There is a place in the outskirts of Amalapuram, a half-natural, half-artificial forest which is devoid of sound. A deep, impenetrable silence seems to fills that place; so much that even when a bird spreads its wings to fly with a sharp cry, it falls silent immediately, as if unwilling to disturb the sanctity of that place. I had found this forest when I was eight.
I could never remember the remaining details of that trip- the occasion, my relation with the place and no matter how many times I enquired my parents about it, I always managed to forget. It was as though that forest wanted to stand alone, all by itself in my memory and who was I to deny it that place?
I had actually stumbled on that place by pure chance. We were about to leave that town following the completion of whatever purpose for which we had gone there and though I was made to wake up at the crack of dawn and bathe and get ready, no one seemed to be interested to actually start. So, I ventured out on my own.
I slipped past the horde of adults laughing over freshly brewed filter coffee and ran out of the gate shouting "I'm going for a walk" in such a way that it escaped everyone's notice but at the same time gave me a truthful chance to say that I had informed in my defence.
I had taken the straight path to the left of the house, turning back every few steps to check if it was still in sight. I reached a small bridge where I remember standing fascinated by a pot-bellied man slapping clothes in a rock at the banks of the water body beneath. A string of droplets would fly in the air with every lift and a resounding slap would ring out as the dhoti hit the boulder again and again till it was satisfactorily lean.
I think I had wanted to cross the bridge and reach down to the bank to watch this proceeding from closer quarters but upon crossing the bridge, I discovered that place which erased everything else from my mind. It was filled with a seemingly endless number of coconut and banana trees and the difference in the height of the two plantations allowed the first rays of sunlight enter, half diffused, into the thicket. It drew checkered patterns on the ground that was made of black soil and grass, with a few bushes of wild flowers strewn here and there.
I remember standing there transfixed by the sheer greenery around. And the silence. It was as though the thick stems and branches of the trees had absorbed all the trivial sounds. But it was silent without being frightening. It was dark without being overwhelming. There was a music to that place that played even in the silence, and it was so pure and so beautiful that my heart seemed to inflate in size to take it in.
I used to sit for hours at my bedroom window as a child straining to look for a sight of the green in the dust and I have grown with the same search in my eyes except that now I look outside an office window and try to ignore the tall, ugly concrete that hides the birds.
It was a beautiful place and often, later when I was old enough to understand the value of such calm, I found myself longing to be back in that place, and get all the stuffy, confusing voices in my head absorbed by the silence for a while.
When I came back to the house that day, I discovered that my absence had gone unnoticed. Today, after almost 15 years, I have set forward to seek that place again. And this time, I hope my absence would be for a long enough time to get noticed.