I love to walk among dense trees, seeking, yet not knowing what I’m seeking. There’s something about unbound nature that makes you wonder while you wander. And I have the perfect friend who’s always willing to go an extra mile to catch a sight. Since our first walk in the park at Vandalur had been a great experience, I was eager for the next one.
When my friend suggested the Botanical Garden in Pondicherry, however, I was a bit skeptical. Our time in Pondicherry was limited to just over 24 hours, and the garden crept into the agenda only the previous night. According to Google Maps, we’d have to go out of our way to find our way to the garden. We’d had to walk a long walk before walking into the garden—just to walk some more.
My friend insisted, though. And since I owed her one for enduring my occasional assholery (I’m a pain, my roommates would attest), I obliged.
I don’t regret. For the most part.
When we stepped into the entrance of the garden, a large board welcomed us with an outline of what to expect in the garden. Trees, trees, and even a musical fountain. The garden spread across a massive area of land and, from where I stood, I saw patches of greenery punctuating patches of barren land.
It was a cool, cozy and empty. Well, almost.
Under the shade of what looked like a hundred-year-old tree, two women police officers opened up their lunches packets, chatting away as the leaves rustled in tune to the breeze. A few feet away were a young couple leaning on either side of yet another grand tree while a little further, their photographer friend crouched peering into the lens of his DSLR, demanding that the couple shift towards the light.
The ground was strewn with grass, and moss, and insects of all sizes. Branches the size of my arm loomed over us, forming arches and making a convincing case of becoming wedding hosts. Flowers looked down from their tree thrones above, their petals downward and their honey dripping earthward. Mid-day sunlight gleamed through the artwork that spiders had weaved all morning. Little creepers clung to their poles teaching us a thing or two about survival among the giants.
There was so much to see in the garden and yet so few to see them.
We stepped over the railway tracks of a toy train that would run around and within the depths of the garden. With no one to appreciate the mass of trees that amassed the garden, the train had no apparent reason to operate that day. And yet, from somewhere deep within came the ghost of an echo of the chuck chucking of the toy train. And with it, the excited screams of non-existent children.
I passed a couple of kids fiddling with smartphones.
Crunching the dry leaves on the pathway, I strode along. And just when I thought I had ended a glorious walk, something in a corner of the garden made me stop short. Remains of human presence littered the area, the plastic lunch packets and empty paper cups reminding me of the hollowness that humans contribute to nature.
We have one job, one duty. And to keep our nature natural we had to just keep away from their way. Yet somehow it’s become too hard not to interfere, not to meddle with the order of things. I thought I was hard to live with, but now I understood that people, in general, are hard to live with. We are a bunch of spoilt, selfish brats that take everything around us for granted.
I appreciate those who tolerate my assholery, but after that walk, I’ve grown to appreciate nature even more than before for tolerating an entire race of assholes.
As I came to that disgusting conclusion, I realised I had walked around the entire garden. There was nothing more left to see. And if there had been anything, I had no mood for it.