August 11, 2006

The Road Taken

When Philip suggested Kaskond, I readily agreed. What drew me in were the leopards. “It’s good to have you along,” he said. “Last time I went this way alone and heard a leopard growling nearby. It was scary.” As much as I feared meeting one in the jungle, for I’m no Tarzan to tame a wild cat, the opportunity to see one on our trek led me on, and I agreed.

The Bhagwan Mahavir wildlife sanctuary in Mollem, Goa, is known for its big cat. But, hunting, loss of habitat, and aggressive eco-tourism have reduced their numbers and those that remain are elusive, whether out of compulsion born of fear of humans or out of an ingrained nature I cannot be very sure.

After we entered Kaskond by a side entrance along the highway 4A that runs on through Anmod in the Western Ghats mountain ranges, to Belgaum in Karnataka, I stopped and held my breath. Ahead lay a jungle path covered with leaves. Silence hung in the air. No wind stirred in the trees, and the birds were quiet. The sun had kept out that morning and low light had turned the atmosphere surreal. The shadows the jungle threw fell weakly along the leafy path, and the thought that a leopard might be lurking round the corner heightened my anticipation. We stood side by side, and I took the picture posted above.

As I stood there, staring at the leaves that covered the road that narrowed further on, and the bends hidden from view in the undergrowth and bamboo, I knew I must take this road, and so we walked, passing leopard droppings by the dozen, and 'bumping' into Giant Wood Spiders' webs that stretched across our path. Though it wasn’t until much further that the road diverged, we kept up on this one. The leaves were moist from the morning dew, and lay silent, in peace from prying feet. As we walked on the road, stepping lightly on the leaves, they whispered jungle secrets and tempted me with what the bends in the road ahead might reveal, and I hoped the road would never end. Looking down at the leaves as we walked in silence I was reminded of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken . . .

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Anonymous said...

the mischeivous adventurous aspect of the road not taken is what makes it something exciting.

you hav written an enthralling ,sincere and poetic piece.

Anonymous said...

forgot to write that the pic is really scary....exciting...

Rohini said...

Nice blog. Thanks for dropping by at mine.

Anonymous said...

anan loves adjectives

Cardine said...

Thank you for posting that Frost poem. Gordon B. Hinckley is quoting the last three lines a lot lately, and I have been too lazy to look up the entire poem to delight in it.

I agree with anan. That is a fantastic picture.

Anonymous said...

what happened afterwards? did you see the big cat or not? you write well, why did you leave it half way?

Anonymous said...

hey waht happened after that? did yu see the big cat? why did yu leave halfway? was waiting for the end. write some more.

That Girl said...

i love travelling...especially to places where there arent very many visitors...its so serene....i love crunchy leaf roads like this one too...

Anil P said...

To Anan: Thank you. True, the picture paints the road the way it looked that day. Silence in such settings can be scary, it hides that which if revealed might 'assure' us, for, not knowing sows apprehension, and thrill too, especially if it hints at the dangers that might lurk round the corner.

Without that hint to instill fear, it merely becomes the proverbial 'Ignorance is bliss'.

To Rohini: Thank you. It's a pleasure.

To Anon: True, Anan likes them, maybe because adjectives condense plain-speaking while highlighting that which is not ordinary about the ordinary :)

To Cardine: Thank you. Somehow, I find Robert Frost's works enigmatic, with a touch of sadness as in loss. A projected loss as opposed to actual loss. A loss that is experienced in seeing or experiencing something memorable which in turn evokes concern in the beholder that it won't last long, and will be lost to time.

So, that which is beautiful evokes a longing that is partly sad because the beautiful may not last long. I can't help but get this feeling when I read Frost.

To Anjaly: Not that day, though we saw signs aplenty at Kaskond where we ran into plenty of Giant Wood Spiders and their webs as we took a detour through thickets, getting bitten by lots of ticks that left marks on the skin after they died where they'd bitten us.

This was because ticks proliferate in bison country, riding the mighty bovines, and Goa's forests being primarily decidous, it is ideal bison country. That is only if you hack through dense thickets as we did that day, brushing leaves and accumulating the ticks that're deposited there when bisons pass that way. With six kilometres trekking done in Kaskond, we crossed over to the other side and trekked up a mountain in the blazing Goan summer when folks sweat all that they ingest in fluids. At over 600 metres it was the highest peak in that wildlife sanctuary. We climbed about 9 kilometres up the mountain, negotiating 37 bends along the way up, and were completely drained by the time we reached the summit, passing plenty of evidence of the leopard that day. But it was on another trip along the route up the same mountain that we came close to a leopard, much closer than we'd ever imagined, or wanted to.

I've written up that briefly in Time moves only if you do

To Grafxgurl: Very much so. Leaves change the tenor of the path, turning it sublime.

Mrinalini said...

hey.. did u finally see a leopard?.. i ve only seen them at zoo.. n yes the picture looks very tempting.. the description too.. :)

Anil P said...

To Mrinalini: Thank you. Check my earlier reply for the answer. :)

ambrosia said...

The photograph, your prose and the poem is so much in sync. The Road Not Taken happens to be one of my favourites and I had never imagined it in a context as this and now it feels so lovely! Poetry and travel can make such a brilliant combination :)

Anil P said...

Thank you. Nice to know that.

True, they sure can. And Frost can be mystical. There is something to those roads with bends in them and nobody but you walking them. Left to yourself on such roads, everything falls in sync. And unless you're in a hurry to get somewhere, feet linger along the way, in sync with the pace of your heart, and mind.

D LordLabak said...

Thats one of my fav poems. Kind of thrilled to see someone quote it.:-)

Anil P said...

To Deepa: It sure is :)

Velu said...

Damn shame you didn't see the big cats. A bit difficult to spot them anyways. But I think the purpose is to enjoy the beauty any ways.


ligne said...

Its a beautiful pic..wish we could see you have more snaps of the same?
and how about some of the spider webs?
That poem fits perfectly. In fact it fits most of our lives doesnt it?

Anil P said...

To Velu: Very true.

To Ligne: Thank you. The wanting to 'see further' is what makes it evocative. I got several pictures of those big Giant Wood spiders as we tried to dodge them on our route and through thickets, to avoid running into their webs. But at times we ran smack into them as it's not always easy to spot them.

There're more pictures of the place since I've been photo-documenting the wildlife sanctuary over time. Maybe I'll include the pictures in my subsequent posts.

Come to think of it, Robert Frost got it near perfect for all our lives :)