a Walk to Remember.

Courtesy: Ricardo Gomez Angel

Childhood is the time when you take delight in imagining things wild and crazy. Like, reading Secret Seven and Famous Five and dreaming of secret meeting places in large oak trees in the woods…tiptoeing alongside Hansel and Gretel, leaving breadcrumbs all the way on the forest moss so that we three find our way back home… For a child growing up without many friends, day dreaming of dewy grass and sleepy eyed doe grazing and rabbits hopping underneath the secret tree house, was a perfect getaway from boredom. Growing up meant more time at the library, more books. Pip, Miranda and Caesar gave way gradually to Scandinavian noir. In came Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell. Now woods in the dreams turned cold and snow covered, lakes turning into layers of thick frozen ice and death lurking in the depths. With age comes the lack of maturity and the search for enlightenment led to Himalayan Masters and the woods appeared in dreams again, this time the cedars and pines dotting the Himalayan foothills and the sunlight peeping in occasionally — like a frame out of an Imtiaz Ali movie.

The only thing that stayed constant in growing older, is the love for woods, the smell of the forest moss and green, the love for sun rays that filter in through the thick foliage of wild trees. Favorite authors changed with season, infatuations and crushes blossomed and withered, physically the body grew diagonally and geometrically in all possible shapes and size, but the woods in my dreams stayed; and a walk in the woods remained an unfulfilled dream.

Landing in UK, at 30, for a client assignment was exciting; the spirit of adventure and recklessness was bubbling within. Autumn, my favorite season, in full swing, everything around was turning yellow ochre, red, pink, brown and a thousand shades unnamed. My friend and flat mate hinted about the sprawling park that’s next to our neighborhood. And what’s best, the park also has deep woods with walking trails. Work and a couple of trips to London kept me busy so the idea of walk in the woods seemed to elude. When the weather was right, the time wasn’t and when there was time, it was too overcast and windy outside :(

Days passed and finally came the last day of my stay. Google weather app showed sunshine for about two hours in the morn. Everything seemed perfect; this was the day, so we set off!!

Walking into the woods, I was like Alice in wonderland, gaping in wide eyed wonder at the magnificence of Creation. God must be some real wired data scientist to have created such strange permutations and combinations of colors and all unique! Your journeys are perfect when you have the right people by your side; people with whom silence is eloquent :)

The clouds were clearing up and sunshine was slowly filtering into the woods. The wind was cool. The ground was layered with leaves, moss and dead wood decaying. The old were dying in peace and the young yellowing gracefully. The best thing about silence in Nature is, you get to hear God’s voice; the leaves fluttering at the slightest wind, the decay crushing under your feet, a distant bird’s call, and the untold stories of a million micro-organisms which have been layered for hundreds of years beneath your feet. Then was the moment of déjà vu’ — all those years of living with books and characters reappeared live in front of me- the cheeky, cherubic Hansel and Gretel, the Secret seven on their secret rendezvous, Inspector Wallander talking a walk to clear his head of the murder mystery. They were not merely characters in fiction, they were living through me, all these years.

It’s a historic moment when something from childhood comes to life- there I was, standing in the middle of unknown woods, watching god’s rays seeping in, finally my heart at peace, and time stood still. Everything else, all engagements, obligations, duties, every pain in life, every heart break and complexity ceased to matter. There was no need to hurry- the woods is one boundless singularity. Nothing else matters.

“I took a heavenly ride through our silence
 I knew the moment had arrived
 For killing the past and coming back to life “