No, the sleepy pine forest of Chobhar has not woken up yet. It’s a bit unkempt and certainly not ready yet for a huge footfall. But then who cares, who bothers about forests’ rights?
After all, there’s a whole lot of workout to do every morning. Bird songs to listen to, poems to write, carbs to discard, friends to meet, lungs to fill with fragrance-filled air (that’s more than what you get at oxygen parlors) and bless yourself with good health so you don’t lag behind in your respective rat races.
The advantages of workout in the forest are endless. There’s surely more to these woods than all these things.
But one thing’s very clear: The state cannot leave the woods to their own devices, for that is akin to courting danger. Who knows what fire these woods are hiding in their bosom? And who will be responsible if the pine forest starts behaving like the Great Birnam Woods? What if they start breeding monsters and become a launchpad for attacks against humanity? And who will be responsible if woods turn safe havens for guerrillas? How will the state react if that happens? Douse it with Agent Orange like the United States did in Vietnam to flush out guerrillas hiding in its jungles?
The Nepali state seems well aware of the myriad threats the woods pose. That’s why it has an Armed Police Force battalion at the foot of the forest.
In the Orient, woods are also religious-spiritual destinations. Many of us may have heard about or read about kings, who headed for the woods when they turned old, leaving the reins to their heirs. For example, after the extermination of their kin in the battle of Kurukshetra, Hastinapur king Dhritarastra and queen Gandhari, and sister-in-law Kunti, the mother of five Pandava brothers, are said to have sought refuges in the woods and died there in a fire.
Not just the kings and noblemen of those times, even lesser mortals of this day and age head for the woods to take a break from chaotic modern life or to seek god in feeble attempts to liberate themselves from the cycle of birth and death
— that’s why, perhaps, you hear people greeting each other with ‘Bhagwan Sharna’ (Surrender to lord god) as fellow jjoggershuff and puff their way up and down in these woods. Perhaps they are heading to the Temple of Adinath atop the hill or are returning from there.
Clearly, they are in a hurry because the rays of the sun are penetrating these woods, acutely aware that Bhagwan is too busy to take care of their businesses. Even along the relatively quiet road winding through woods down below, there’s increased chaos, for the day has already begun.
And even in these otherwise solitary woods, as morning matures, mobile phone sets stop singing Hindi Bhajans appealing you to surrender before gods and goddesses. As for songs of the woods and the music of the sweet air, who has time to listen to them in this mad world?
Amid all this, a pair of legs (they have a will of their own) keep pushing up while the rest of the body rebels. After struggling a bit, a pair of glassy eyes find a Peepal tree. The rest of the body drives the legs now.
The body sits in a cross-legged position. Eyes close. Then a primordial cinema plays out at a hurtling speed and a not-so-keen mind manages to register some portions of the stream of consciousness.
Here are the sketchy details.
First, there’s the thunder of dinosaurs trampling on the Earth, seems as if they will rule it forever. Then comes the Ice Age and the giants disappear. In deep woods somewhere, primals learn to make fire.
The World War I breaks out. It ends with the defeat of Germany and the Treaty of Versailles.
WWII breaks out. Tuzo’s forces attack Pearl Harbour, dragging the United States into the war. At the Los Alamos National Laboratory, during a test for the A-bomb, the watch tower melts, Mushroom Clouds envelopes the area, a young scientist goes mad and starts reciting verses from the Bhagvad Gita.
There’s no commercial break in the stream of consciousness. The US under Harry S Truman drops Little Boy and Fat Man at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There’s death and destruction on a scale never seen before. Japan surrenders. Hitler kills self, Eva Brown goes down too. Allies win over Axis powers. The WWII ends with the Axis paying a heavy price. The British leave the Midnight’s Children in pools of blood. The Operation Desert Storm begins. The second storm sounds death knell for Saddam Hussein.
Twin Towers go down. MH370 disappears. There’s a trail of death in Nice during the Bastille Day celebrations.
‘Cuddly’ elephant and fire-breathing dragon start rising and signing. There’s talk of the Asian century, marred often by ‘Bhai-Bhai’ tension. Massive quakes rock a country trying to rise from debilitating effects of a decade-long war, leaving behind a trail of death and devastation everywhere. Lumbini, the birthplace of the one and the only Shakyamuni Buddha, is in an existential crisis. A massive fire burning close to the place and a swollen Khurdalotan Dam are putting it in peril.
Bhai-bhai find themselves in the Doklam standoff, much to the unease of Bhutan. Our Lipulek-Kalapani wounds start to fester further.
Mysteriously, the Lord is nowhere around. Perhaps it has dawned on him that the world he created with so much passion has become simply unmanageable. He is meditating somewhere in some solitary woods, thinking of a way to put this world to an end. Aware of this, superpowers and hyperpowers are conducting a frantic search for Him with the intention of hunting him down with their WMDs, for He is a threat to global security.
Suddenly, the stream of consciousness stops as the possessor of the body closing eyes beneath the tree feels sharp stings of mosquitoes and opens eyes. The monkey mind wonders if there were no insects equipped with proboscis in the times of the Buddha.
The possessor looks around and finds that the huffing and puffing crowd has thinned. Mobile phone sets are silent, seems as if some powerful force has imposed a telephony bandh.
Much to everyone’s relief, it becomes clear that another blockade is not in force (as yet), as a rebellious cellphone set breaks the silence and the male voice sings: ‘Ek Aishi Ladki Thi Jise Mein Pyar Karta Tha’ (There was one girl, who I used to love)
And the female voice croons: ‘Ek Aisha Ladka Tha Jise Mein Pyar Karti Thi’ (There was one boy, who I used to love).
Adam and Eve of Biblical times dance to the sad song with Adams and Eves of this day and age. Some joggers, including those on spiritual retreat, feel the pain, seem to bleed profusely internally as they move.
The wannabe mendicant leaves the sorry scene in a hurry and dissolves into the crowd instead of bothering to embark on a long and tiring journey to spirituality, acutely aware that liberation from the cycle of birth and death is nowhere near for the one, who cannot even bear with a mosquito sting.