Friday, June 27, 2008

Reserved Forest

I just returned from a short trip to a farmhouse resort in a place called Dwaronda. It is a village about 20 minutes from the town of Bolpur (adjoining Shantiniketan which is the home of Rabindranath Thakur’s Vishwa-Bharati). This farmhouse was part of a non-government initiative called Swayambhar (loosely translated as Self-Reliance) which was looking to make the poor locals self reliant. I say was because many of the locals have become self reliant and this farmhouse is struggling a bit now. The cooking is exquisite. The cook apparently was a bandit at one point of time. Now he is reformed, and has been dishing out these fantastic recipes for the last 19 years. The place is quite charming, though a trifle dangerous this time of year because it boasts of hosting poisonous snakes like Kharish and Russell’s Viper. Apart from that it is an idyllic place for rest and long walks in the forest (a wildlife sanctuary called Chaupahari or the Four Hills) or to the river or to the lake. All kinds of birds chirping, a slow rustle of leaves all the time, a bit of rain now and then – such a soothing effect is absent in contemporary holidays which rush you from place to place as if you are in a competition to see more.

The fauna of this place was as amazing as the flora. There was a warning in the welcome note framed on the wall. I quote:

Keep your eyes open – we are situated at the edge of the Chaupahari Reserve Forest, and so there is a considerable presence of wildlife within the project area. We have a variety of foxes, hnerols (a species of the wolf family), hares, mongooses, squirrels, mice and bats of different kinds, occasional turtles who venture out of surrounding water-bodies, snakes, scorpions, chameleons, monitor lizards, though they are hard to come by, and a substantial variety of birds and insects. Even a stray elephant has visited us on one occasion! However, there is hardly any reason to be worried, as long as you remember to look where you are stepping and check before you stick your hand into nooks and corners . . .

I did not find this exactly reassuring. We did see a few snakes from a distance not too happy. But in winter most of these become theoretical, thereby automatically introducing the concept of less thrill, more fun.

Such places give you a lot of time and things to think about. This is the first time in my life when I went three whole days without reading. I had my books around, but they stayed in my sack. Even my pen and paper remained idle. To be honest I did sleep a handsome bit, much more than I do at home (never at work). But long afternoons and evenings, when you can’t venture out in the darkness, were spent leisurely, luxuriously almost. Such casual disregard for time is what humanity is forgetting fast. The watch was only functional when it told us that we must eat – with the stomach’s help of course.

Thankfully there were no untoward incidents with wild or tamelife. There were so many lifeforms that I was left amazed. From the story of the elephant to the minute frogs that we saw, no bigger than the nail on my little finger, it reminded me of Rabindranath’s song:

The heavens brimming with the Sun and the Stars
Life ever fills the universe
Among all I have been given a space
Wondering stands awake my verse

(Please forgive my inadequate translation.)

The insects which filled our room, the geckos, even the dogs and cats which were a part of the whole project, had a curious sense of harmony. I was mortified when one tiny frog died because I had stepped onto it. It was hidden in grass, probably hiding because I the monster was coming its way, if it did not hide I could have avoided it. Such is life. I was wondering if it knew death! If it had anything more than instinct! Our planet is brimming with life. But can all of it be called life? Where does instinct end and imagination begin? How many animals are conscious of being alive? For that matter how many humans?

I guess it is because we have such an abundance of life in our world that we value it so little. Humans, being conscious of all, show the least amount of concern in this particular matter. As it is the world is too much with us, more so now than when Wordsworth had written; so this blatant disregard for life, human or otherwise, is not entirely surprising.


Sucharita Sarkar said...

Nice to have a vacation when you can stand and stare (apart from that unfortunate stepping-on-a-frog accident) and sleep to your heart's content. Being completely unable to do any of the three (at least for the past few years) whether at home or on holiday, I enjoy leisure vicariously through other people's vacations.

The translation was very good, because I could immediately identify the original.

Aleta said...

" is because we have such an abundance of life in our world that we value it so little."

Profound and true, sadly. We see the life, the variety of life and we ignore the importance of such, as we take vital things for granted. *sigh*

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