Thursday...Friday, Saturday and Sunday! Three days more! Sharada was thrilled as she ticked marked the days on the calendar. She had labeled Sunday as Sunday's Surprise, because the much-awaited holiday was spent differently every week.
Sharada and her parents went to malls, parks, ice-cream parlour or sights around the city. The best part was their day was foot-loose! So, this Sunday when her Dad asked Sharada what she would like to do, she chirped, 'Let's go on a drive.'
In the afternoon, they set off in their car, humming songs along with the FM radio. Sharada's Dad drove to the outskirts, where there was less of mad honking, and the air was cooler. Seated in the back, Sharada saw houses painted in bright oranges and yellows, sparrows queuing up on the electric wires and green meadows, pass by in a blur.
She wondered if Dad would stop the car and they would settle under a tree and eat a picnic snack. But, he kept on driving. Soon, the drive turned bumpy, because there was no road, only a small path; rows and rows of tall weed and grass rustled along the car's door. And, then the car came to a stop.
A pin drop silence greeted the trio. A serene, tranquil silence enveloped Sharada and her parents. Sharada's Dad took her hand and they walked into the woods.
'This is a devrai, Sharada. A sacred grove,' her father explained.
'Dev....rai,' Sharada rolled the letters on her tongue. What does it mean, Dad?
'According to an ancient nature law, the sacred grove should remain untouched. No cutting down of trees or clearing the grove to build houses!' Dad explained.
'Ummm...like a warning from God! Beware! Don't touch this grove or else....' Sharada grinned.
'Yes, something like that. Long ago, some smart people thought that if the has to be protected then it should be named after the Almighty. That will deter people with eveil intentions so that they don't incur His' wrath,' Mum explained, adding 'Such groves are worshipped by the villagers.'
The trio walked some more till they reached a gnarled tree trunk.
'This is a tree trunk, Sharada. About 200-years-old or maybe more. Now it's home to so many insects and birds. One could call it a thriving eco-system,' Dad explained.
'Ensuring continuity?' asked Sharada.
Her Dad nodded as he settled down on a boulder. Sharada and her Mum settled down on nearby boulders, taking in the sight. The tall trees had formed a canopy, and the sunlight trickled in through the green cover. The afternoon sun didn't bother them at all! The sunlight, when it fell on leaves, formed an interesting combination of light and shadow. A perfect photograph moment!
Sharada had brought along her camera to take happy pictures. It did cross her mind to collect the camera from the dashboard of the car. But, she shrugged and changed her mind, 'If this is meant to be Nature's secret, I should let it remain so.'
After walking through the grove, crackling dry leaves under their footwear, Sharada's Dad signalled that they ought to leave. He took another circuitous route, so as to avoid driving through the Devrai, to connect with the bumpy road.
On her way back, Sharada sank in her seat and thought of the tall, majestic trees living like a hermit – secluded from the world, but very much a part of it. This Sunday was truly a surprise.
'I bet no other Sunday is going to give me as much pleasure as I got from spending my time in the Devrai,' Sharada grinned.