These Paths-7

The rain has stopped.

A shy sun peeps hesitantly from behind the clouds. I decide to take advantage of this brief spell of sunshine.

This is vacation time for my students.

There is nothing to do in college. To punch in at 9 am and to punch out at 4 pm dutifully, I make that long trip to college. On most days, I sit at my desk, churning out blog posts or scanning the posts on Facebook or reading Arundhathi Roy’sListening to Grasshoppers’. It is with relief that I pack my bags at 4 pm. By then, my body is stiff and sore from sitting. I look forward to getting back on my feet.

Today, I decide to break my routine and go to the bank instead. I have to collect my card. I decide to walk. I finish my work at the bank and as I walk back, I pause.

The road is a wide mud-trail, at an elevation from its surroundings. On the left, it looks on to paddy fields. The paddy has just been sown. There are woods on the right. There are steps leading from the road to the woods below. The steps are ancient. The earth has claimed them. They are overgrown with moss and ferns.

 

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I look around. A few people are walking on the road, but they are in their own reverie. I muster the courage to take the steps, praying that none of my fellow faculty pass by in their cars and spot me. I walk down the steps confidently, so as not to draw attention to myself.

As I walk down the steps, I feel like Alice disappearing into the rabbit hole that houses a fantasy land.

I heave a sigh of relief as I realize that the woods conceal me and I would not be noticed from the road. I drop my guard and look around.

I hold my breath as I take in the sight that greets me.

This is nothing short of a forest. Rows of coconut palms and areca palms, mango trees and jack fruit trees, wild shrubs and herbs flaunting pretty little flowers- flowers that I had almost forgotten, wild creepers coiling around the trunks of the trees, touch- me-nots that are not shy to flaunt their leaves. Worms and insects crawl out of their homes deep in the earth. It is rich tropical wilderness that surrounds me. I can only exclaim in silence. There is not a piece of earth that is bare of life. It is so alive! To me, each element of this wilderness is a precious memory. A memory from a childhood that represented nomadic freedom and the happiness that came with it.

 

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It is impossible for me to come to terms with the spontaneity of this wilderness. There is the feel of an invisible presence. I almost expect somebody to appear and ask me:

What are you doing in my garden?

I take a few breaths, overwhelmed.

Whose creation are you?’, I ask of this wilderness.

In answer, the woods stretch out infinitely.

My heart throbs with joy and excitement. Is it possible for such beauty to exist without the aid of some divine hands tending to it?

Here, it is impossible to differentiate plants from weeds. Every plant has its place here, irrespective of the status we humans confer on it. Nature does not make such distinctions. Every plant is in its full bloom. This is a world in harmony where the plants grow wild and coil into each other, but do not interfere with each other’s growth. These woods accommodate this wilderness with ease.

 

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A bright orange flower beckons to me from the heart of this wilderness. It is the wild pagoda. But it is hard for me to get to the flower for it is carefully guarded by the touch-me-nots and thorny plants that surround it.

Nature has its way of protecting beauty.

I wave to the flower and walk on. Butterflies flutter about, unperturbed. I feel like an intruder in a world that is the outcome of somebody’s passionate love and deep dedication. The trees blot out the sunshine, giving the feel of a lid that conceals an enchanting world in a deep recess of the earth.

 

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My ears awaken to the sound of water gurgling as it makes its way through the canal that steers a wild course through these woods. I love this sound. There is more music in nature than there is in the songs we compose. The water is in a hurry. It rushes past, to an unknown destination. I wonder about its origin. I learn later that it comes from the rain water that has percolated down the slopes of the hills yonder. I love this story…

Of rain water that trickles down slopes of enchanting hills and rushes into the plains.

In the terrains it has travelled, it assimilates its story. It is this story that it sings along.

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