Putting the wild back in life
“You have to get lost before you can be found.”
― Jeff Rasley, Bringing Progress to Paradise: What I Got from Giving to a Mountain Village in Nepal
The sun setting over your shoulder in a forest wilderness as a dark rainstorm approaches from the east is not the time for you to be out trekking on the cliff of the Western Ghats. But here you are: with your trekking friends and family, battling to conquer the fort, struggling with your inner fears; and here you want to be: beating down the stinging rain, and ever marching on. For you have shed blood and sweat on your way up. For you have prepared to complete this trek, and, more importantly, you have left behind the rat-race which you think life is all about: now, you are not chasing targets, you are chasing your ambition. You are encouraging your friends to tarry with you. You are their emotional leader, and although you know that the light fades and you’re being stalked by a rainstorm, you sit back on a rock to enjoy the view with your ambitious fort in front of you, a part of it gleaming in the evening sunlight, another dreary under the growing shadows.
|A storm is coming
The days spent in office staring at a radiating computer screen, in meetings in somber conference halls, in A/Cs mimicking the cool air of nature, in commuting to work, you have left this all behind. Such was the life you knew before you boarded that bus, or before you booked that ticket to be on this trek. You thought twice, maybe thrice, and consulted those who’ve been on a trek and those who’ve never. And instead of finding answers you were left confused and dissident: a part of you wants you to remain in the comforts of your home; a part of you wants to push your limits.
Then, you stopped thinking about it. Days went by shuttling between the office and home. In the monotony of your life you became so engrossed that the day you never thought would happen, happened. You had accepted the challenge.
|Rolling hills overlooking the vast plains of Sahyadri
What kindled the light in your mind – the lost flame of adventure and a life that you thought only existed in books? What made you put the wild back in your life? I’ve wondered about this far too long, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is spontaneous. What we’re suffering from today is an urban curse – a spell cast upon by unintentional peer pressure – to perform, to deliver, to submit. Seldom, if ever, do we have visions of untouched forests, for they are mired by stress and workload. And seldom, if ever, do we inhale the fresh breath of air, for we deem the air blasted by A/Cs to be freshest. But only when you experience the untouched forests and breathe the freshest forest air, are you broken from the urban spell.
|Play of sun and rain in the hills of Konkan
Yet as an addiction the urban curse comes back to us, taunting us at the back of our mind, wielding us and shaping our conscience. In an age where time is calculated by the quantity of hours you put into your work, and not in the quality of work you completed in record time, we equate this psychology in all forms of activities we do in our lifetime. Invariably, the more amount of work you put in, the more you’re attracted to your bed. And that’s how majority of us spend much of our time on weekends: lazing in front of the TV or the computer, gazing blindly into the neon light.
|A fort carved in the giant monolith
According to an American time-use survey undertaken in 2012, an average working person spends 2.8 hours per day watching TV as a leisure activity, and, to quote the report, “…individuals age 75 and over averaged 1.0 hour of reading per weekend day and 20 minutes playing games or using a computer for leisure. Conversely, individuals ages 15 to 19 read for an average of 7 minutes per weekend day while spending 1.0 hour playing games or using a computer for leisure.” The survey also reveals (see Table 2 of the report) that on an average, about 9.41 hours are spent sleeping on weekends, and only 2.11 hours spent “participating in sports, exercise, and recreation”.
And here’s where our problems lie – hidden conspicuously in numbers. And just maybe, if the right numbers come together, we can change that, we can ignite a sparkle in our life.
|Overlooking the mammoth Jivdhan fort
So I asked myself: what would it take me to put the wild back in my life? – Ideally, I’d want to lessen the number of working hours and – if my workplace is far – travelling hours. Then, I’d want to find like-minded folks who’d want to share my adrenalin rush. Then, I’d want to see if the trip I was going to make was economic. And lastly, if I can physically make it. That’s all the ingredients I require, I thought. But not quite. Behind all of these calculable, measurable ingredients, I’d also want freewill, knowledge, and willingness to do it – and none of this can be changed for you but by you.
|Climbing down the steep ghats
A number of research and a number of articles have been published looking at increasing productivity at work by planting garden and by working in natural light. These homemade remedies, research shows, work by acting on our physiology and psychology: improved mood, enhanced morale, lower fatigue, and reduced eyestrain are some of the direct benefits of working under natural lights – a tool used by green buildings in their sustainable designs (Edwards and Torcellini, 2002). The authors also quote Robbins (1986), “one of the important psychological aspects from daylighting is meeting a need for contact with the outside living environment”. Another report sums the importance of green spaces pretty well: “interaction with gardens and natural spaces offers a variety of mental, physical and social benefits for humans, ranging from stress reduction, quicker healing, and mitigation of Attention Deficit Disorder in children to decreasing crime and air pollution” (Barton and Pineo, 2009).
|Chasing light through the basalt giants of Sahyadri
Over the years, we have been mentally programmed to see the “wild” for the unknown and uncharted; to fear the raw heathenness hidden in it. What society has taught us invariably is that manicure and pedicure, and a neatly shaven face, is the notion of life. Nobody forged it, nor did anybody accept it – everybody just did it. I’m not stopping you from doing it (nor would I), but in our personal activities we forgot a part of life which was once larger for us than any – to belong to the wild, to fall, to plant a tree and reap its gains, to walk barefoot and to feel the sun and the rain.
|Embracing the monsoon winds
And you fought back all your inner fears and went on that first climb of yours. You imagined failure written all over it when you started it: it was too sweaty, too many mosquitoes swarmed you, you slipped twice, and you hated it. But you stood up to these challenges as you would fight the deadlines from your work-desk. You replied with an undefeatable assertion that you’re a survivor to an e-mail cast at you by the wilderness. And in your physical exertion you experienced a whisper that calmed your mind of your daily grind: you had made it to the top of the fort. You congratulate yourself and your partners.
|The shepherd of the Ghats
This is anthesis, a moment when a bud unfurls its petals to become a functional flower. This is your anthesis: the moment when you don’t feel, you know, that you’re strong mentally and physically, that the universe is as much a part of you as you are of the universe. That the dirt you’re standing on is not alien to you, or you to it: we’re one and the same thing.
|Photographing the low-altitude clouds
Let not those scratches and bites bother you, for they’re your souvenir which will fade away and return you back to your former beauty; but forget not the medal of honour you deserve, for no material-world will deliver you the pleasures of life that nature does.
|Gazing in the living giants of our planet
And forget not to tell the world how beautiful it is to cast your shell of cement, to welcome the grip of sighing winds and whining trees – tell them about how you put the wild back in life, and discovered to live.
A number of treks can be organized independently by a group to the forts of Sahyadri and Konkan. Professional help can be sought online or locally. Some of the resources for trekking can be found here:
Come monsoon, a number of organizations conduct a number of short and long treks across India. I’ve made a short list of those that I know focus around Western Ghats and Konkan below.
Note: This list is non-exhaustive and trip details are provided by the respective organizers. Please contact them for further information.
4. Nyass Trust
5. Mid Earth
7. Wild Quest
10. Gypsies Outdoors
Another note: Leave behind nothing, take back only memories. Sahyadrica will not be held accountable for suggesting the treks or the organizations. The responsibility rests with you or the trip organizer, and not with Sahyadrica. You will have to be mentally and physically prepared to be on the trek. The names of the organizations have been included without any benefits received, nor given. There are several other local organizations which conduct treks and trails across India, you can look them up on Google or via friends and relatives.