You cannot change into a leopard: your eyes and nose are not keen enough, and your circadian rhythm is tuned differently. The best you can do on a holiday dedicated to watching leopards in the wild is to change into a creature of dusk and dawn. The trips dedicated to watching wildlife are structured differently. You don’t get to do much people watching. You sleep in the afternoons, have a quick tea, and jump into a jeep to drive into the granite hills where the leopards live. You arrive back at your lair for drinks and a dinner, and have another short bout of sleep. In the mornings you wake before the kitchen staff has stirred from bed, sit in the jeep again and drive out.
You could stop for a chai in the village. One is full of packaged food, the other uses the LED in the phone for lighting the stall after dark. You largely miss contact with the people of Bera. In compensation you have the sunsets and sunrises. Away from city lights they are spectacular.
At dusk we found ourselves in a jeep on top of a granite hill, still watching the next mound intently. We knew that there was a female leopard in that hill, with two cubs to feed. We’d seen the female watching for prey. She didn’t walk around to this side before it became too dark for us. In the deep darkness broken only by the headlights of the jeep we drove down the 45 degree incline. We are lucky to have one of the most experienced drivers in the place. He told us that on the day we leave he will go to the town to get his second shot of the vaccine. The nurse at the local health center wants him to bring along a refrigerated box of vaccines, since she can’t travel that day.
Under other circumstances we would have spent more time exploring the houses that you see rattling by us in the video above. They are big houses for a village that seemed to have little apart from tourists and agriculture. Baljeet, our host, had the answer. People have moved away to the cities, and with the money they have earned there they build these houses. All are in the traditional style, with little verandas running outside, the inside guarded by doors and gates. The houses are large, but the village streets are still the same.
The way of life may be different from a city, but definitely modern. Many people oscillated between a normal city life and the village. Our host talked about traveling on work to Vietnam and Japan before returning to Bera. A train line cuts through the heart of the leopard country. Trains have to slow down and sound a horn continuously as they pass, to warn wildlife of its approach. Trucks and buses pass through the village, bringing industrial consumables. The tailor promises to courier a bespoke Bera jacket to Mumbai. Everyone has a phone, and the young are glued to theirs like anywhere else. I wish social media were subject to the kinds of rules which bind trains. The Family took me on a brief walk through the village, capturing photos of doors and windows, and the rangoli on the road.