Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Motorcycle Diaries

Day 2 – Walk in the Woods

I woke up at the sound of the knock at the door by Mohseen, one of the employees in the guesthouse. He came to invite us for breakfast. I opened the door of the balcony to feel the morning. The air was still chilly. The east facing balcony gave a spectacular view. The sun was coming out of the dense trees. Between those trees and the room was a very small stream. A group of swans was looking for the food in the water. Interestingly there were some black swans with golden beaks, which are hard to find. It was perfect morning for a lazy breakfast and tea with prospect of morning walk afterwards. But Alpesh thought otherwise and did not trade his sleep for the breakfast.

Mohseen was waiting in the dining area. It was a dome structure made up of wood frame and grass on the roof. While having poha as breakfast, I talked to Mohseen about the place and surroundings. Every year during winter, the forest department runs Nature Education Camp for the school children of the nearby areas. They are introduced to the trees, animals and birds of the sanctuary and also given lessons to conserve the nature. Hopefully some of them get interested in the diversity the forest is endowed with and come back to work here as grown-ups. That also helps to contain the problem of people leaving the bounty of nature for the urban dreams. One such group of children occupied the tents there and was currently out in the forest under the careful guidance of an official. I regretted the fact that I missed the chance to go with them but Mohseen informed me that the way inside the forest is well marked out and I could go inside without any guide. I sipped the tea enjoying the beautiful landscape of hills and the stream and set out for a walk. An army of guesthouse dogs accompanied me for the most part of the walk. I did not go much farther since Alpesh and I already planned another walk in the late morning.

I came back soon and took bath. While Alpesh got ready for the day, I sat in the balcony, reading The Power of Coincidence. He also shared a coincidence involving one of his pilot colleagues. Incidentally that man was a captain in Indian Air Force and was on routine flight on much dreaded MiG-28 when suddenly the engine failed. The seat was supposed to eject in that moment of emergency but failed to do so. The plane started descending at higher speed with high g-force. He became unconscious by then. The plane passed between two trees in the forest which had just enough gap to let the plane pass. It slide on the ground. At that point the seat ejection miraculously worked and he was thrown into a pit a few meters away. The plane exploded with clouds of fire spreading skywards a few seconds after. He was lucky to fall into the pit because of which he survived unscathed, without a single scar on his body.

We started our jungle safari on foot. The sanctuary is famous for its sloth bears, though we did not expect to locate one in the afternoon time. We climbed a hilltop to get the panoramic view. The rocky hills lined up on three sides. We also found out in the process that it was the only place around where we received mobile signals. While Alpesh talked on the phone, I climbed down and went deeper in the woods. The mahudo was the predominant tree in this forest. I did not see any animal, but butterflies filled my time completely. I chased the small and big, colorful and fluttery creatures to frame them forever in camera. It was tough job to do because the sensitive subjects of my affection fluttered away even at the slightest sound of the foot crushing the fallen leaves. In the end I managed to click a few good shots.

Alpesh joined me after finishing his call. We went further inside after those butterflies. It was already lunchtime and feeling obliged to feed ourselves, we turned back. The idea to shoot some of the songs we like struck us. I call us the Occasional Singers who need no occasions to exercise the vocal chords. Alpesh started with Rafi’s main jindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya while I captured the video. The next was Mukesh’s haal-e-dil hamara.

The afternoon passed in the rest after the heavy lunch. In the evening everyone was gathered near the office. It was time to see flying squirrel! I never knew there are flying squirrels in the world. The children were disciplined with a stick to sit quiet as the squirrel might be disturbed by the sound. The wait for half an hour yielded no sight, but finally it appeared, like a superstar turning out late for a show. I watched it gliding between the trees like those flying saucers seen in the alien sci-fi movies. There was a particular tree in the place under which we surprisingly received mobile signals. As both of us kept talking on phones for long, we did not realize that the dinner was already served. Jethabhai, the officer, scolded us gently for coming late with lessons of disadvantages of late night food. We ignored him though since we sighted lapasi, a popular dessert in this part of the country and hurried towards the food. We again set for one more shooting of the song – Mukesh’s woh tere pyaar ka gham. This one was hard to do as it was sad song. We had to change the location thrice because of the lack of proper lighting. But in the end the effort satisfied us.

One more day well spent. We soon fell asleep to welcome another day.

To Be Continued...

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