At the entrypoint of Dakshin Khairbari Jungle on 6th January, 2018, one of the coldest days of Dooars. I went at least 14 times there, sometime with my family, sometime with friends and colleagues, and alone.
The forest is now thin, and the wild animals–tigers, leopards, dwindled. The tourists from all corners of India came to visit the park. They took pictures of the forest, scattered plastics, and went back home and talked to relatives and neighbours about Dooars’ beauty. Look intently, and you would easily find the variegated trees, shrubs, undergrowth bushes of medicinal properties. Some bushes were in full bloom, others were dry and wild with huge foliage–all green, and a musky odour if you would stir them choked you. In the midst of the forest, some old trees died, and still stood high. Perhaps they were waiting for the axe of woodcutters for their funeral.
Bushes of shrubs, undergrowth plants, resting under the shade of the tall huge trees. Lay here and there brown patches of withered grass lands. Enter the forest in a scorching day, and be welcomed by its serene cool air and tranquillity, rustling of the leaves, and humming of the bees. Even at noon you could hear a whirring sound coming out somewhere from the depths of the forest. It was late afternoon. The sun declined in the west, and the rays lost effulgence. Yet the sky and the earth gleamed with a rosy hue. The long leaves of the Saal, and Sheshum glistened. And the rivulet running on the west fringe of the forest all orange purples. With the passage of each minute the jungle became gloom, and dour, like the faces of the Munda women. A layer of mist hazed the distant lines of tree tops, and the air was heavy with dew. The jungle looked eerie, with the tapestry of mists, laced the trunks, twigs and foliage.
The ground underneath was strewn with dry leaves. I walked and and the leaves made khosh khosh noise. The tall trees were silent and still. Some languars jumped from one tree to another. Parrots fleeted over my head and sat on a leafless tree, and chattered. Two peasants made a fire with the leaves and baked their hands and legs. On the outer fringes of the forest the cows grazed, and mooed.
We went at the entry bar and drank tea. The sun already set, and the darkness began to envelope the forest. It was too cold, and we shivered. Tourists after the day’s picnic returning to the parking area. Their drivers made fire and baked themselves and smoked and gossiped. Within half an hour this area too would be deserted. Elephants might come, and the peasants living by the borders of the forest getting ready for the night’s ordeal. They were in continuous fear, and made some unique mechanisms to drive the mahakals out of their yards. by bursting crackers, beating drums, and making ulooo ulooo, especially by women folk.