There is a certain charm to growing up amidst trees, amidst the call of birds and exploring things unknown and the ever present curiosity it brings out in you, to see what is on the other side of a reluctant hush sometimes..
I have always felt that like the sea, the jungles have a language of their own. It is in discovering that language that the most fascinating stories are told.
But wandering into the forest alone is not enough, one must be ready for them, ready to be surprised and know somewhat what lies ahead. Tribes who live in the forests will tell you that the forest has a spirit, sometimes worshiped in the form of 'Ban devi' ( Ban is forest, devi is Goddess) These spirits are the guardians of the forests, of the treasures that lie deep inside the forest...the supposed Yakshas who roam around free spirited.
The tribal s who lived within the fringes would talk of these spirits, living a life in the nights, they would fight, make love, roam around uninhibited and to enter the forest at this time was to disturb their territory.
But during the day, you could roam and the stories would enfold if you had the eyes to see and hear. Anyone who has been in Indian forests will tell you that the forest is never deserted. There are women gathering twigs, peasants taking short cuts and it is they who will fascinate you as much as the forest itself.
During one such session of wandering into the forest, close to a swamp, we were playing 'collect'. Whoever could bring the most unique thing from the forest did and left it in a small clearing where we later stood to examine all the goodies. As we sat around it, a tribal lady, with a bundle of firewood on her head was walking through. She looks at us and did not say anything. Suddenly she spotted the bundle of small things comprising fruits like Guavas, some red leaves, a pretty flower, patterned leaves, etc. She put down her bundle on the ground and suddenly lay down straight on the ground to bow down at the heap, we had gathered. In her simple mind, this was probably an offering to the Gods and she paid her homage willingly too. Without a word to us, she prayed silently and went back to collecting her wood.
Even that day as today, it is the simple faith that people have, that is like a prayer. It is like an omnipresent beauty that few have and even fewer who understand it. In her faith that day, all of us lay enriched. Little stories of the forest never go unheard, they waft somewhere so beautifully and glide down as only sunshine can...
To the story that every forest carries....
( Picture from the Internet)