A Pocket Guide to Bandhavgarh Phraseology

A large part of why I love Bandhavgarh is the people who work in the park as naturalists and drivers, and their unique vocabulary that is punctuated with imaginative and funny idioms. Read this if you don’t want to be as clueless as a kangaroo in Alaska on your first visit.

1. भगोडा / भगोड़ी

TransliterationBhagoda (male) / Bhagodi (female)
Structural identity: Common noun of an uncommon nature
Literal translation: Runner
Effective import: Shy animal (usually tiger)

It is perfectly natural for a tiger to be shy of vehicles, and exceedingly hard to even sight, let alone photograph in peace.  

Not in Bandhavgarh.  One of the exceptions to the maxim published above, Bandhavgarh is a divine abode to tigers that are inexplicably bold and given to exhibiting natural behaviour even in peak traffic.  

Intriguingly, therefore, they don’t mind doing a lot of the things they do in their daily lives in an intense and regular public gaze.  

Which is why, it’s not hard to understand when, once in a while, there comes along a tiger that behaves more like a ‘normal’ individual, betraying a loathing for publicity, he or she is promptly termed ‘bhagoda‘ or ‘bhagodi‘ respectively.

So when you hear the word, remember that the tiger may run away, and so you had better dial up your shutter speed!

2. कुछ मिला?

Transliteration: Kuch mila?
Structural identity: Interrogative sentence laced with anxiety
Literal translation: Found anything?
Effective import: Found a tiger?

Anywhere in Bandhavgarh when your vehicle encounters another (which is often) and this inevitable question is popped, you’d be natural to assume that the query is posed encompassing all wildlife.  But you’d be very wrong.

Saw an owl catching a mouse, or a python crossing a track, a deer shedding his antlers?  Why, that’s splendid, but sorry; it doesn’t count as an answer to this question.

Should you, naively, still choose to answer yes and proceed to expound on how majestically a bull gaur was browsing, the most likely response you’ll receive is one of righteous indignation over your vexatious and entirely unnecessary tendency to cause panic, closely followed by a sense of relief that the questioner didn’t in fact miss “anything”.

And you will see the driver, having had committed his face to a frown of disappointment upon your initial false alarm, slowly releasing his fingers from the ignition key he was about to tweak to directly drive to the site of the sighting they had just missed, to see if they could catch it on the rebound.

But chances are, before you can answer, your guide will chip in, dismissively declaring “Kuch nahi mila; poora jungle khali raha.” (We found nothing at all; the forest was empty), leaving you to either gawk questioningly or smile knowingly.

3. कान-पूंछ

Structural identity: Compound noun splicing corporal extremes
Literal translation: Ear-tail
Effective import: An unclear sighting (usually of a tiger or a leopard)

Saw a tiger slinking in the undergrowth?  Caught only a part of it as it melted out of view?  

Then I’m afraid you’ve had the kind of ‘sighting’ that is regarded with only a tepid “good for you” vein of acknowledgement, a bit like when your neighbour gets himself a nice new F30 330i but you’re happy for him only because you think nothing less than the E46 M3 is worth envying.

Sure, you think, a kaan-poonch sighting is 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.

4. खेल हो रहा है।

TransliterationKhel ho raha hai!
Structural identity: Assertive sentence ominously pronounced
Literal translation: Play is going on.
Effective import: A sighting is in progress.

If your guide or driver, in a moment of deep silence and out of a state of intense contemplation, ejaculates an epiphany in this verbiage, sit up, take note, and give him a free leash.

For the expression means a tiger sighting is in progress.  

And take a moment to acknowledge how wondrous it is that they call a phenomenon you take so seriously merely play, whilst they wheel you to the site of the ‘game’ in progress – incidentally merely another day in the life of a tiger.

5. रोड ए रोड

Transliteration: Road-eh-road
Structural identity: Palindromical prepositional phrase
Literal translation: Road itself road
Effective import: On the very road (forest track)

There is, in every line of pursuit, a pinnacle, a ‘best-case scenario’; a dream situation. In the pursuit of Indian wildlife, it is when a tiger is found trailing or leading you on the vehicle track, while you, in due deference to the spectacle, overhang from your safari vehicle like the rear wing of a GT3 RS.

But the sign of a typical tiger-photographer is finding frustration even in rapture, which he will do if, heavens forbid, he ends up behind the tiger, for he is then deprived of the splendid portraiture that is otherwise possible if he is positioned with the animal walking towards him instead.

6. पानी गिर रहा है।

TransliterationPaani gir raha hai.
Structural identity: Assertive sentence of a factual flavour
Literal translation: Water is falling!
Effective import: It’s raining.

Sometimes, literalism is the ultimate poetry. Uniqueness doesn’t always lie in the employment of latitude, extravagant metaphors or flamboyant symbolism. 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 upon you, but being familiar with this expression will help you eschew puzzlement at plain obviousness, and flash instead an erudite and smooth ‘of course!’ to show you’re in perfect tune with the local linguistic climate as well as the current weather!

7. काम हुआ!

TransliterationKaam hua!
Structural identity: Exclamatory sentence with overtones of elation
Literal translation: Work took place.
Effective import: A sighting happened!

At the end of it all – the mark reading, the call pursuing, and all the strategising, praying and second-guessing, after all the dreaming 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 striking a strong chime, your guide or driver may just let out an exultant ‘kaam hua!’ for it means ‘mission accomplished.’ And expect him to prefix it with ‘zabardast‘ (superb) for maximum effect, for the solemn effort has met its desired end, and right there and then, scarcely anything could be better.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sourabha Rao says:

    This is so unique and refreshing! 🙂

    Unlike some arrogant, self-absorbed wildlife-lovers I know, you are humble enough to talk so much about the human stories as well from Bandhavgarh. I love it! ❤ 🙂


  2. Sourabha Rao says:

    Reblogged this on Silkworm Slumbers and commented:
    My husband Santosh Saligram, a staunch tiger-devotee, is also one who is a keen observer of all things human and humorous, too. And this witty piece of writing is a testimony to that.


  3. Thank you so very much, my darling pet – for understanding my madness for Bandhavgarh and resonating with its people and culture as much as I did!


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