Like most of us, I also had the usual image of the forest as picturized by the media in those days – as a dark, scary place that is dangerous for human beings.
As a lover of flora, I could never comprehend how trees and wild growth could be so formidable to the general human sensibilities. Added to this sub-conscious intrigue was element of ‘danger’ that added that necessary fuel to my vivid imagination.
I needed to know more but never knew how.
There were not many people then to talk to, about trees, forests, wildlife and nature. In midst of this latent quest, I discovered that my friend shared the same desire. Our discussions kept getting more and more exciting by the day.
Frustrated and disillusioned with our lives and the daily grind, we decided to go. Forest was the simplest answer. We just had to find a destination, chart out the logistics, budget for expenses, to get away from the mad world… secretly hoping we may never come back.
Having shocked our families and friends with our travel plans, we both set out to our destination – a lovely forest by the riverbank, nestled in southern part of India, full of lush flora and abundant fauna. Traditionally, women did not do such things and as two single female travellers, we were still not sure what to expect then. It was a great high to break the norm. Added to this, the unexpected and the unforeseen element of our escapade kept us ‘on-top-of-the-world’.
We really did get away.
Little did I know what was in store for me. I was told and made to believe that I voluntarily ruined my life by venturing out into the forbidden areas. Because who came out of the forest was a different person. I was born again. It was a new me.
We set off towards our destination. As we driving steadily, I could not help but notice the changes that were taking place around us and within us. To begin with, the roads became less and less wide, the ride became bumpy, the advertisements laden sides were steadily minimised, sighting human beings was getting difficult and the mobile phones lost their signals. Counter-balancing this receding urban existence was the growing anticipation and excitement within.
While we saw the civilised life receding from sight, we felt the growing dominance of one colour – Green. Slowly and steadily, with every kilometre covered, we saw more and more trees around. Apart from tall trees, there were varied kinds of plants in myriad colours accentuating the green growth around. And this was not the usual green we all are accustomed to in the cities; this green was the lively green, the happier green and the real green we seldom see.
With the greenery around us getting dense, we could help but realise the change in the way we were breathing. It seemed as if, for the first time in our lives, we really did breathe. After living in smoke-choked cities, the clean breath of air was delightfully unbearable and delightfully difficult for our polluted lungs to comprehend. We stopped for a while to absorb it all. We heard and felt the sound of life going into our bodies. We did not speak, but our smiles said it all. It was too precious a moment. And it was only the beginning.
As we drove along, we were welcomed by a gentle rain shower. We felt the coolness of the raindrops washing our fatigue away. Never before did the rain taste so pure and sweet. To this mirth was the added caress of forest breeze. With the breeze came in pure fragrance of myriad life forms. The smell of damp earth, moist ferns, rain-soaked bark, was all more than intoxicating – to make us fall in love with life all over again.
A modest cottage nestled in a lush jungle with food and all the amenities taken care of, was a reassuring start. After the initial excitement of seeing a new place, taking pictures to hearts content, what followed thereafter was magic.
Nothing compares to the sights a pure jungle has to offer. All the photos from travel magazines, image websites, screen savers, were being played live. Anywhere you look around; there was a moment of lifetime to capture.
For a nature lover, the experience is beyond joy, transcending prayer. It is total surrender to the aura around which does not spare the conscious and the subconscious. From captivating sceneries to breathtaking landscapes, lush trees to varied plants, wild animals to exotic birds, the freshness to cool, to the feeling of being one with the elements, there is a lot more than one can ever describe. Words like ‘marvel’, ‘splendour’,’ fantastic’, fail you when it comes to describing the essence of the forest. A beauty so virgin and pure, that it makes you feel stupid to have spent life elsewhere, devoid of pure nature.
It is not without a reason that one feels at home in the forest. There is all around sense of nourishment around that has not been tampered with. One can only feel ashamed of what mankind has done to these gifts of God.
To see the animals thrive in the wild is a delightful shock. Having used to seeing animals in the confines of city life in zoological parks, watching these children of nature in the wild, in their own home is a soul warming experience. From their sheer size, to their ability and form, one can feel that nature has its own perfect prescription to nurture, heal, and nourish.
The lushness of the green cover, the tall stature of the trees around, makes one feel full with abundant life. Each of the trees, with their thick trunks rooted firmly in the ground and their outstretched branches had a story to tell. For a moment it feels as if they are talking to you.
While some trees in their prime were resplendent with fresh tender leaves of different hues, some were stark naked but with wisdom seeping through. Some with their out stretched branches seem to invite us in their arms; some were trying to reach the heaven above in prayer. And some were simply standing still and tall with their feet firmly in round as a testimony to their faith in life, in permanence and in change. There could not have been any better lessons learnt here.
Sunrise in the forest is an unforgettable experience. To catch the birds in their hurried way, one has to be awake much before the sun comes. While the birds sing, screech and preen, they announce the rise of the sun and hurry their chores. While the life on earth wakes up to welcome and receive the light, the sun seemed to be trying its best to reach them all. It is a breathtaking sight to see sunlight sifting around and through the trees and making its way to the ground.
And as the sun rises, the life around takes so many colours that one can soak in. The faint shadows cast by the trees carelessly strewn on the grass weaves a dramatic sight around. There is abundant inner joy and happiness walking and trekking around. We go back in time when we were innocent – in admiration and awe. Like children we could drop our jaws and play around.
Evenings were spent by the riverbank, watching the bare trees submerged in water. Stripped of leaves and its bygone green splendour, these trees survive the onslaught of water every year. The gradient on their barks, left by the water level stands testimony to the hardships they have faced. From deprivation to abundance, they have seen it all. Yet they all stand straight and stand tall letting the birds rest giving them their moments of respite. And the gentle ripples keep lashing against the trees and the ground… this sense of peace goes on…
Every sight had a story to tell, urging to soak us in. By the riverbank was the atmosphere serene that time passed by, meditating over the setting sun. That kind of peace and quiet is not something we are used to. It was disturbingly calm for all one can hear is own breathing, loud and clear. In an instant you know that life and energy is entering and leaving your body. There could not be more gratifying experience that this.
The sunset heralded a new riot of colours over the water and land. It was a sign for the nature’s symphony to play a different tune. With flora retiring, the fauna went live. Birds seemed in great hurry to call it a day and head back home. Crickets and frogs could not have had a better chance to get a mate than now. In midst of this rhythmic stupor, we hear loud interjections. It could be a tiger’s roar, an elephant’s trumpet, a deer’s bark or any animal indicating its presence nearby. That’s when we shake up from our dew-eyed romance with nature. The realisation is a pure humbling experience, as to how vulnerable we all are to the elements of nature. It is simply truth in your face.
Twilight is a wonderful moment in the wild, when one part of life takes over the other. Apart from jostling the hunter and the hunted into action, the nightfall wakes in us the sleepiest of our instincts. Never before did we feel the heightened power of our senses, which goes beyond the five we live with. While the whole day passed like a song and looking around, the nightfall does shake us up to feel our deepest scars and fears. Though twilight always has a special place in daily life, to live it up in the forest was an absolute redefining experience. Maybe that is why it is called the sacred twilight zone and there is lot more happening there than we can possibly comprehend.
While our senses work over time to watch out for and anticipate an activity around, we lose the track of time. The nightfall brought in a symphony of sounds, which was a lullaby in disguise to help us forgive and forget. Along with it comes a greater feel. There is something more than the usual, around. A feeling of a sacred presence, a feeling of being surrounded, of being secure, of being comforted, as well as being watched. We sleep while our senses play around. After mother’s womb, this is the closest one can get to feel of comfort and warmth. Never before was sleep so sweet and comforting in this lap of Mother Nature.
They say life somehow finds its way. In the forest, I could see it all around me. Every living thing seemed to be resplendent in its own ways. There was no sign of deprivation or pain. Everything was in a perfect balance. So much that I felt like an intruder in that perfect zone.
To live a day and a night in the forest was like living a lifetime, every time. There is no end to what one can write. These memoirs of living in the forest are frozen in mind; frozen in time.
Every moment spent was an instance of unlearning the lessons that were earlier taught. With body refreshed, mind cheered, and soul enriched, we got richer. It felt as if I got back all that I had spent living all along. I was nursed, nurtured and nourished. It is indeed true that nature can change you. Like faith, this brush with nature changed my life forever.
We realised how much does nature gave us and continues to provide for us. We are indeed thankless mortals.
Today when I look back, I feel more love and respect myself. Every moment spent in the forest was sacred for every form of life there was sacrosanct. Every little sight made me want to pray in gratitude, like an end to the restlessness of life. It gave me the strength to follow my heart and the courage to chart my own course of life. Something about it made me fearless, as if I imbibed a little bit of the wild.
This addiction to nature is indeed an addiction to life and love. This experience was the birth of a desire to live.
Like all good things, this experience too came to end. We had to come back to our past lives – but there was a newfound peace and joy within. What we felt all the while was a real soul treasure; something precious and sacred to be preserved for life, till the end of time.
There were some lessons learnt and feelings felt. Some were loud and some were latent. Some were shared and some were silent. That…
- That life is precious.
- That we are all the same. That we forgot.
- That nature heals. We can heal.
- That life somehow finds its way
- That there is still a chance