It was the nth time I let out a muted frustrated cry looking at my mobile phone. I was tucked up in the Western Ghats of the Chikmagalur-Kudremukh belt with no way to make a phone call if need be. As one of those few souls in India that has not yet taken that wise step to purchase a Jio number just to stay connected in all parts of the country, my frustration was even more evident when my co-travellers were living the time of their life browsing the internet and talking over Jio connections.
I dumped my phone into my purse and whipped around to stare into the passing landscape. There was nothing much I could do rather than stare at the green rushing by in slow haste as our vehicle pulled itself with all its might over the hilly slopes. But mind you, there’s always a silver lining to the cloud. And just at that point in time when I believed my life was at stake with no mobile connectivity and a what-if-there’s-an-emergency wave, my silver lining shone like a bright mirror throwing my stupidity in my face.
Just as the vehicle maneuvered a sharp hairpin bend and started ascending a steep slope, a postcard picture came to life. All this while I assumed I was bored by the passing green; but now, it began telling me its own story. The tropical forests of the Western Ghats are filled with mysterious tales to explore, and here was my chance as a traveler and writer to do just that.
From tiny fern shrubs to towering Rudraksha and areca nut trees, interspersed with dense coffee plantations and carefully curated tea gardens, the forest was gently enfolding me into her arms like a mother does to her distressed child. I simply let her do it, forgetting my phone, forgetting my work. All I became conscious of was my own existence. Devoid of my city-dwelling banalities, here I was standing in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but wilderness in its glory. One moment, the forest made me feel like a no-one in this vast expanse; the next instant, it engulfed me with a deep sense of belonging to Nature. This was all the encouragement I needed to walk deep into the foliage, exploring the woods and me.
Finding a small clearance, I sat down against a tall areca nut tree sensing the sounds, smells and sights. Fears of snakes slithering by, leeches crawling around or some wild animal making a feast of me were pushed to the backburner with just that strong trunk supporting my spine with a power I’ve seldom felt from any job security or human. I shut off from the world, pretty much like my Airtel number, and became a silent observer.
Intrigued, I asked the forest – Why are you so enigmatic? I have a secure job, a lovely family, ample entertainment in the city. But why do I enjoy being in your lap?
The forest replied – Welcome home. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy what I have to show you.
While I was wondering how I was expected to relax with a few dragonflies buzzing noisily nearby, swoop… down came a yellow little bird (I later learnt from Google maharaj that it was a bee eater) and caught one dragonfly in its beak and flew up to a tree nearby. In a flash I pulled out my camera and zoomed in to see what it was doing, and just as I focused it went… swat. The little bird smashed the dragonfly to death in one lethal stroke and swallowed it. Wow! A precision that can cause envy to a butcher.
As I was panning out the camera soaking in what I just saw, a perfectly contrasting blue to the yellow came into view. Beak widely opened and singing shrilly, here was a pretty blue thrush whistling away full-throated with a quivering beak. Its call was answered from deep within the forest. The thrush called back almost wanting to reassure the call was for it, and the response returned in the same tone. My blue friend then stretched out its tail and took to the air disappearing like a dot of sky within the green.
An uneventful hour followed after which I decided to walk deeper into the woods towards a waterfall I was told I would find here. The ground played peekaboo with my feet from behind creepers and vines growing thick and lush on the earth. A thick branch made for a trekking stick showing me the best next step. Multi-tasking in my everyday life is chaotic. Here, multi-tasking seemed a pleasure. One part of my acoustic senses searched for that signal of crashing waters, while another part kept my instincts to stay away from any form of danger from the unknown on high alert. And that’s when it hit me hard – the inconsequence of my material accomplishments in the face of being amid the abundance of nature. As a reward for this realization, Nature smiled at me by bringing into view a silvery flow of water that was taming the ragged sides of the rocky hills and twinkling gloriously at its successful journey with a thousand diamonds of sunlight shards.
No elevators, no steps. Here was Nature challenging me to climb down mossy, slippery boulders to reach a different level of her pristinity. After careful steps, a few slips and instinct coming to the fore again, I finally reached a clear pool swirling calmly around huge boulders, teasing the rocks and slipping away into the deeper reaches of the forests. While it swirled and flowed away, there were hundreds of fish gently playing around, moss from the boulders craning their necks to reach above the waters, and somewhere near the rocky banks there were tiny turtles wobbling in and out. Each lived their own life unintimidated by the towering trees or thick foliage. Yet they lived in harmony. The crashing waterfall which was a feast to my senses meant nothing to these creatures because it was always a part of their existence. The shrill call of birds probably didn’t even catch the attention of these creatures, just like how the noise of traffic ceases to irritate the ears of us city dwellers. Yet, this shrill has a music, and the quietitude of the forest has an echo that fills my ears with heightened conscience.
Sitting on one boulder in the middle of these gently swirling waters, I looked up and wondered. A few seconds ago these same waters were crashing against the rocky hill like a force to reckon with. The next minute it was teasing the boulders below with unparalleled composure.
Doesn’t this behavior remind us of our own selves. Where we care, we are tough when needed, and once things are righted, we turn into our naturally compassionate selves. It’s the way Nature intended each one of us to be. Strong when needed, teasing and fun when all is hunky dory, and calm and composed to reflect and continue doing what’s right and instinctively natural. And once these three states are achieved, we must flow on like these waters to explore ourselves and the reason for our being.
This column was published in the February-March 2018 edition of Gyan Vitaranam. The featured image is copyrighted to the author.