Hordes of ill-informed amateur wildlife photographers are making life difficult for tigers and tiger-lovers
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“Look, look, fish!” cried out the father to the rest of the family, which was marching ten steps behind him. The voice of the tourist, everyone. So what if this place was the serene Khecheopalri Lake? So what if there was a monk reciting prayers and feeding the fish in absolute silence? The tourist must point and yell!
Khecheopalri Lake—a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site—is one of the most visited spots in Sikkim. Nestled in a pine forest, amid fluttering prayer flags, rhododendrons and many cairns that line up the forest path, this sacred lake is where monks chant their prayers—prayers for world peace. How do I know this? I waited for one to finish, then politely asked. The believers come here and ask the monks present to offer prayers for them. But Indian families do not make for model tourists. We get so excited at the prospect of sightseeing that we often forget the respect a place demands.
The lakeside can lend you tranquillity within, that is, if you keep quiet! I had walked across a gorgeous wooden bridge, adorned by prayer wheels on both sides, to reach a serene spot. I sat on a bench, trying to meditate, when I heard voices approaching, “Look how beautiful these flags are!” It was a big family with shrieking kids sprinting full speed at the frontline, followed by relentless chatter among the grown-ups at the back. A hissing ‘shush’ escaped my mouth instinctively. My peace had been violated; the monk, however, seemed unfazed.
But the worst was yet to happen. In a moment of sheer disbelief, tourist aunty poked the praying monk to ask for a selfie. The humble man he was, the monk smiled and posed for not one but a bunch of pictures (because the light was just not right for aunty), before returning to his interrupted prayers for the greater good. Is there any wonder we don’t have world peace yet?
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