I sometimes wonder if it is only I or others also happen to encounter an unexplainable calmness once one is close to nature. If you ask me, I certainly am transported in to another world, another realm when I am closer to nature. It is however, for me, an altogether alternating, enriching and empowering adventure. A similar feeling captured my heart on my recent visit to Bhurbhan hills with my family. I have been here before but my stay had been rather brief whereas this time I stayed here for a whole week and so I was inspired to move my pen to capture what I felt and what I sensed.
This article is however not in particular about Bhurbhan hills alone, as a place, but it is nevertheless about what the most empowering serenity of the hills can do to your feelings, emotions and above all understanding of all things nature produces before the eye. One is transported in to another world where one starts to see things through feelings and senses and not only with the eyes. It gives you clear-headedness and your thought process is faster, clearer and deeper. I am once again not sure if this is what it would do to anyone and everyone, yet this is the effect being closer to nature, particularly the hills and the woods, has always had on me. I have to admit that of all the beautiful, miraculous wonders of nature; woody hills are my special weakness.
I was delayed due to the traffic jam, which was the second worst jam of my life as it stretched to about seven kilometres, from the end of the Expressway towards Jheeka Gali road and till the last turning towards Murree hills from where one heads separately towards Bhurbhan hills. It was caused mainly due to the fact that I was travelling on the second day of Eid and quite a lot of other people, like me, had decided to do the same. I was travelling with my family and we were delayed by a good four hours. We reached at about nine o’ clock and felt already very tired and exhausted. The rear window of my room opened in to the balcony, which boasted a very large unrestricted view of the mountains all around. As I sat there after dinner and looked in to the deep darkness in front of me, yes that was my first view of the mountains, all I could barely see were some twinkling lights in thin air. Since it was the second night of Eid hence the moon was not strong enough to enlighten me with whatever scenery I was beholding. As I sat there and stared in to the darkness it first looked as if the stars had come down right in front of me, as the glitter of the lights was distributed unevenly on the mountains, which were placed one ahead of the other, some high some low and therefore the whole view showed a wall of stars situated in front of my eyes. A cool breeze was blowing silently and I suddenly realised I was not tired and exhausted anymore.
I was informed by my interlocutor in the balcony, who happened to be my father-in-law, Sheikh Shameem Ahmad Siddiqui- a great gentleman and a pious God fearing man who, in my opinion, stores within him not only an ample amount of kindness and generosity but also an undying love for nature- that to our left was the Province KPK; Abbottabad, Hazara, in front of us were the little settlements of Bhurbhan, Punjab whereas to our right was Azad Kashmir and as per the locals, to our extreme right behind the tallest, farthest and darkest mountain was situated the saddened, darkened and weeping valley of Srinagar, Occupied Kashmir, India.
When I looked to my extreme right, I could hear little, faded screams of sorrow and grief engulfed in tiny shouts of joy and hope. I shivered and then smiled faintly. Of all the things I will remember from this visit, the most vivid memory would be of the fact that for some reason unfathomed in absolute totality by my mind, I kept smiling most of the time. I will be moving back home tomorrow morning, as this is my last night here, it is raining outside and as I write I can hear the music so produced by the rain falling on the leaves of the majestic oriental plane (Chinar) and tall pine (Chir- also called Deodaar and Sanobar-e-Hindi) trees and the spectacle of lightening and the overpowering music of thunder. The symphony being produced by this orchestra orchestrated by the greatest artist of all is unmatched in excellence, as it continues to soothe my soul and pacify my mind. This, I thought, gave these silent foggy mountains a lively feel.
As I stared in to the dark mountains in front of me, my gaze widened and I was able to spot a few things, perhaps not with my eyes but through my senses. I did not have an idea anymore if this was for real or not, as I lost the distinction between dream and reality. Whatever it was, it was lovable and so I let myself be cast away under the spellbinding sway of my current realm. The little twinkling stars got bigger and their light got stronger. Some of them were stationary and some moving. The moving stars were dancing in front of me and I realised those dancing stars were the lights of the vehicles moving on the curvy hilly roads. I could then hear the sound of wind, which one doesn’t hear normally in the hustle-bustle of a busy city life. It is indeed an amazing experience, listening to the sound of wind in absolute silence. The sound of the wind brushing against the shivering leaves of the oriental plane and pine felt as if too many little beings were applauding me, as my personal audience: what for? I know not.
As I looked deeper in to the lights coming from behind the trees, the scene got romantic, as it showed trees with sparkling lights and I thought for a moment about the life going on in these mountains, cut off from the rest of the world, as life goes on in an impractical disconnect. At this very moment, I also felt a connection with the inhabitants of these little lights through this disconnect. A connection perhaps that brings all of us mortals together in a unique fashion. I felt as if I was a part of this world and my own reality seemed so distant, so unreal. A dog barked ferociously in his effort to drive the wild bores away and I realised it was time to rest.
I woke up the next morning and was pulled unconsciously by some unknown magnetic force towards the balcony after breakfast. It was a warm sunny day and everything was shining. I saw the mountain range for the first time clothed scarcely by a tinge of cloud here and a bit of cloud there. It was quiet and peaceful. The wind was blowing calmly and the leaves in my audience were still applauding. The beauty of the green hills captured my heart like never before. I have been to different hill stations in my life however I never pondered over the meaning of the true beauty and essence of nature ever before. The magic spell it can cast over one’s mind is just unimaginably extraordinary. As I looked at the spellbinding beauty in front of my eyes, I wondered what goes on in the mind of an artist, of a painter, as he looks at such a scene and captures it with his brush and paint and oil. The artist takes a lot of toil in capturing what befalls him whereas we, on the other hand, discard it immediately as if it is merely usual. The scenery at that time did look like a painting by a great painter to me.
It was briefly after lunch when the weather took a different turn and started getting cloudy. The sun went to hide behind the fabulous heavy cloud and decided not to shed his light upon us. The clouds took over and suddenly within seconds more clouds poured in from out of nowhere and started, with some effort, to block the view. I went and took a chair in the balcony again. I had to, hadn’t I? How can one miss nature at work? I had to look closely in order to realise how it all happens that changes one’s heartbeat. It wasn’t merely a happenstance.
The nature was working in complete silence as if it was ordered not to let anyone know. It was a secretive movement following a planned strategy and within moments everything changed. It was suddenly very dark and black clouds took over from the white ones like the main experienced warriors’ battalion charges up and launches their strike by taking over the infantry in a battlefield. However, the white clouds were not rendered useless, as they manoeuvred a silent move under the shadow of the black clouds and commenced a mist attack, which covered the whole scene within seconds. The whole view was thereby covered in a deep terrorising mist within no time to an absolute zero visibility and the offence was almost prepared. All I could see from the grand view in front of me was mist, heavy mist, which didn’t stop there but came to my balcony and brush-past me as well. It was a magical moment, all misty under the heavily developing cumulonimbus. And I knew that a stormy rain was due.
And then it started to drizzle. Within a few seconds lightening and thunder took over like experienced artillery managing the backup attack and the full battle scene came to life. It then started raining cats and dogs and the sound of thunder and the rhythmic rain turned louder and louder until one could hear nothing else. Looking at this, my five-year-old son Abdul Muqeet Siddiqui came out at this moment in the balcony with his favourite cat-faced umbrella in order to enjoy the rain. He looked at me and smiled cheerfully as if trying to tell me that his Baba is not the only one who loves nature. I smiled back in agreement, as I knew that it would be the case with him given that he was my son and that he and I had the same gene.
Heavy rain carried on for about an hour or so and then I saw something for the first time in my life. The cloud causing the rain started to move over my head and towards my back as the sound of rain started getting fainter and subtler. I could sense the cloud moving away and the rain slowing off. And then the rain, the thunder and the lightening suddenly stopped- all of it went in to silence, a complete silence. The mist started to clear all that was washed away. I was able to see the clouds moving away like they were dancing in the air and clearing the view for me. The heavy cumulonimbus was still above these clouds filling the sky as a darkened roof. It was majestically incredible to behold clouds under the clouds. The battle was over.
Suddenly my attentive gaze caught the sight of a double rainbow right there in front of me. One of the rainbows was huge and large. I could spot at least six colours in it. I was able to see the whole projectile made by the rainbow and next to it was a smaller rainbow like a father and son roaming around carelessly and enjoying the spectacle of nature. The birds that had flown away in search of shelter came back and started flying again as if they too, like me, were enjoying the miracles of nature. That too cleared and the sun struggled back but was not successful as it was just the time for sunset. All that the sun was able to accomplish was to spread a faint orange-golden colour in the sky and widening the shadows of the mountains before it finally accepted defeat and set in the west.
Surprisingly this was all in a day. The nature had done nothing but what was all in a day’s work. The job was well executed and I was left in solitude again with my audience- the applauding leaves. I spent a few more days and encountered more scenes like the ones narrated above, however, just a night and day were enough for me to find what I always yearn for; inner peace, tranquillity and solitude in this serene atmosphere that has the power to make one forget everything and just be mesmerised by the endeavours of nature at work. The days passed here with family are a treasure for me as I bonded with my kids as well as the natural beauty of this place, which enabled me in opening up the rusted faculties of my mind. My pen started working again and my thoughts are again deeper and meaningful for I had become a wretched man who was not able to move his pen due to the pressures of bread and butter as well as the fast paced capitalistic and materialistic city life.
I have been fortunate enough to see the work of the greatest painter of all, as referred to above, who has the power to use this canvas and pain a new picture every day and every hour. Verily, He is none other than ‘Al-Musawwir’ Allah Almighty who paints a new picture everyday and though His work of art He enables us to comprehend what beauty means and what art truly is. He is undoubtedly the greatest artist of all. Only then did I understand what prophet Muhammad SAWW truly meant when he said, ‘God is beautiful and He loves beauty.’
I waited patiently and witnessed His work and in turn pondered deeply in my thoughts to realise that true peace can only be found from deep within oneself and not from the outside. However, for that purpose one has to learn the art of finding solitude in one’s solitary moments as well as whilst amongst people. For He only shows His true essence and existence when one is at peace with oneself and that too is only accomplished when one can find some solitary moments and is in absolute solitude within his very self.
It has rained again all night and I have enjoyed the rain. I have looked through the falling rain towards my twinkling lights in the mountains like dancing stars had came down in front of me. I am so glad my wife suggested that we come down here and spend a few days. I spent my days with my family as well as in solitude and these solitary moments are a memory I shall cherish for the rest of my days.
It is time for me to depart. It is still misty and for some reason completely unknown to me, my audience- the shivering leaves- are not applauding anymore. They are observing a moment of complete silence whereas I have a faint smile on my face. Perhaps this is our farewell.