Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One cold December night...


One cold December night in 2009, I woke up in the middle of a forest in Dang in south Gujarat at 4 am. My roommates, who were then my students, were fast asleep, tucked in many layers of cloth. It took me a while to leave my warm bed. It must have been some 4°C. I walked out of the tent. It was quiet. No crickets. I looked up... to find only a crescent of the moon. I walked towards the remnants of the bonfire we had the night before. And then I did the unthinkable. I stood on top of the glowing embers. Of course, I had my shoes on. But still! I am scared of fire. I think twice before lighting a match. But I stood there. I looked around to see if there were any other early-risers. Ravi, my 48-year-old student was an armyman on study-leave. Soon, he would be out for a walk. I had little time. I stayed put and looked up. My ears were alert, as they tried to pick up the slightest sound - of students snoring, of leaves rustling, of the burnt twigs that were being crushed under my feet. I turned my cold face to the darkest part of the forest. And with that, I confronted my worst nightmare - that I would be all alone in the middle of a dense dark forest and would slowly be engulfed by it. And sure I was. The forest grew on me. I was scared. The line between imagination and reality was blurred. But I stood... for a full 15 minutes, before Ravi came out for a walk. I did that everyday. And I was in Dang for a week. It gave me an adrenaline rush - something people experience while bungee jumping. I wrote many pieces on Dang after that, many travelogues that were interesting and well-appreciated. There were many experiences we had had as a group. But the memory that I cherish most is that of the cold December night when I stood with fire in the middle of darkness to face fear, all by myself.

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