Trees at our doorstep
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]nce upon a time, according to a Zeliang folktale which I will take the liberty of retelling, a man was travelling through a big forest. The traveller was in a hurry, and he noticed that the forest was so big that he would never be able to cross it before morning. As he was walking along, looking right and left, he felt eyes upon him. He looked behind him but saw nothing. Suddenly a dark spirit pounced on him and in the next moment, the man felt hairy hands around his neck. Gasping, the man struggled to break free, but the spirit was unbelievably strong. Nevertheless, the man was a strong hunter and he fought back just as ferociously. They snarled and hissed at each other, the hunter desperately fighting for his life. Good fortune favoured him, and he managed to kill the spirit. But that was just the beginning of all his troubles. Now he had to think of a clever way to hide the dead spirit, especially if he hoped to get out of the forest alive. With some difficulty he found a hiding place, and he resumed his travels.There seemed to be no end to the forest. The hunter saw that it was steadily getting dark. So he sought out the fig tree and confessed his crime to the fig tree. The hunter also requested the fig tree to give him shelter in the night from angry spirits. The fig tree said he would protect the hunter, and spread his branches wide so the man could step into their shade and hide. “Don’t make a sound if anyone should come near,” the fig tree warned the hunter.
It was only a matter of time before the other spirits discovered the body of the murdered spirit and they swore to avenge him. They screamed and filled the whole forest with terrible noises. The spirits went to the trees and ordered them to help them find the person who had killed their brother. The trees fearfully obeyed. Soon the whole forest was in an uproar. After some time, the spirits noticed that all the trees had come to their help, all except the fig tree. Naturally, some of them went to the fig tree and asked why he was not helping them.
The fig tree trembled all over and said, “I am sorry I cannot help you. It is because I have been sick for the past three days with this terrible fever.” The tree shook itself again until the earth beneath vibrated like the prelude to an earthquake. “My fever is very contagious and I must warn you not to come too near else you will also get it.” The spirits had no wish to get the fever and they went off without trying to persuade the fig tree to help them. This was how the fig tree saved the man’s life.
After that event, the fig tree and the man became friends for life. The hunter went home and shared his incredible story and requested his kinsmen never to cut down fig trees.
I think that is a folktale that beautifully demonstrates the friendship that existed between man and nature. As a matter of fact, man is supposed to befriend nature, by taking care of nature. Unfortunately, that cannot happen in isolation. The Pulie Badze wildlife sanctuary is a beautiful example of how man can befriend nature. It is one of life’s blessings to take a tour in the forest and see what magnificent forest life we still have, thanks to the efforts of the Jotsoma village.
Entry tickets are available at the very reasonable rate of ten rupees per person. The village has made Pulie Badze very accessible with a flight of stone steps leading all the way to the summit, as rumour confirms it. It is now a leisurely walk that small children can easily manage. It’s quite impressive that such a sanctuary exists just a little distance from Kohima. Along the way one is rewarded with sights of a large variety of trees and birdsongs. The tree species that we have in these areas are impressively numerous. Hunting and herb gathering is prohibited within the sanctuary.
I am informed that black bears, antelopes and flying foxes are some of the wildlife still found in these forests. Our botanical wealth is preserved here, away from the destructive hand of the consumer. I don’t know if the village receives any financial assistance from the government or from international organisations that preserve wildlife. In my opinion, they deserve every bit of help that is available because the sanctuary gives back so much to our society.
We do not deprive our children if we cannot afford to buy them the latest electrical gadgets. But we truly deprive them if we do not give them the opportunity of getting in touch with botanical life, and connecting with the natural world around them. And yes, this is an advertisement for the Pulie Badze sanctuary, a user-friendly version.