It is 7 am on a Monday morning. The December mist slowly rises and moves like a cloud from the forest floor as the early morning sunlight hits the ground.
The sun rays slant in through the forest…through those tall dark trees which form a leafy canopy overhead. The golden beams of light filter through the gaps and form patterns and angles on the forest floor.
The red dirt road bends around the brown and green of the trees before disappearing from our line of sight. In fact, we notice how the road for long stretches is damp even though there has been no rain. It is only after driving a little while we realise the path is still wet due to the winter dew and the Sun is simply unable to reach the ground due to the dense forests.
There is an unique stillness and peace about the entire scene. I stand mesmerised by the sight, for there is something about visiting a jungle in the early morning hours. If you keep silent you can hear the birds chirping all around you. Some are hopping on the road feeding on an odd insect or fruit, some are darting from one tree to another and yet few others are simply sitting on a branch above and soaking in the morning comforts like me, on the ground below.
For the record I am inside Simlipal Forest Reserve with friends and we have come on a 2 day trip to Odisha’s biggest Tiger Sanctuary.
We continue moving in our car as slowly and silently as possible negotiating carefully the rocks jutting on the road, so that they cause minimal damage to the vehicle and its tyres.
Suddenly we reach a turn in the path where a small jungle stream gurgles its way across and falls in a miniature waterfall on other side of the road. Ferns are growing in abundance around it as well as below it, giving the spot a nice tropical feel.
We cannot help but stop and capture a picture of this place. The winter cold outside touches our skin making us hug our jackets closer around us. A cool breeze has picked up and blows gently across the tree tops rustling the leaves up from their slumber.
We pose on the road for a click and the smile comes straight from our hearts.
There is no one else around. We are far away from the usual din of our city life. The traffic, the chaos and the pressure to adhere to various deadlines in our daily lives- be it at home or at the work place seem distant. In fact there is no mobile coverage once you enter the gates of the Tiger Reserve so we are in a sense truly cut off from the outside world.
I immediately think that how at this very hour people from across the various strata of society would be attending to morning chores and planning for a busy day ahead. Household tasks, commute to office and what to cook and eat would be on top of their minds.
While here I was in the middle of a vast expanse of a jungle standing amidst Nature and feeling contented and blissful. The only agenda was to enjoy it and sight as many animals/ birds as possible in our morning drive. What a pleasurable task!
As if on cue soon enough we spot a herd of deer grazing leisurely on the green undergrowth on our far right. On hearing us, they pause in their breakfast and give us a look. They are not alarmed; just cautious. Our camera shutter sets off in a series of clicks making rapid, buzzing noises as it tries to capture as many moods of our jungle friends as possible.
Still further ahead there is a rare sight. On a large sun drenched boulder are a group of jungle fowls basking in the morning light. They are 4 of them led by a solitary rooster who looks glorious in its bright plumage. They make a dash for the woods on hearing us; but not before the light reflects the shimmering blue, black and green colours in the rooster’s tail.
We continue to enjoy the beauty of the wild for some more distance before ending the journey with a breakfast under the shade of a large tree which befittingly is a Sal as that is the predominant species in Simlipal.
I find there is an innate pleasure to be derived from Nature and its various forms. They soothe the soul. The jungle stream flowing across the silent woods; the moss laden rocks witness to passing time; the trees ageing in grace and getting richer in their worth with each passing year; even the giant Barhepani waterfalls (the 2nd highest in India) cascading down in a rush; -all of them add to the basket of happiness which we seek amidst nature.
While returning home I marvelled at the varied pace of lives in the city and outside it. The image of 2 villagers sitting peacefully on a wooden plank at 11 in the morning and having fermented rice beer with chicken (wrapped in Sal leaves) and cooked over a charcoal fire came to mind.
I think sometimes we ourselves choose to make our lives busy and hectic. I feel guilty when I am doing nothing and whiling away time. There is an inner need to always feel busy and look busy. In this rush, time is moving so fast that timelines and the years are getting blurred. Morning comes with all its demands on the work front and by the time we take a pause the day is almost done.
And another 24 hours has gone from our lives, never to come back again.
Maybe it is a good idea just to take a break sometimes and simply stop to savour the various blessings which life has to offer. For that, one must not necessarily travel; the bliss could be around us. We need to be only aware/ mindful of it.
As I park my car and enter the house I cannot help but notice the red dust which covers the vehicle on all its sides. It is the same dust which comes from a land where time seems to come to a stop; yet the clock is ticking away silently.
Pictures courtesy Sovan Das.