Like most people, the things that worried me about going into this magnificent rainforest along India's tropical western coastline were the usual jungle troubles: myriad creepies with their crawly chums menacing about ruining everyone's day, the off-chance of being mauled to death by some sexually frustrated jungle object, torrential rain, food, and of course, being bitten by a bastard of a snake.
But I went in prepared. Over-prepared even. My ruck-sack weighed close to 60 kilos (132 lbs) for a 4 -day foray into the enchanting forest surrounding Agumbe, a quaint little one-road town nestled in a valley of the Shimoga district. Everything was perfect until I reached the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station. A cop I met on the way was good enough to offer me a ride to the station and on enroute, told me all about the naxal violence in the area while simultaneously assuring me that camping within the woods was safe for me on account of being a civilian( the discrimination!) I was quite relieved to be honest, after all he was a cop.
Later, the good folks at the Research Station told me a story about an incident that had happened in the woods not more than a month before that date. Long story short, an inspector in charge of a police patrol combing the forest for naxals decided to take a dip in this creek he found and sent his boys to circle around. On returning, the patrol spotted movement near the edge of the creek which spooked a few boys who promptly fired off in the general direction of the movement out of sheer nerves, killing poor inspector saab in the process.
So, I was advised to stick to tourist spots and the temples by the good people of the ARRS. Since evidently, the training and the lack thereof and almost god-like levels of immunity make the cops a much bigger threat than the naxals. Now this was all rather disappointing. I mean, I had after all come all this way, even if to be mauled to death in a sexual manner goddamnit!
So I decided to do what any rational person would do in a situation like this: First, I drank. A lot. Next, I bid farewell to the nice people of ARRS and then walked straight into the damn forest. fuck it. If all went well I thought, I'd be shooting cops by nightfall. I didn't have a great camera but i did manage to take pictures of a few random things (I stopped using the camera by dusk to avoid detection by flash) which I will upload as soon as I can find the damn thing's usb cable grrr. (photo uploaded above courtesy: google)
Anyway, I found this clearing in the forest at around 2100 and pitched my tent in the moon shade of a giant Banyan tree. By 2230 I was fed and intoxicated. It was perfect. There is a certain joy in being completely alone while being constantly reminded, subtly so, of the fallacy of the notion. The forest, it forces you to embrace the otherwise. There is a toxic level of uncertainty and certainty that exist simultaneously and even battle each other for your reasoning. The trick is to fear and prepare against the certain as best you can and let uncertainty dwell on it's own.
I spent the night listening to the forest, I was eavesdropping. A few times, I could hear what I thought was a Gaur quite close to my tent. Maybe he wanted to investigate my intrusion, I'll never know. But what I know for a fact is that I was under constant observation the whole time. It's an eerie feeling, being watched. And as they watched, I listened.
There is something peculiar about this exchange that surpasses simple sensory function, it's an adaption, a mini-evolution if you will. And if you allow yourself to partake in this seemingly mundane activity, over time you will start to feel like a part of the forest itself. You can almost FEEL the life around you get agitated as you enter its domain and then relax with time's passing. But only if you're earnest. There are unwritten rules which reveal themselves to you, like layers. After all, the energy which is inside you that you may call your soul, your sub-conscience has been around since the start of it all (think law of conservation of energy) and has experienced this before and now, your soul is nostalgic. And if you're lucky, your soul will take you home. To your real home, wherever that may be.