“Make sure your doors and windows are securely locked, the petrol full and even if someone tries to stop you for ‘help’ DO NOT STOP. And also, go there during the day, you don’t want to be mauled by wild beasts when night falls.”
This was the directive given to me the first time I headed to what I now simple call The Jungle.
So it was natural that we were a bundle of nerves when we headed towards the Bannerghatta National Park. Slowly and gradually the hustle and bustle and the traffic and the potholes of the Bannerghatta road faded away and we were on the dusty country roads. Here there were no signboards and everything looked the same. Perhaps the danger of getting lost was very real, which is why our host kept on repeatedly calling us to ensure we were safe. That is, when we got connectivity. The rest of the time we kept on going on a hunch. Driving a rickety old Alto over craggy rocks and stones and on terrain meant for four wheel drive is no mean feat. Every time I saw a mound of formidable rocks, I would set my jaw and press along. My own man vs nature adventure.
I had no idea what to expect that first weekend at the farm. I discovered that the temperature deep in the jungle is a couple of degrees lower than in the city. And I certainly didn’t expect to sleep out in the open inside a mesh hut. The still remember my first night at the farm. The croaks of the frogs, and right outside the hut, the river illuminated by the light of the moon, the silhouette of the trees framing my view. I snuggled deeper into my warm razai and drifted off into the most peaceful sleep ever.
I’m back from another restful weekend at the ‘Vishnu’s Farm’. Deep in the Bannerghatta jungles, this place has come to symbolize peace, serenity and the Slow Movement (even before it became the latest fitness fad). This time I took my sister (visiting from Hyderabad). I explained to her that most of the farm has no lights, no real means of cooking your own food, and that we might spot an elephant or a bison while walking around the acreage. But nature is constantly evolving and moves on no matter what. So the Farm is always a bit different every time I go. (There is a valuable lesson in this.)
However, the past couple of times I’ve been to this haven, an idea has been taking shape in my mind. In our frazzled lives, oasis of calm such as Vishnu’s Farm are difficult to come by and this place is just perfect. Devoid of the trappings of modern existence (no cell phone coverage and other such fancy accoutrement), this place hits your reset button. The closer you are to nature, the closer you feel to yourself. This past weekend I decided on a retreat. A retreat focused on peace, quiet and getting back to nature. A simple retreat aimed at appreciating how we can live the best possible life by staying aligned and attuned to nature.
Vishu’s Farm is more appropriately called a habitat. Vishnu has made sure to integrate himself with nature rather than modifying the existing ecosystem to suit his needs. So he’s made sure not to disturb the trees, and continues planting new ones. He’s built lakes in the property so that the water life thrives instead of perishing (you may spot a cat stealthily waiting for it’s next meal). When the elephants repeatedly broke a wall somewhere in the habitat, Vishnu stopped rebuilding it. In his own words – “It’s their land, I’m just an encroacher.” Perhaps this belief fuels his tireless work for conservation in the area.
So when you come on this retreat, you aren’t checking into a fancy resort with exotic scented soaps. You are spending time in someone’s life’s work. A home that Vishnu has painstakingly created against odds such as red tape and litigation, indifference and corruption. And how can we forget the quarry mafia?!
It is no surprise then, that a retreat such as this will always be for a closed group. Comprising people who will be able to appreciate the passion and belief that it takes to live a lifestyle where there are no TVs and limited net connectivity. Where lunch takes time to come from the nearest village. Where there are no dustbins around the property because waste disposal is a challenge and you are encouraged to take your trash back to the city with you.
Where the days are beautiful and the nights peaceful.