There are always more in January, said the old man.
What, dada? I said, crouching low as I watched one lazily circling the boat, its yellow eye never moving from mine. A cold, cold mind, I thought, lies on the other side of that eye.
What dada? I repeated.
My uncle said: Muggers. There are always more in January. Do you know why?
I threw the left oar into the bottom of the boat, and raised the other at an angle, gripping it steady in both hands, metal spike pointing out and down. The best way not to lose an oar, if one was obliged to strike. I shuffled slowly in a circle, facing the croc, matching its arc around us.
The yellow eye blinked once, and the animal sank, leaving not a ripple on the surface of the water.
It’s revenge, he said.
Revenge? For what? For the floods? They should be grateful, I laughed.
From when it was built, he said gesturing with his chin towards the collosus that loomed over the open ocean.
I looked at it, the impassive expression on the giant head. Patel Statue? I asked. What, a hundred years ago?
Seventy, said my uncle with a tinge of irritation.
Yes, seventy, I said. That’s right.
Your father was working for the Efdy then. They had to move 500 muggers because of it, my uncle said.
He told me they had to do it that January. The same year it was built, he said.
Why? Mr Patel didn’t like crocodiles? I asked.
Must have been something like that, said my uncle. I don’t remember.
If Mr Patel didn’t like crocodiles, I am a fan of Mr Patel, I remarked, with my eye on another grey shape that had bobbed up ten feet from the boat.
Daybreak, and harsh calls echoed off the mountains
Pheasant making their report:
Too wary by far to be discovered
By a traveler stumbling across the frozen ground.
A lammergeier detoured from her upward spiral,
Hoping that we were nice juicy bones
And at chai time, Himalayan vulture, eye to eye
Stately, shiplike, divebombed by crows.
And we came down through forests of deodar and oak
Branches stretching away from the hillside
Pine needles soft underfoot and strong autumn sun.
Flocks of fantails worked unperturbed
Zipping with restless energy
Pausing only for a preen and reshuffle
Or quick wipe of tiny bill.
We turned a corner, and missed a breath
Witness to monumental beauty:
Hillsides in layers receding into the distance
Hard blue sky
And river tumbling over boulders
Left to mark the passage of ancient giants.
For the trek of a lifetime in the Great Himalayan National Park