It is midnight in Chitwan
Published : Sunday, 8 December, 2019 at 12:00 AM Count : 426
It's quarter past twelve in the midnight. As almost always, I abruptly wake up. The bedside alarm clock keeps ticking relentlessly, tick-tock, and tick-tock - reminding every single second is becoming past with an amazing speed.
Apart from the clock, the other sound that reaches me is the unending hum of the Crickets calling out in the nearby jungles. I get up to pull aside the curtain on one side and look out of the window. A thick layer of fog hides the jungles behind. The dimly lit paved empty road facing my balcony mocks at me in silence. I see no one. I suddenly feel like a prisoner locked within the confines of four walls and open the door and occupy a chair at my cosy balcony. The cooling November wind engulfs me with a sense of welcome, for the air is incredibly fresh and thick amid the wilderness, I began to reflect over the events of the day.
The five plus hour microbus trip from Pokhara to Chitwan turned out to be a memorable experience unfolding the rugged and rustic charm of Nepal. As we kept travelling downhill towards the plains, the high mountains kept changing into lush hilly jungles. The long and frequently bending road along the banks of a hilly river keeps changing direction every now and then.
We had three breaks in between the journey - the first I would call a 'beer break' at a stall - where we all ordered tea and in less than five minutes 8 out of 10 of us cancelled the order opting for the famed Nepalese Gorkha beer. I assume it's a common trait among journalists anywhere in the world - never decisive to the point while taking a journey - start the journey only to break conformist rules.
The second stop was at a small waterfall where all of us rushed to dip our feet in the water while clicking selfies and group photos incessantly. And the third stopover was near a bridge that I had symbolically named 'Bridge on the River Kwai', and which didn't need to be blown off with dynamite charges.
However, the road trip to Chitwan finally ended right at the doorstep of the sprawling Landmark Forest Park Resort. Following a warm welcome by the hotel people, we were taken to our rooms. Next to a quick lunch and a short break, journalist and wildlife devotee Sohel and I set on a soothing walk spotting scores of Chinese, Japanese and East Asian tourists. Armed with various types of photography gadgets they were engaged capturing the last minute sunset views of the widely stretched national park.
It was soon becoming dark with the horizons turning hazy.
The massive skyline over us donned a brilliant purple hue. We kept strolling through sparkling yellow mustard fields before stopping right on the face of a couple of elephants. Their mahouts kept feeding them with straws. Sohel tried to strike a failed conversation. Sensing the need of our regular meeting with the rest of the group, we decided to retreat at the hotel. Back at the hotel, it was once again following the regular routine - group gossiping, dinner followed by drinks and snacks, discussing next day's schedule before hitting the pillow.
How time flies, within a few hours the day had ended, another day falls short from our lives. Tomorrow we are scheduled for a jungle safari riding on elephants.
And now it is midnight. Do the elephants know we are coming? Or are they annoyed and tired catering to humans' manmade jungle tour programmes. I will never know.
Every jungle has its own tale and Chitwan is no exception. Despite being declared a World Heritage Site Chitwan - Heart of the Jungle - had a rough ride since the 1950s. The forest's actual size has been reduced from a massive 2, 600 square kilometres of all-embracing forest to a mere 952 square kilometres of scattered jungles and alluvial grasslands.
Nepal's ruling elites, poachers to its military and of course climate change have squeezed the best out of Chitwan's jungles, wildlife and local communities , and yet the national park continues to draw local and international tourists by the thousands. It is the tale of a brave forest surviving the bitter tests of times.
And still the forest's, flora, fauna, wildlife and spotless waters reveal the untamed wild loveliness of another side of the country of Mount Everest. To cut a long story short - Chitwan is Nepal's answer to our Sundarbans with equal number or even more Bengal Tigers in its possession.
Plunged into myriad thoughts, an hour passes by while the fog thickens with the air turning cooler. The Crickets keep humming in the jungle, as if an endless gossiping taking place among them.
Are the insects curious about us? What is Chitwan thinking about me?
Out of the blue, Frost's famous lines creeps in: The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.
In my case, it is not miles - I have minutes to kill before I sleep, minutes to kill before I sleep.
It is midnight in Chitwan.
The writer is assistant editor,
The Daily Observer