(Saga of a Mumbaikar’s sojourn to Manuguru)
At a time when evading the devil’s grip was the only motto of every sane person in the world and remaining indoors was the government dictat, a promotion to an out-station Unit, in no way gives an elated feeling. The devil called Corona was unleashing its fury and a long distance travel in the prevailing situations in public transport with the shadow of the COVID 19 lurking at every nook and corner, gave a creepy feeling. Inevitable it was, and so, the journey of a Mumbaikar to a place called Manuguru began on June 28th, 2020.
The first reaction/advise from any average outsider to a posting at Manuguru is “Oh No!”, “Remote!”, “Acute Climatic conditions”, “A Unique Plant-will teach you a lot” etc. I somehow was fascinated by the name of the place for the “Guru” attached to it. So, when I decided to opt for the posting I presumed the journey to be a sojourn to my teacher – the guru, who shall impart great lessons to me. A quarter later, when I look back, I am glad my presumption did not fail me. I reflect upon the lessons imparted by “Manuguru”, which I feel is to be aptly re-named as “ Mana Guru” (i.e, Our Guru).
My first road travel on a sultry afternoon from Khammam to Ashwapuram, introduced me to the hardworking nature of the locals by way of arid cultivation enroute. Stepping into the Gowthami Nagar Colony welcomed by thunder and cloudy sky, I was introduced to the humid weather amidst the thrill of being in a part of the mythology famed “Dhandakaaranya”. Alighting the vehicle in front of the “Parnashala” serenely located, invoked a meditative mood and the tranquillity of a hermitage seeped in.
LOYALTY: The bust of “Bhabha” at the entrance of “Parnashala” created a feeling akin to entering a shrine and I could not but help bow my head in reverence in front of the visionary who made this day in my life possible. The display of reverence on my part was evoked momentarily. But what dismayed me was when I got introduced to a character called `Chandrasekhar’, a Colony Maintenance In-charge, responsible for maintaining the Green Belt in Gowthami Nagar, who religiously placed flowers on “Bhabha’s” bust every day considering him as God. All my professional life I have been thankful to Bhabha, but other than God himself, or my parents, I never thought anybody worth offering flowers as a mark of respect. I am sure most of us think that way. But here was this simple man with an amazing display of loyalty. It was truly astounding and humbling. If only half of us even think of ourselves as worthy successors to this great visionary, we could pay tributes to him by way of committing ourselves to nation building as he did.
MYTHOLOGY: A stroll in the Colony with its dense vegetation was a surreal experience in itself. Even before getting to know the mythological eminence attached to it, I felt the big trees, the mountains and the tranquil Godavari had stories to narrate. I call it surreal walking around the roads shadowed by tall trees, because of the serenity this great land exuded. Anecdotes about how Ravana’s chariot brushed by the hill to create “Ratham Gunta” near to the tranquil Godavari, of how Sita was abducted from “Parnashala” on the banks of the river, a wailing Rama and Lakshmana desperately searching for Sita through this land, creates an aura to this place and probably rejuvenates the region. Each step put forward on this land evokes an inner peace and a sense of pride of being fortunate to be able to tread on trails left by our beloved mythological characters. The mud seeped in tears of Rama and Sita in their “manushyaavatar” is worth a myriad “Shashtanga Vandanam” at every step.
BONDING: Nearing sunset, the mellifluous chattering of the birds nesting in the trees, eagerly sharing the days events with kith and kin, is a sight rarely seen in cities these days. The giant trees buzzing with the sweet sounds of birds of all kinds flying in reminded me of good old school days when I rushed home brimming to narrate to “amma” every little detail of the day. No matter how irrelevant the incident seemed, “amma” listened with rapt attention and the bond was re-inforced by means of communication. Pangs of guilt gnaws me when I think of countless children (including my own) walking into empty houses (not homes) from schools, mute and uncommunicative, thanks to the “Working parents culture” which we have successfully created. Thanks also to the modern lifestyle we have adapted , the mobile phone isolation wards we have created, we have ourselves given up the luxury of bonding, which the birds and bees still zealously guard for themselves. What a pity?
NATURE: My first travel to the Plant from “Parnashala” (the Guest House), was a visual delight what with the sun kissed fields and the far off mountains merging into the horizon, presenting a picture perfect sight. The herds of cattle proceeding to their grazing lands – the buffaloes with their rhythmic gait, the goats with a sprint in their legs, the earthy smell of dung and mud emanating from them, the rustic charm of a small town akin to a rural girl giving into modern attire – all looked enchanting. The richness of the greenery was invigorating and a reality check of how far we have gone in complicating our lives with cemented structures all around.
The rain-soaked trees, the contemplating cranes on them, the out-stretched meadows, the mesmerizing sunsets, the beauty of the dusk setting in, the smell of damp mud, the countless water lillies in a roadside pond, the deafening thunders, the striking lightening, the misty mornings, the smiling flowers in every garden, the crimson sky, the “Azaan – a blissful musical call for prayer” from the nearby mosques, the tantric drum beatings from the Devi Temple, all collectively enhance the uniqueness of this place. The pleasant and calm mornings, the irresistible beauty of out stretched roads sandwiched between wilderness on dark evenings without a trace of artificial illumination, the dark sky bereft of stars or moonlight but still lighting up streets, creating magic unparalleled by any electric light, the all pervading calm late evening – all put together transports one to a time zone, long ago left back.
THRIVING LIFE: There is life thriving everywhere – starting with the congregation of black ants in every nook & corner of the house, the big lizards co-habiting with us in every flat, the reptiles which are stated to have been spotted around, the myriad wild life that shares space, the snake skin shed on an executive chair in the office, the loud & blaring local music flowing out of speakers in Contract buses, the life style of the locals who have beautifullymastered amalgamating modern values with age-old traditions – each a reminder of lessons, long forgotten by mechanical life styles.
SPECTATOR: Like the majestic setting Sun which underplays itself behind the hills peeping out every now and then, if only I learn to underplay my existence and intermittently or rather more frequently allow life to take precedence and be a mute spectator of the drama, if only I allow the calmness to envelope me every minute, if only I learn to de-clutter myself like the clearing in a jungle letting sun-rays to percolate it’s golden hue, let the period be a glowing phase of life without any baggage – seeds of wishful thinking sown in me, by the Guru called Manuguru.
Hoping the Mumbaikar in me learn lessons from ‘MANA GURU” and pay obeisance to Manuguru in the coming days.