From the heart of wilderness

It was evening. 15-year old Swathi, my neighbour, was clicking pictures in my garden. My garden was now a sanctuary of birds. Swathi would spend hours clicking these birds. By now, she had a compilation of pictures that could easily find themselves into the pages of a wild life magazine. It was impossible to believe that these pictures were clicked in a garden, and not in the woods.




I love the way this branch twists randomly“, Swathi observed.

I looked at the branch she was pointing to. It was so out of order. In that twist, there was the spirit of wilderness.

I looked at the canvas of my garden. The bougainvillea was now a little tree, in full bloom. The little plant with pretty yellow flowers, that had once almost perished, had also grown into a tree now. The Alamanda had grown prolifically, and it was now a wild assortment of branches that had matured from their tender green into rugged brown.



The sides of the little artificial pond were cement gray, with a mouth of raw bricks, and this gave the feel of a natural water body. By the side of the pond, a wild climber grew prolifically, spreading itself on the compound wall. Like rounded lids, the leaves of the water lily covered the pond, concealing a mysterious and enchanting world beneath. A fairy tale world with its fish mermaids and frog princes. A world whose tranquility I did not want to disturb. Drops of golden sunlight glistened magically on the water between the lily leaves.


Swathi sighed. She has always longed for a garden that gives her the feel of being at the heart of nature, its tranquility undisturbed. She spoke aloud her thoughts:

“I love your garden. It gives me the feel of an old park where I can sit under a tree and click the birds and butterflies. I tell my mother that I want a garden just like yours, but she says it is so wild.
The other day, I put out a dish of water in my garden, but the birds wouldn’t come. I put out rice grains, but the pigeons wouldn’t come. At last, a crow came and drank the water.”

Swathi is my neighbour. In my mind, she is the daughter I have always wanted to have…the daughter I revel in. Right from the time she was a child of eight, the two of us have celebrated this wilderness. Our conversations would always be about the fireflies that appeared in the monsoons, the eagle that taught its children to fly in the mornings, the bulbul that gathered tiny twigs to build its home on the lamp post, the cosmos, marigold and konna flowers that celebrated the summer sun, and so much more.

Our bonding was rooted in this wilderness that we loved.

We would dream of strolls and bicycle rides across the woods. We celebrated this paradise that was our little secret. Today, she has many more things to share. Especially the emotions that characterize the teens. Yet, nature is still the most dominant topic in all our conversations. We go about in the evenings, clicking pictures of the trees, skies, sun, birds and butterflies.

I hate clicking human beings. I especially hate selfies.“, she remarks.

But I love clicking her. I hide a smile when she says that her pictures never come out good. I love clicking her when she is lost to the beauty of her environment.

For she blends in…just as the birds and butterflies do.


Her words put into my mind the following thoughts…

Oh men of arrangements and systems!
What are you to know, of the possibilities of the wild?
You, who abide by laws and rules that bind systems,
What are you to know
of that little branch that decides to bend unpredictably
in a direction that breaks the uniformity of your picture?
If only you had patiently waited,
you would have realized the richness of its possibility…
You would have realized how phenomenally beautiful pictures
are often the outcome of such spontaneous deviations.
What are you to know
of the wild plants that choose to erupt of their own accord,
in places that disrupt the well-designed scheme of your garden?
If only you had patiently waited,
you would have learnt how the most beautiful pictures
are often constituted by imperfection and randomness.
But you have only been trained to tame the wilderness…
To cut its limbs of unpredictability and disorder…
To trim its petals of imperfection…
You have never allowed the grooming of your garden
by the hands of natural creativity…
Creativity whose natural spirit is wild…
You have never allowed your gardens the wilderness that it takes
to invite birds and butterflies…
the wilderness that is home to them…
the wilderness that is also home to the human spirit…
A spirit that we left behind in the forests we destroyed….

Oh men of systems and arrangements!
Do not do this to your children.
Nurture the wilderness in their spirits…
Do not chop their limbs of creativity…
Raise them to build the forests
that will take them back to their happiness.



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