Madhusmita B Khaund
A wild encounter in Jeypore Rainforest
Updated: Oct 18, 2020
A friend had once asked ‘ What is so special about going on a safari inside a Jungle ? ’ I tried to give an appropriate reply and came up with ‘A Jungle breathes life into you’.. To further elucidate my line I narrated an incident that happened in Jeypore Rainforest couple of years back. For those who do not know Jeypore rainforest is the only rainforest in Assam and is located about 65 kms from Dibrugarh town. Also known as Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary it has very thick vegetation and is home to many beautiful and interesting species of plants, animals, birds and insects. Some people call it the ‘Amazon of the East’. On this particular day I had accompanied an elderly couple from Germany on their visit to the rainforest. The guests were widely travelled and now wanted to travel to lesser known places in the world. We had made a special itinerary for them covering villages and forests in Northeast India to get an authentic experience of the place.
It is not very easy to go inside the Jeypore Rainforest although there are some trek routes which are frequented by forest guards, wildlife enthusiasts and avid birdwatchers. The normal visitor can enjoy the forest from the periphery where a road runs parallel to the forest and the beautiful Dihing river. We had parked our car near the road and decided to walk. The guide explained about the forest and its inhabitants while we walked. The forest guard also gave his inputs and experiences. After some time we reached a bridge over a rivulet coming out of the forest that joined the main river. The bluish greenish water of the river, sounds of distant birds chirping, moist smell of the forest all together created such a divine aura that we remained mesmerized for quite some time silently as if our voice might break the spell. Then finally the guide announced ‘ its time to go, lunch awaits in a nearby village’ and we started walking back towards our car.
The gentleman ahead of us taking pictures of butterflies and wildflowers and anything that caught his interest. The lady and I got busy chatting and the guide and forest guard walked behind us. Then suddenly a strange smell caught our attention. It was not very pleasant and I thought some animal must have died. But it wasn’t exactly a rotting smell and it wasn’t there before. While we were discussing what it might me the forest guard came closer and asked us to keep walking without making any noise. It was then that we realized that a feline inhabitant of the Jungle was nearby and must be observing us from a distance. The thought made me suddenly alive, as if all my senses were awakened in a jolt, trying to see the unseen following the strange smell and fully aware of my instincts. We paced and met the gentleman who was already aware and pointed towards a direction where he saw something moving. It was something dark coloured moving very slowly behind the tall shrubs and was hardly two metres from where we were standing. The guide requested us to keep moving and we obliged although the gentleman wanted to stay a bit longer hoping to get a photograph. But the lady was scared and hold my hand while we walked back to the car, every moment expecting something to jump out of the bushes. Everyone signed once we were inside the car. Ours was a sigh of relief while the gentleman’s was a sigh of regret for not getting a photograph of which might have been a black panther.
Those few minutes of walking would forever be etched in my memory as I realized how life must be inside the Jungle. The predator and prey constantly trying to outsmart each other using their senses and skills developed through natural selection over millions of years while cohabiting in the same space maintaining the balance of the Jungle. We too were once part of that system but we have come a long way away where most of our sensory receptors have become complacent. We are now trapped inside a different concrete Jungle where we are the predator and we are the prey. Our lives have become an assembly line where we can’t miss a part and be with the flow every second, every minute of every day. In the process we have come so far away from our original home, the forest that even when our world is in the brinks of collapse we are happy seeing our decorated homes and manicured lawns. We need to keep going back to the Jungle to remind us of what life is supposed to be like. To remind us that we are a creation of the forest and even though we might have left it far behind but the forest has never left us.
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