My recent trip to the Mandangad Forest Camp surprised me.
For one, I didn’t think I would ever go there since it was so far away.
For another, I didn’t think I would ever enjoy it as much as I did.
On both counts, I was proven wrong.
Not only did I end up going there without making a big fuss about the distance, but I also ended up enjoying it to the fullest. It was one of those once in a lifetime trips with strangers that would serve as a turning point in my adult life.
No, nothing majorly creative happened there. So why was it a turning point?
Because one small thing did happen – I ended up making friends, I bonded with my colleagues on a whole different level and I thoroughly experienced the seclusion from society.
I always loved games like Minecraft and TV shows like Lost, which were all about survival. It was about being secluded on an island or in a forest, without any contact with the outside world, trying to survive. You were pushed into a situation that an introvert like me would find extremely uncomfortable. You had to talk to this huge group of strangers, some of whom you liked, some of whom you disliked and some of whom disliked you. My trip to Mandangad was something like that. I got to live in a forest camp! And it was awesome!!
While there was nobody I disliked – and hopefully, there wasn’t anyone there who disliked me! – there were a ton of people I had never spoken to. There were so many connections to be made, and the shy guy inside of me always screamed ‘No!’ when I had to actually face these people. This was in office. This was in a highly competitive, depressing environment of a Multinational I.T. Company. But there, in Mandangad, there were no I.T. cubicles. There was just nature. There were no strangers. They were just people. And finally, there was no shy, introvert blogger who usually doesn’t fit in anywhere. There was just me.
The thing that was the single differentiating factor between this trip and the others in my past with a similar set up (like the Vadgaon trip with my childhood friends, or the Pawana trip with my office friends) was that this one did not have a cellphone range.
We were completely cut off from phone calls, internet, Whatsapp and all the other social media. If online social life was junk food, then at that camp, we were forced to eat salads!
At first, I found it strange. And unsafe.
What if somebody tried to kill me and take all my money? What if somebody locked me inside a shady room with a Gorilla? What if I was the sole witness to a murder and cellphone coverage was the only thing stopping me from reporting or preventing it?
That is when several things hit me. First, I have no money. And my family isn’t particularly rich. So, killing me would be a waste of the murderer’s time. Why bother? Ha.
Secondly, the only part of ‘Gorillas’ and other animals we would get to see the entire trip was their shit. Yes, there was a load of animal poo everywhere we went!
And lastly, I was a creative fellow. As if I would be that lucky to witness such creative incidents, pfft! If there had to be a murder to witness at that camp, it would be the neighboring tent’s resident’s diet. I mean, I overheard her in the morning, claiming she would only eat beans and fruits on the whole trip as a part of her luxurious diet; the same night, I saw her thoosofying* an entire chicken curry katori and some Gulab Jamuns. If that isn’t murder, I don’t what is!
On the safety front – If you must know, there actually was internet and cellphone coverage, but only at the reception, which was few kilometers away. So in order to make a call, or post your beautiful selfie online, you had to walk a few ways away from your cozy tent! And you know how lazy we millennials are!
Anyway, back to the point of this post.
I realized how much I didn’t miss it.
I never used to get many phone calls anyways. I am more of a ‘Whatsapp texts’ kind of guy. And as for Instagram and Facebook posts, I would have preferred posting them after my trip. I was in no hurry to show off the camp. That could wait!
And Whatsapp was also not on top of my lists. Not many “friends” wanted to text me anyways. Again, I was more of a face-to-face guy.
It was: Calls < Whatsapp Texts < Face-to-Face.
And besides, I had new friends to make. I had new stories to listen to. And for once, I wasn’t the talkative one!
It was the perfect mixture and balance of craziness.
I had the good fortune of listening to vibrant stories of break-ups, make-ups and office drama. I got to hear about funny stories, horror stories and embarrassing stories. I got to tell some of my own. I got to hear about experiences and life lessons. And it was exhilarating.
All because there was no internet coverage.
Nobody was in a hurry to post their selfies or chat with their friends. It was the power of our laziness that forced us to actually talk with each other. And the soothing, calm tranquility of the forest only added to a melodious backdrop of Sanam Puri songs. Not to mention the cold night wind that kept lashing at our tents threateningly, as if to say ‘If you leave your tents to go to the reception so that you can use internet, I will freeze your socks off!‘…
I mean, the problem was never with me. I can last a few days without phone calls and Whatsapp. But others’ can’t. They always seem to have something better to do on their phones than to talk to each other.
Except, this time they couldn’t. And so, we ended up having a gala time.
It was an epiphany. All the time that I didn’t spend in the office in front of the computer, I would spend on my phone or laptop, chatting with people online or watching TV shows (and porn). My eyes would scream death. My head would spin at the end of the day when I closed my eyes, because it wasn’t used to calm, quiet peace. It wasn’t used to darkness. It wasn’t used to resting for so long.
That made me think; I obviously couldn’t just stop using my phone. And TV shows and (MOMS AND DADS PLEASE IGNORE THIS PART) porn were a healthy part of my lifestyle. But, I also could ensure that I contributed time to nature, to real people and to myself! I could definitely make sure that I didn’t have chats to reply to all the time on the weekends, or waste away my hours of bliss in front of Netflix, watching ‘Bird Box’! I need to live. I needed to be secluded from virtuality. I need to make new words. (Hey! Look at that, one task down!) I needed to talk to my family and friends, and strangers alike and see what they were doing. And above all, I needed to take my time off from the screen.
So that is my plan. It is, in all honesty, a lousy plan. And I am sure right after posting this, I will be back to Whatsapp-ing my life away.
But, like my dad says, never let the fear of failure stop you from trying something new! So I am going to do exactly that. I am going to, at least on weekends, uninstall Whatsapp and focus on life.
Because you know what, those who want to talk to you will find other ways of talking to you. And those who want to share the real beauties of their lives will do so without resorting to Instagram and Snapchat. And you will find your peace, your tranquility and a new charm to life by doing this.
Let’s see how it goes, eh? Let us see where this rocky road takes us. While social media – and cellphones by extension – are an addiction, and this new mission of mine a seemingly lost cause… seclusion is bliss. And I could do with some bliss right now in life.
*thoosofying – the art of hogging food at the speed of a hungry Indian
It has been a long time. This post originally was aimed towards me talking about seclusion from social media. But I knew that was a typical topic. I knew it was a cliche at this point. And I also knew I had to write a post about my trip to Mandangad.
So I thought, why not combine both! If Karan Johar could meld two different storylines to create Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, so could I. Although, not as well as him.
Please leave comments down below and let me know what you guys think!
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