“There’s nothing in new Nagzira.”
“Why don’t you go to Koka?”
“It’s about 35 km from here.”
“Anyway, Nagzira is closed on Thursdays.”
“You could go to Koka on Thursday.”
“Maybe you’ll see a sloth bear.”
We didn’t agree that there was nothing in new Nagzira. There were fewer animals; we did not deny that. Yet, New Nagzira is the most beautiful forest I have seen. A green forest, with sunlight filtering in through the leaves. Birds everywhere, weaving their way around all kinds of trees. That does not count as ‘nothing’ in my book.
We went to Koka anyway. Koka, an extension of the Nagzira forest, was a jungle that did not send ripples of delight through me.
Forest, then main road.
Forest, then village.
Forest, then farmland.
That does not fill my heart with gladness, the way dense, green, endless forests do.
We were out of Koka by 5:20, even though the safari officially ends only at 6. We wondered why, but said nothing.
On the journey back, we understood.
Open gypsy through the village: delightful.
Open gypsy through the forest: exciting.
Open gypsy through villages and forests at night: thrilling.
The sun set by six, and we had a one and a half hour journey back to where we were staying.
It was cold and windy.
The roads had no street lights.
We covered ourselves and watched the world.
Above us were the starry skies of my childhood. These were the memories of nights spent in the safety of the terrace on nights with power cuts before people started buying inverters.
Stars gleamed in the black sky. Sometimes, the road was shrouded with a green canopy. A handful of villagers, their heads covered, cycled quickly on the forest road.
This was not the safety of a terrace. It was not a power cut that would soon come to an end and restore everything to normalcy. It was not the cushy city life that let you taste a kind of sluggish boredom.
It was the forest, alive and wary. We were the intruders cutting through the wild world.
And once more, I experienced how tiny we were. In an open gypsy, we were like bits of nothing, making our way through an endless jungle in an infinite universe.