with a sweeping “Kuch nahi mila; poora jungle khali raha.” (we found nothing at all; the forest was empty). For it doesn’t encompass everything. At all.
Structurally: Compound noun
Semantically: An unclear sighting (usually of a tiger or a leopard)
Saw a tiger slinking in the bushes? Spotted the stripes amid thick undergrowth? Caught only a part of a tiger as it melted hastily into obscurity? Then you’ve had a kaan-poonch sighting, because in all probability, you’ve only espied a tail here or an ear there. And that is only an ‘entry-level sighting’ in Bandhavgarh; something to feel better about than not seeing a tiger at all, but nothing to bounce off the walls about, not out of any contempt for the tiger or the sighting, for each, however fleeting, is utterly special, but because most often Bandhavgarh promises and delivers such an amazing lot more.
3. रोड ए रोड
Structurally: Prepositional phrase
Literally: Road itself road
Semantically: By road itself / On the very road
The holy grail of sightings, when an animal in general, and a tiger in particular, accords you the privilege of watching, trailing or leading it, as it takes the forest highway to transfer itself from point A to B instead of off-roading cross-country. Tigers usually do this to enjoy walking on the soft, clean sand the vehicle tracks offer, or to patrol their territory and spray mark usual trees by the road, or simply because they can and want to. Splendid portraiture is often possible in these conditions, especially if you’re stationed before the animal’s front end and have no vehicles trailing it.
4. खेल हो रहा है।
Transliterated: Khel ho raha hai.
Structurally: Assertive sentence
Literally: Play is happening.
Semantically: Play is in progress.
If in a moment of deep silence and out of a state of intense contemplation your guide or driver ejaculates an epiphany worded this way, take it very seriously, and let him follow his intuition to its ultimate fruition. For the expression means a tiger sighting is in progress. Somewhere. And reflect a moment on how cool it is that they call a phenomenon you take so seriously merely play, and learn from their spirit of light-hearted approach to the most serious matters, while they get you to the site of the ‘game’ in progress – a game to the tigers incidentally known as life.
Semantically: Shy one
In most forests tigers are shy of vehicles, and notoriously difficult to even sight, let alone photograph at leisure. Not in Bandhavgarh. One of the exceptions to the aforesaid maxim, Bandhavgarh is a divine abode to tigers that are inexplicably bold and exhibit natural behaviour in vehicular presence. They don’t mind walking, feeding, mating, fighting and generally going about their daily lives in an intense and regular public gaze. And so, once in a while when here comes along a tiger that behaves more like a ‘normal’ individual, exhibiting shyness or a fear of vehicles, he’s promptly termed ‘bhagoda‘ (one who runs), and there have been a handful tigers who run – literally – away from vehicles in the last half-a-decade in Bandhavgarh, leading to multiple tigers being called this and much confusion arising out of the overlap. So the next time you hear the word, all you need to know is that the tiger is hard to catch, and it is perhaps better to try your luck elsewhere!
6. पानी गिर रहा है।
Transliterated: Paani gir raha hai.
Structurally: Assertive sentence
Literally: Water is falling.
Semantically: It’s raining.
Being imaginative doesn’t always have to mean employing poetic latitude, metaphorical extravagance or cryptic symbolism. Sometimes the secret of being unique lies in being literal. And it is just such an exactly literal expression that indicates rain, in ‘Bandhavgarhese’. Not that, of course, you wouldn’t know when this natural phenomenon is in progress, but being familiar with this expression will help you avoid an expression of puzzlement at plain obviousness, and eruditely flash instead a confident “Of course!” to show your state of perfect attunement to the local linguistic climate!
7. काम हुआ!
Transliterated: Kaam hua!
Structurally: Exclamatory sentence
Literally: Work happened.
Semantically: The desired was achieved.
After all the pug mark reading, alarm call pursuing, after at the end of all the strategising, praying and second-guessing, following all the fantasising at every other corner, fretting over misses, and playing this absorbing game of cat and man, once the stroke of luck has hit the bell producing a resounding chime, your guide or driver may just let out a triumphant “kaam hua!” for it means ‘mission accomplished.’ And don’t be perplexed if he prefixes it with ‘zabardast‘ (superb) for maximum effect, and says it like he really means it, for the passionate effort has met its intended result, and for that moment, nothing could be better.