The following passage presents my recollections from one of the best moments I have ever had in my life. I was at this 4 day session called ‘Moral Rearmament programme’ conducted by ‘Initiatives of Change’ at Asia Plateau, Panchgani, Maharashtra. Read this if you believe in the power of listening to your inner self.
We all lead a hectic life.
From daily classes to never-ending deadlines, it is extremely easy to get lost in this fast paced world. Every day, we struggle with challenges that lie both outside and inside ourselves. But with time, we lose our inherent capability to fight these challenges while trying to keep up with the world around us.
The moral re-armament programme conducted by ‘Initiatives of Change’ (IofC) was a welcome change from the rat-race that we are all a part of. It is conducted at a beautiful location called Asia Plateau –Panchgani. To describe the experience in one sentence- it provided us with an opportunity to connect with our inner self and experience the power of silence.
Our first day started with waking up early and catching the 6 am bus from our college campus that would take us to Panchgani. After an exciting morning ride, we all reached the Asia Plateau campus within three hours from departure. The first glimpse of cloud covered campus made us rejoice with happiness. We have seen plenty of cloud cover days here at Lavale, but this was different, it was as if the weather had a personality of its own! We were all waiting for the sessions to start.
Alam (our driver) was telling us about his daily life before we stopped at the suicide point. He was used to making three, sometimes four round trips to the Kolukkumalaifactory. That is six to eight hours of driving on the rocky terrain at a tardy speed of 5-10 kmph with frequent stops to let other cars pass and to click pictures. He was from a village in Tamil Nadu from where he and his parents would come to work in the tea estates in Kerala every day. Sometimes they took thirty minutes to walk from their village, small village problems he said, not like the cities with roads and highways. I thought about myself, spending an hour stuck in bumper to bumper traffic to reach the glass windows, the claustrophobic steel of my office. Well, this did look like a tiny village problem.
Now that the day was ripe, more jeeps had joined us on the rickety road. Alam turned up the sound system and then we realized how very special our jeep was in comparison to the others. He was a fan of Pop music and was humming to Justin Bieber’s hit single ‘Baby Baby Baby ooooh’. Akon, however was his favorite star. Conversation was stemmed because of the music so we lifted the flaps which acted as doors of the jeep to let in the sunshine and the view. Everything was surreal, the rocks, the endless cover of green symmetry. There were the dreamy, so-clean-it-could-hurt-your-eyes-if-you-stare-for-too-long jade inhabitants of the plantation our aim was to explore today, lined up all about us in a surreal symmetrical fashion. The tea gardens were a reminder of order, that was absent in my daily, chaotic existence of caffeine fuelled writing and sleep held ransom by internet.
Nothing except the smell of the monsoon rains, right before they lashed onto the verandah. Me, the solitary crawler, both enchanted and perplexed by a sudden downpour, would rush indoors to the safety of my mother’s lap. Such memories are vague, rather loosely etched on my mind. But the smell of the rains, the Petrichor, is something I can never forget.
I suspect that the ravishingly beautiful Petrichor is hard-coded deep into the minds of every human being. It is passed onto an individual through an infinite chain of forefathers. Or maybe it is simply a gift from heaven. After all that’s where the rains come from!
Woods are enchanting.They are partially the reason for my fixation with mountains. While reading Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood in my childhood, I had convinced myself that woods were magical. And somehow they held more of a sway over me, it seemed to be more potent than the magic of the toys which used to come alive in her other stories. Pixies, goblins, fairies, unicorns – all could be my friends if I lived in the woods.
As I grew up, I was faced with the strict logic of textbooks which declared Santa Claus to be nothing more than an impersonator (I think he is a phenomena). Anyway, the books were still there. The Forbidden Forest deepened my liking for the woods, grave as the dangers lurking there might be. So, I can safely say that I love the rank of trees, the smell of pine cones and sweet Earth, the little rocks which make great seats to sit and ponder life.
So much for my growing up. But this story isn’t about that.