How do you connect with 1.2 billion people? In India, our local connections all started with Amit and Jessika Sankahla years ago, now a new family with their little daughter Siyana. Meet the Sankahla family in Kurt's previous blog. They have introduced us to their extended family, friends and so many acquaintances in local communities throughout India. Amit’s grandfather was a leading tiger conservationist in the 1950s whose work was supported by Indira Gandhi. Today, Amit follows in his father’s path taking Wildland travelers to his jungle ecolodges on our Tigers and Travels in India where we have seen many tigers accompanied by some of the region’s most exceptional naturalist guides and in local trackers.
At Khana Jungle Lodge, we are welcomed by Dimple and Tarun, Amit’s cousins who have been running the lodge for 20 years and host us like family. In between the morning and afternoon tiger safaris Dimple gives cooking lessons and teaches our women travelers how to wear a sari. Pushpinder, the manager of the Bandavgarh Jungle Lodge was hired By Amit's father 21 years ago and as such has long been part of the family. This year Amit and Jessika have just opened a new luxury tiger camp in an isolated side of Pench National Park where tiger sightings are high, there are fewer visitors to this park, and Dimple and Tarun have helped train the new staff in the same family friendly style.
The Sankahla family heritage is deeply rooted in the city of Jodphur, the cultural capital of the State of Rajasthan. So, whenever our travelers pass through town, as we inevitably do on many of our Wildland Adventures in India, we are invited guests in Amit’s uncle’s home for lunch where we have an opportunity to experience middle-class family life and some of the best Indian food you’ll have anywhere on your travels in India.
Jessika and Amit are dual citizenship Indian and Canadian, so we see them every year in India, or when we get together in our Seattle office on their annual visits to their second home in Vancouver, BC. With their connections and insights on the ground in India, together we are always discovering new historic havellis and palaces to stay, rural communities to visit where families open their doors for us to visit, neighborhood temples revealing the everyday spiritual side of life, and opportunities for walking tours down side streets and country trails rarely visited by outsiders where we make new connections with local people and gain deeper insights into the vast sub-continent of India. Don’t be surprised when we are invited into the song and dance of an Indian wedding especially in the marriage season of February and March.
For example, when you allow for an extra day to explore Varanasi, we take you into the heart of the narrow, winding and utterly confusing back-streets, often to visit a family-run traditional music school. In India, classical music study and performance is passed on generation to generation. And Varanasi, as the oldest city in India, has an especially rich music tradition.
On a recent trip to India our local guide took the Kutay's and Wildland travelers down narrow cobblestone side streets into a neighborhood of Varanasi known for world famous sitar and tabla players. They met up with Tarik, the head of a family who enjoys sharing their musical heritage by demonstrating their traditional instruments such as the sitar, sarod and tabla. Born and raised in Varanasi, Tarik was a student of Ravi Shankar. He has played in concert with Ravi’s daughter Norah Jones,and is now a master teacher in the community and concert international performer.
They enjoyed a private concert in their living room, first with some of Tarik’s rising young students, then the master himself played, and the highlight was his very young son and daughter giving their first recital to foreign guests.
When you connect with locals from all walks of life in local neighborhoods, staying in small family run boutique havellis and ecolodges, and you become part of daily life, you feel the real connections, even in a country with 1.2 billion.
Our India Yoga and Cultural Adventure is another Wildland Adventure that combes the quintessential sacred and historical sites of the north with an opportunity to relax, restore and reflect at a yoga resort at the Indian Ocean on the south coast. Including visits to traditional Indian homes with opportunities to interact with the locals and participate in their way of life.
Keeping it wild,
Wildland Adventures India Program Director
Learn more about our family-friendly Tiger Lodges in India.