Falling like a Leaf

Amit Sengupta

The forest wind builds appetite, enlightens your light eyes, sensitizes your numbed senses, sharpens your ears, your sound and hearing systems deadened by the constant buzz of traffic, television, trivia; it teaches you balance, symmetry, originalities, animal instincts, nature's silent prophecies, silences, many shades of one colour, the beauty of chaos, the control of anarchy, the ephemerality of life and life forms, constant dying and constant renewal, the absence of greed, profit, back-stabbing, crass ambitions, money, fame. The law of the jungle is not a vicious method in the madness that is the barbarism of civilizations, because, as Walter Benjamin has written, all human history is the history of barbarism. The predators in the wild don't stalk you with a full stomach, unlike totalitarian and democratic societies. They don't stalk you at all, like the Gestapos of modernity. On top of the food cycle, the tiger, for instance, has no threat perception, but it lets nature find its delicate balance in his amazing, lethargic aloofness to all that is greedy, impatient and rushed. The forest knows it so well, like the nocturnal sounds of leaves, breath, eyes, footsteps, water bodies, crackling twigs and branches, old trees falling, rotting, becoming earth and matter. In the morning, the birds fill the air with a multiple symphony of sweet sounds and cacophony, and even the river moves in slow motion, listening to the birds, the trees swing with the wind, the brown of the bark becomes the green of the leaves. In this wilderness kaleidoscope, there is no moral policing, there are no cops with guns, no army with killing machines, no dictators obsessed with filthy, brutish, amoral power, no corporates eyeing the treasures below the earth. There is no suffocating morality or immorality, both so commonplace, as Jorge Luis Borges would write, in the megalomaniac, egoistic, self-obsessed ritualism of bloated modern societies. The body in the forest, the skin and eyes and hands, is as perishable, as the evening sun becomes a sign of the night, and the moon moves to and fro in the night full of stars. Indeed, you will see for the first time in your life that the evening sky of the setting sun does not disappear into a skyline of urban structures. Instead, it moves in a semi-circle in an expansive expanse of blue, orange, vermillion, melting into the earth, as if measured in meticulous balance by a cosmic compass.

Panna Tiger Reserve in the heart of India. This is the forest of a dream sequence, raw, rugged, rough, and yet, shimmering with secret lives and secret stories, an unwritten sensuality carved on a yellow Saal leaf, as old as civilization’s birth, dying and death. In this dream, you are alive only once.

This is how the earth meets the sky and there is no horizon you can chase, because horizons have long melted in the vast emptiness of space, the green and brown of the forest, the timeline of timelessness. You inhale the evening wind, moving with the waters of this beautiful river, and you can see how stones become stones, rocks become pebbles, hills become cliffs, mountain rivers become lakes, pools, water holes, streams, dried beds of sand and rock, cooler than the shadows of the depths of the forest, where the predator plays with her kids. Detached, you become detached, even as you inhale the flavours of the forest, as detached as the magnificent trees of solitary beauty, as detached as the animal in half-siesta, as detached as the elegant, sudden jump of a 'flock of deer', like birds flying on grass with eyes made of glass. The big green Saal leaves become yellow, and you know how tribals have chased their topography and geography in the heartland of thick, hidden forests in central India for centuries, around the Saal and red earth, with tributaries of ancient zigzag pathways, reminding us of migrations, celebrations, extinctions. Someone has drawn a celebration of tender deer on the rock, with delicate fingers, perhaps two thousand years ago, and you move your fingers on the rock painting, and the rock becomes canvas and colour, cool in your hands. Was it a female hand or a male hand which drew this little piece of aesthetics and carved it for history to remember, hidden deep in forest, inaccessible to urbanity's relentless mediocrity? Was s/he lying lazily on this slender ledge, surrounded by perpendicular, huge rocks, sheltered in the cool, hidden from the world, dreaming of substances tangible and sensuous?

Panna Tiger Reserve in the heart of India. This is the forest of a dream sequence, raw, rugged, rough, and yet, shimmering with secret lives and secret stories, an unwritten sensuality carved on a yellow Saal leaf, as old as civilization's birth, dying and death. In this dream, you are alive only once. Falling like a leaf.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: APRIL 2012