18 months ago I went to India for 2 weeks to see Tigers. (My escape from my reality moment).    There were six of us on the tour.  Two couples (an engaged couple in their 30s and a retired couple from the States), me and a divorced lady of 70.  We were ‘cared for’ by a young, rather handsome, Indian man of 27 who diligently guided us through our tour with humour, patience and attention. (shame he was only 27!).

We were split into 2 groups for the ‘tiger watching’ experience (2 trips a day for 7 days!).  I was teamed up with the retired couple as we were all bird-watchers.

Now OK I like a spot of bird watching!  But this couple were obsessed. They had a “Life List” and were intent on adding as many new species to it in the time available!  The problem was they both had to ‘see it’ before it could be added to the list!  We stopped for what seemed hours gazing at some insignificant brown bird picking its way through the branches or grasses – usually almost out of view. There would then follow heated discussions with our guide as to whether it was a “white-browed, lesser-spotted brown thingie” or a “greater-spotted, brown-tailed savannah thingie” (rare) , or could it be a “bearded, pale, yellow-legged brown thingie” (even rarer!)  or maybe it was just a “common brown thingie” – in which case we’d already seen hundreds of them!!! The poor guide took all this in his stride, assisted them in their quest, spent ages consulting the field-guide (supplied by me!) and was patience personified.  His unfailing good humour won my admiration.  I’d have wrung their necks by day two!  Especially as the wife spent 90% of her time repeatedly asking her husband to look after her jacket because she was hot, give it back to her because she was cold, look after her water bottle, give it to her – for just a sip……….!!! And then inevitably missed the moment when the bloody bird was identified and so the dratted thing couldn’t be counted after all!

My view was that spotted or not we’d spotted it  and the fact they all looked virtually identical rather took the edge off what we were supposed to be doing which was looking for tigers! (It’s OK we saw five!  And on occasions at very close quarters!)

So, at times, there was a little friction in our jeep!  This couple weren’t really interested in the tigers, nor the wonderful surroundings. Their obsession had consumed them.  They hated the Indian food and so had to be given special meals.  Their only reason for being in the country was the birds.  They had to mix with us as we were all thrown together at meal times, the dreaded overnight train journeys and the daily discussions, but really they preferred to be on their own – counting and updating their bird list!!

My point is if we do become obsessed by something – never mind what – we are in danger of missing so much of what is going on around us. The broader landscape, the bigger picture.  Maybe, sometimes, it’s good to listen to others, to stop and take in the view from their perspective. And by this I don’t mean those who pour out their well meaning advice which usually starts with “If I were you…..”.  No it’s those odd moments of beauty which we can be in danger of overlooking or missing because of our own obsessions with our own quests.  Those are the moments to stop and absorb.    Because sometimes they may be seeing something which we would really love to experience.  Maybe sometimes we can miss the magic.  And that magic could be the thing that helps us to heal.

6 thoughts on “Obsession

  1. Frankly they would have driven me bonkers. I would have been far more interested in the tigers myself, and it seems they almost hijacked your holiday through their obsession. I went on a brilliant holiday of a similar sort a few years ago and this couple of photographers kept “setting up” their shots etc for what seemed forever so we all had to wait for them, all the time. Thoughts of murder flitted through my head but I managed to keep my humour intact.

    • Little did they realise how close they came to meeting a Dodo!!

      I couldn’t decide which aspect of it all wound me up more! The hanging around peering into the distance or the wife’s incessant whiny voice! I nearly grabbed her bl**dy coat and wound it round her neck whilst thrusting the water bottle down her throat!!!

      Maybe she would have sounded like a strangled duck as she went – that would have been one for the Life List!!!

  2. I agree with you. Obsession is something not to be cultivated, but one must be aware of it in order not to do so! I knew someone a long time ago who berated me for not going to church, and then telling me she thought I was hypocritical for saying that everyone was entitled to their beliefs and I was happy to live along side them. She said she was better than me because she had the courage of her convictions and wasn’t afraid to speak about them. At this point I was becoming very bewildered and wanted to escape. Her parting shot was to say that she had just come from her ‘daily fix’ of speaking with God. I was sorely tempted to say she didn’t have a calling but an obsession. I think she went potty in the end, as I never heard of her again.

    As to your fine holiday companions, her demise wouldn’t have been one for the list as they wouldn’t both have seen it! Not from a strangled duck POV at any rate. Maybe they are now languishing in an asylum where they think they are birds adding the number of strange people to a new lists they have created…

  3. I’m glad you were able to see the magic of the tigers despite the crazy duo. If I’d gone on that trip when my emotions were that raw I might have pretended they were D and OW and punched them out. I’m glad you didn’t do that. 🙂

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