Into the Woods in Winter Mornings - contd
by Laxmi Goparaju
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Her stories always revolved around catching a snake in the neighbourhood, or driving away an army of monkeys who were stealing fruits from trees in the backyard or a fight between a mongoose and a snake. Frogs, toads, grasshoppers, mongoose etc were regular visitors in various seasons. They had learned to live with them together.
Believing in that fundamental truth, I tried to be as obedient as possible. My prayers would be promising that I will neither disturb them nor their habitats. Just as darkness would set in, they disappeared into thin air nowhere to be found. Gathering courage, I got up and searched around the whole tree, thinking that their residence would be nearby. But none were to be found. The next day, I came back in the morning hoping I would find some clues about their whereabouts, but could not find any.
For a whole week, we stayed there for field collection and measurements. My guests or I was their guest is still a million dollar question. They used to visit us the same time every day, same tree. By now I got comfortable with their presence and so used to observe them with more curiosity. Jumping from one branch to another, eating what their hands could pick, in silence and discipline, not disturbing anyone. I wish humans learned from them, then their habitats would have not been destroyed so much. My routine of keeping away things before their arrival and meditating under the tree was a ritual followed with discipline and was synonymous with their presence. My colleagues used to laugh at me but I had a reason to fear as I was the only female in the team.
After that we visited Muirpur, Renukoot, Dudhi and other places as well. We would find traces of animals
like pug marks, scratches etc…which made us feel their presence. The silence of the jungle was the only thing which gave me satisfaction. The sense of togetherness and coexistence can be realized in the solitude of the woods.
Our work was successfully over and we returned to our destination at Varanasi. Upon my arrival, this time I was welcomed with a bang. Everyone at the hostel whom I knew and whom I did not know came to hug me and the happiness of my comeback was celebrated. Their joy knew no bounds when they found me back in single piece.
That night, in the dining hall where all gathered for dinner. The amusing part here is that one had to fight for roti or parathas as they were passed like passing the parcel. Whoever gets first can fill their stomachs first. Being a guest, I was taken special care here and had my round of parathas out of turn. I was very grateful to this act of my colleagues. I was offered extra sattu ka paratha, to refill my calories which I had lost in the jungle. Here one could feel the warmth of a mother, grandmother and all sisters. I was taken care of in such a lovely manner even before I could go to my home.
Though, I started hesitantly, wondering if anyone would like a story about woods and animals. But I was appreciated by one and all for telling such a real life incidents which nowadays is hard to experience. We are losing our forests, plants and animals to urbanization and industrialization. Will there be anything left for our coming generations to experience is a million dollar question. Wild animal stories and trees will find a place in books and videos only, will they have an existence beyond those pages and screens? ***