It’s a small bazaar in front of the Modhutila forest eco park. Yesterday I wrote modhukhali at some point, I have this habit of giving new names to some places, very bad! It looked decorated, with tigers and elephants sculpture stationed at the gate to greet us. The kids were already quite electrified! Already long stories of how tigers snatch babies and raise them in jungles or elephants pick naughty kids with their trunk and take away were making the air exciting inside the car. There was a big gate to let cars in. I got off and went to the window. A few uniformed forest men were inside. They were surprised, weren’t expecting any guest in the early hours of hartal, according to their booking list. I smiled and said, just came from Dhaka. Want to spend the day with you. How much is your ticket for the car? 80 taka. But do you have any booking for the bungalow? No, I will book now. The large gate was opened for us and we drove in.
It was a silent road going inside the forest on the hills, very beautiful. A patch of shalbon garden was spread on both sides with fallen leaves covering the ground. The tweeting of the birds created music of awe. We saw squirrels jumping around and birds twice as large as sparrow dancing their tails on the trees. Emil and Anisha were far too excited to come to a real jungle. They had only seen glimpses of the wild through the TV screen on Nat Geo or animal planet. Although Emil and I ventured into the ‘tigers’ point in the sundarbans last year around this time immediately after his arrival to Bangladesh. After crossing about half a KM we saw a ‘Shishu park’ with the gate closed, sure no one is expected today during this hartal. We moved on and after a little turn came to a beautiful uphill road. There were lanes and roads bifurcated or branched out after every while; some bearing signs of watch tower, some picnic spots, some zoo, some loo and some forest bungalow. Lets go there, lets go to the zoo, Emil exclaimed. I whispered, let us find our cave for tonight before we explore the place. Fair enough, he thought and allowed us to keep going. We soon came across a small office where the forest in charge sits. A forest guard came near our car. Before he asked, I wanted to know where the bungalow was. He showed the sign. There was another uphill road and we kept going. It was a long road cut from the hill with stones laid on it. There were gardens on both sides, soon came a rose garden on the left and another large ground with big Shapla sculpture. Beyond we could see tracks going inside the forest, quite dense it appeared. Our car soon climbed up to the front yard of a large bungalow on the hill.. with a large veranda and even air con hanging out from one room. Looked very mod and cosy here in the heart of the jungle! It was standing on 8 or 10 pillars with parking spaces in between and a stair going to the veranda of upstair floor. Must have cost a hefty bill from the exchequer part of which went inside the pillows of Bon Chore Osman! Remember those dream come true days of care taker government?
We all got down. Little Shejuti missing the rhythm of the car movement woke up from her hourly sleep and with beautiful eyes opened wide looked at her mom and then at me and gave a priceless smile ending up into a giggling sound. The early winter morning soft sun rays sparkled on her eyes, toothless mouth and beautiful lips prompting me to bend a little and take my nose closer and fill my lungs with the aroma of her mouth. Slowly I kissed her lips and whispered I love you Ma! If you knew how long had I waited till you came in my life! How many women wanted to be your mother and while how many refused to do so!
With love and gratitude, I looked at Faria, my cute wife. Our mini naughty activities behind the tinted glasses were cut short with kids screaming to join them. At the north end of the hill, there went down a long long stair case upto to foot of the hill and later started another stair upward to the neighboring hill. That one looked even taller than ours. Emil already went several steps down. I could try this but would never allow my under aged children. So the adventure was paused. We need to find the care taker of this bungalow. Lets look for him, I told the kids. Jamir Ali found a nearby cottage but no one inside. Looks like a marooned bungalow. We tried to use the stair to it but found the little wooden gate shut. Emil however climbed the gate and jumped inside. So was done by Jamir Ali and me. The huge terrace was blocked from a lounge inside with glass doors, shut from inside. A bit dirty inside as if no one came here in ages! I looked outside the terrace and viewed dense forest around and narrow trails going into the forest. They were very inviting. I knew for sure this should be our place for tonight. The forest office must be the place to help me out! I packed everyone inside the car and drove back to the office.
Inside the room there were few people talking to the forest ranger. With a mouthful of paan inside, he was juggling with words to tell me, in the last 4 years only 3 nights had the occasion to host people here at the bungalow. Prohibited by DC office and BDR (now BGB) being a bordering area, it strictly maintains sun set rule, means everyone is out from the jungle except the uniformed guards. He however offered me a day time rest in that house. I smiled, told myself, we wouldn’t need any rest in the day time. As the mini speech detailing the description of their rule was over I held his hand and told, look, treat me as your younger brother who has come from a far away place. I don’t need your bungalow, but I need to sleep in the jungle be it in that house or in any other empty room. I softly dragged him out of his room to the veranda away from his people. He was hesitant but I corrupted him to break the rule in a very innocuous way. His tone was soft and mild. He murmured, come after 4 when the office is over. Jamir Ali overheard from few steps away and grinned with 32 all out. As we walked back, tensed Faria told me, your driver Shumon was saying, Sir akta babostha korbo-i. I told, its done!
Ye….. she jumped at me. Hurrah…. Emil also jumped with arms open… too much love these days!
Folks, we need to plan for the day now. We’ll explore all the corners of this forest. I told our battalion. The mother reminded to find a toilet. We saw a road side loo beside the mini zoo. Shumon drove back and brought some one to open it for us. We needed to freshen up before hitting the fox’s trail..
( to be continued..)