I was awestruck when I encountered ‘Umkar’—the jaw-dropping ‘living root bridge’—while exploring the woods of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. The breathing roots of trees met, merged, and melted into a spectacular living bridge. ‘Umkar’ called me to connect, lured me to climb, urged me to cross.
The primitive relationship between trees and people echoes in these living-root-bridges, such as the legendary ‘Double Decker’ of Nongriat village. Villagers of West Jaintia and East Khasi Hills in Meghalaya create these marvels from the living aerial roots of Ficus Elastica—Indian rubber tree.
The merging bridges signify the possibilities emerging from enduring bonds among humans, and between humans and nature. These bridges implore us to build, not to burn or break. Trees and roots teach us the ancient law of existence, infinity, and eternity—to rise but to retain and remain rooted.
Walking in the whistling woods is the walk of my life—a journey within and without. Sights, scents, and sounds of surroundings seduce my senses; heart wonders, mind wanders. The wind caresses; the morning warmth envelops and spurs me to sing Denver’s “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Dawn enchants me, dusk enthralls. The stars and the moon play hide and seek among the silhouettes touching my melancholy.
I hear children laugh and clap when the birds coo and flap. My eyes see a lass flutter her eyelashes when the butterflies dart and flit. Swinging trees remind me of dancing lads drunk on youth.
The walk of life takes me to times, people, and places—near, far, and forgotten. Nostalgia overpowers, reason raises existential questions. The heart hums Tagore’s “Ekla Cholo Re”, while the wind whispers: “I am with you in your quest.” I discover the search is never complete, the journey never ends.
Great minds join my life-walks. I regain the lost paradise when the music of a Mozart or a Beethoven seeps into my soul. The world is worth and a wonder when a Wordsworth or a Wodehouse exhilarates with his words. My thoughts ask people petty and pompous to ‘take a walk’, but never with me. I imagine scenarios from Orwell’s “Animal Farm” when I see dogs on the leash—what if the roles are reversed?
People closer than closeness betray. Men and women use even the beautiful and the fragile—a flower, a ‘Parijat’—to deceive. Parijat wilts, love withers, memory mourns, treachery torments.
If we forget the count of time, forsake the weight of living, and embrace nature with abandon, we can drown in the ecstasy of “dolce far niente”—the sweet pleasure of doing nothing. Exhorts us Mary Shelley—to live by leaving:
“Let us… seek peace… near the inland murmur of streams, and the gracious waving of trees, the beauteous vesture of earth, and sublime pageantry of the skies. Let us leave ‘life’, that we may live.”
Nature’s rhythms sing songs of bliss. Its spirit tells stories of love and kindness. Her sounds are symphonies of silence and solitude. With nature in the heart, soul breaks into a dance; the Wordsworth in us serendipitously finds a hidden beauty. But this mysterious temptress never reveals all. It delights with the innocence of a nymph and entices with the coquetry of a woman wily and wanton.
Mother nature provides shelter, solace, and sustenance. She gives us sense, sensitivity, and sanity, and sanitizes our souls. We return to roots and answer our calling when we come home to her. She invites us to feast on her, on life—to drink and devour from its abundance. Forever fecund, life pours from her pores; but we kill this very life. We pilfer, pillage, plunder.
The universe is unity. Humanity, the most conscious member of this singularity, must keep the harmony intact for its survival. Call it an epiphany, or awakening of ecological conscience—we share the pulse of existence, and in this sharing lie human hope and destiny.
“Wondering Mind Wandering Thoughts -Trees Series”
The edited version of this article was published in The Economic Times dt. 11.01.2021: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/the-speaking-tree/the-living-bridges/
- Umkar Living Root Bridge Pic: Sukumar Bardoloi;
- Double Decker Living Root Bridge: Arshiya Urveeja Bose