Once upon a time, and there was such a time, we would wait for the postman to ring twice with promises of long awaited letters from sons and lovers. Summer holidays meant climbing mango trees and jumping bare bodied into the pond near grandma’s home. Long drawn-out conversations with friends on hot summer nights. An uninterrupted, unplanned siesta. These montages seem to be almost a relic from a world gone by.
Today, we respond with nanosecond immediacy to multiple e-mail communications-handling a reply to the office, a forward from a friend and mundane queries with consummate ease. Summer holidays are power packed workouts where our children zoom from cricket class to various camps, leaving them with no time or open space to play. Conversations now have four people sitting at a table, each of them talking on their individual BlackBerry. Siestas are now blissfully interrupted by calls from credit card companies offering loans and such. We are always on the go, go, and go demanding that one right answer.
Interestingly there is a sudden demand, for yoga and spirituality. We want our quick nirvana fix. A trip to the forest then, teaches us many life lessons and forces us to connect with ourselves.
On entering the forest, you realise that you are under the mercy of the laws of nature. Just when you think that you have understood it, it decides to change. Its moods are unpredictable. A trek on a bright hot sunny day, can suddenly turn into a downpour. The crescendo of bird and animal calls which you wish to record can suddenly stun you into deafening silence. That you want to spot the big cat, but the forest decides to show you five spotted deer and a peacock. That you close your eyes in despair, only to find a leopard watching you in utter disdain. For a brief period, the ‘I’ in us begins to fade, and we surrender ourselves to a force higher than us. This is meditation at its best.
The forest is a prime example of two principles. The first is, unity in diversity. Huge gigantic mammoth trees stand next to shrubs and thorny clumps of grass. Each has a specific role in the environment and thus there is no competition for one to emulate the other. You witness the web of life that scientists and philosophers have talked about.
The second law is that we take only what we need. I remember, on one of our wildlife trips being amazed to watch a tableau of deer, bison and birds drink from a watering hole watched by a leopard. ‘But why does he not kill them…’ we ask in awe. ‘Because he is not hungry’ comes a pat reply from our naturalist! The forest shows us that in times of need, comradeship can emerge between the most unlikely of bedfellows!
Often we feel the need to find or offer an explanation for everything, especially to our kids. The forest after a while lulls you into silence. Initially when we entered the forest, we found ourselves explaining and naming everything we saw. However, soon a silence descended upon the group. The children were not asking but merely observing and this space is important for them to make their own connections and meanings. It is in the silence that we slowly began to drift from what we know to what we don’t know. A new way of defining ‘knowledge’.
We need to preserve the forest for various reasons. Perhaps we need the forest more than ever for the reasons beyond definition. For the simple fact that they are a vast oasis that we can dip into, to remind ourselves of what it truly means to be alive.
Writer & Special Educator
Deciphering the ways of nature is like putting together a big jigsaw puzzle. This is how the idea of paper art struck us-to illustrate the article by Anuradha Shyam. The above picture was created using handcrafted paper on a lazy Saturday afternoon!