|A troop of Phayre's leaf monkeys in the distance, moves through the deciduous and semi-evergreen forests of Lawachara National Park in Moulvibazar.|
|Why do forests inspire?|
How is it that a bunch of trees and living things can lift spirits and free souls? What magnificent ingredient or elixir does the forest bring to enchant, inspire and release? Does anybody know?
|A gorjon tree, Lawachara.|
|A Phayre's leaf monkey, taking a break...|
|An Asian brown tree frog.|
|How does a frog scratch?|
By morning it’s time for humans. Buses stop, groups move about making too much noise. Md Ahad Miah has arrived. He’s 22, a little late, apologetic... a local guide – we’d arranged to set out at dawn. But he’s a forest resident too. He has fever. I like his attitude. Mahogany, chapalish, dumor – he knows the trees. “The forest is deciduous,” he says, “But after rain, say twenty days, the leaves return; the forest becomes dark.” He’s taken us deep, along leaf-covered deer trails. He dreams of opening a guest house, of knowing more about his wild patch of the Earth. He’s inspired – like me, like the city folk. Even more so – for him, his forest is some heavenly drug. He has a forest addiction.
|Md. Ahad Miah, 22, tries the village flute. He has a forest addiction!|
|A bamboo stand. Lawachara.|
There’s a rhesus macaque, incredibly bulky, at the highest heights of a tree. He’s sitting like a gentleman and it looks ridiculous – not at all agile or sleek like yesterday’s monkeys. I’m extremely concerned he’ll fall. Should he really be doing that? He may as well be a dolphin in that tree. It looks that natural.
|Bamboo brings lines.|
|A forest oasis in a crowded country.|
|Lawachara: oxygen for the soul.|
|Butterfly on a railway sleeper.|
|A teak (shegun) tree.|
But wait. Listen? “You’ll never see it,” says Ahad, “They’re extremely shy. Listen!” It was the dog-like bark of the barking deer. And high above – we’re looking for hoolock gibbons – it’s a squirrel of the type that doesn’t seem inclined to fit its taxonomy. And then, by chance, it jumps across a patch of sky. For a very tiny second there’s a flash – yes, a bright orange belly – you can’t see it twice. Ahad is likewise excited. “You know,” he says, “that’s the first time I saw that colour.”
|Ahad chooses the less-trodden paths.|
Hoolock gibbons are endangered. From more than 100,000 individuals across their range from Assam to parts of Myanmar several decades ago there are no more than 5,000 now – in all Bangladesh there are 200. The hoolock gibbon is South Asia’s only ape. Lawachara is the best place to find them.
|Birth is an unfolding fern frond.|
The forest excites. The soul is brimming with inspiration. Everyone’s a novelist, an artist, a poet... at least temporarily. Lawachara breathes life and space into this crowded land. We all need a little of that. “I am a part of nature,” says Ahad, “And nature is a part of me.” He’s right of course.
|An ironbark tree.|
|The main entry to Lawachara.|
|After rain the leaves regrow.|
|Into the woods...|
This article is published in Star Magazine, here: That Forest Feeling
|Me and a forest train.|