I walked out of home in spite of my mother’s admonition not to expose myself in the sweltering heat of “seven suns together.” I could not be stopped from going to Kaindale, my childhood village. It was more than two hours’ swift walk from Madhumalla, my present hometown. Thirteen years had elapsed since I had last seen the place. So, I walked on, possessed by the excitement of reaching Kaindale after such a long gap. When I crossed the Bakraha through its cool water and ascended to the edge of the green forest with even cooler groves, I could not resist the temptation of sitting for a while on the spongy grass under the trees. The gentle breeze of the forest maximized the pleasure of relaxation. I had now enough reasons to ruminate over the surrounding, my remaining journey and the destination.
With the clear water of the Bakraha and its tiny fishes in view, I began to recapitulate the face of this place before thirteen years. There used to be a vast stretch of open meadow in place of this forest. In afternoons, the meadow used to be full of cows, oxen, buffaloes and goats, all busy grazing. There would be equal number of cowherds of different age groups running here and there regardless of the heat of the summer. Small ones played hide and seek, caught fishes or swam in the Bakraha, and climbed up and down its banks. Grown-ups organized high-jump and long-jump contests, played football and volleyball in the open field at the southern corner of the meadow. On walking past the meadow, one could always hear jingle of cow-bells that added rhythm to flute tunes played by boys sitting in the branches of trees, and revel at the giggles of teenagers flirting each other in the liberty of cattle-grazing. But the whole area would look deserted in the morning, none being required to come here except one or two intermittent woodcutters and travelers going east or west. In the evening, it would bear fresh smell of the cattle returning home from the bordering jungle and the meadow itself. Cowherds brought pocketfuls of sweet and sour wild fruits, which they offered to the passing travelers. There was liveliness everywhere and in everything.
But now that the meadow was filled with plantation under the scheme of community forestry and cattle-grazing was forbidden into the area, it had lost most of its former life. The plantation had grown into a wild forest of suspending depth and silence. Sitting in the cool grove this afternoon, I thought that the scheme had killed the place and its glory as a rendezvous of lives. But it had changed for good. Thirteen years were fairly enough to cause wonders. So, I could possibly see Kaindale in a different face. Would there be the same people, houses, trees, roads and hedges? I was going to know it. If not, I was going to find it out. I had a new mission now, apart from the meetings with relatives.The forest lawn was still appealing me to halt, but I remembered I had “miles to go” further ahead.
I resumed my walk, wondering about every change I could see in the landscape along the path towards Kaindale.