“One… two…. three……... f-o-u-r……… f-i-v-e…...” the further moved the numbers, the slower was my counting and the feebler my voice. Sweat incessantly dripped down my nose into the ground. My eyes were burning, my heart thudding, my blood streaming hot. Every second I felt as if I couldn’t take it anymore, every second I wanted to give up. Yet I greeted my teeth and somehow managed to continue with the struggle.
Minutes before, accompanied by my teenaged companions, I ran two miles apace, gave twenty sit-ups at a stretch on the concrete PT ground, and then began the toughest of all sufferings: the pushups. Even though I desperately wanted to, I dared not collapse on the ground while pumping my body up and down, for that would result into an even more terrible punishment.
All these callisthenics were parts of the training program in the “Cadet College”—a military residential institution run by the Bangladesh Army. This institution has an aim of turning us, the Cadets enrolled here, into the creams of the nation who'd lead the way in several sectors, especially the armed forces. Here the Cadets are bound to lead a regimented lifestyle constrained with myriad rigorous regulations, and anybody who tries to thumb his nose at them gets severely disciplined.
That way of life, to put it bluntly, was something I hated more than a filthy cockroach! I did feel like the happiest man in the world when I got enlisted here, thinking it was an opportunity to be among the bests; but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this place would induce such a turnabout in my life. I, the same boy who’d never woken up before 10, had to rise with the sun itself every morning, and then follow the same routine in the same fashion, with no variations whatsoever. To me, such a humdrum existence was all but a horrendous, unbearable torture.
The same frustration reigned in my thoughts as I counted my 33rd pushup. Dear god, end this nightmare! Please! I prayed in my mind.
Although my prayers weren’t answered right away, the dreadful PT did come to an end some seconds later. I stood up, let out a long sigh of relief, and began to walk slowly with my pals.
Our ‘house’—the Cadets’ residence is called the ‘house’—was only a five-minute walk from the PT ground, and as we walked for three minutes or so, it began to heave into sight.
Right then, my eyes lit on the fairly small field which fringed the back of the building. That sight was nothing novel for my eyes, for I’d walked past the field every single day for the last two years. But at that moment, as if being bewitched, I found an utterly different view of the field; or, perhaps it was there at all times and I’d never had the will before to take it in.
The field was awash with deep verdant grasses, some of which were sodden with drops of dew in their edges. The sunlight falling upon, the grasses yielded numberless pearly dots all over the field, as if some precious pearls were glistering gloriously in a vast treasure. All my attention arrested, I stood stock-still before the scenic beauty.
There was something about the sight, something that bespoke an irresistible invitation. It magnetized me through and through.
I knew there would be a horrible struggle in the house for bathing as we had only ten bathrooms for a hundred cadets, and that I’d never have a bath if I was late. Still, charmed by an appealing urge inside, I gravitated towards the field.
The beads of dews on the grasses appeared closer to my eyes as I set foot on the field, looking even more beauteous. Kneeling down, I ran my hand through the grasses. Specks of dirt reached my palm, but that couldn’t dispel the spellbinding sensation of the grasses’ blades lapping my fingers, the freshness, the icy moisture, and the boundless vigour in them. Transports of joy bubbled up inside me.
Some minute mimosas lay scattered in between the grass. I’d seen mimosas before, but never did I cast upon them my thorough attention. And as I did that day, my fascination knew no bounds.
I found in their sensitivity to touch—the way they folded themselves the moment I put my fingertips in contact—an unexplainable mystery. I knew there’s some sort of a scientific clarification behind that, but the ability of that sight to fascinate, to bubble up spasms of surprise, to make the heart leap, was something beyond explanation. It enchanted me so intensely that I touched all the mimosas in the field, just to feel that mystery.
After moments of unblinking stare and stupefied stance, my senses began to return home. I rose to my feet and breathed out another sigh, but this time, it suggested sheer comfort.
At that moment, my wristwatch caught my attention and made an electric wave surge beneath my skin. It was 6:51 am—only nine minutes remaining before the breakfast hour—and I was still on my PT uniform, my body wet and messy. I had no idea of how the time passed so fast.
I ran to the house, dashed my way into my dorm, grabbed the academic uniform, and again ran to the bathrooms. There was obviously no sign of any queue there, as everyone else had left the house for breakfast. I could foresee a horrible punishment in my mind’s eye while I took the fastest bath in my life. Then I hastily put on the uniform, and began to run as fast as my legs could carry me, my destination the dining hall.
Strangely enough, I somehow made it to the dining hall in time that day and didn’t get any punishment.
My life took on a miraculous change ever since. I didn’t even have the faintest regard for the nature before. But the experience in that field made me realize for the first time in my life how beautiful the nature could be, and how neglectful I was that I’d never actually noticed it before. I realized the nature has so many presents to offer, and all it seeks in return is nothing but some attention. And as I began to cast attention, the nature appeared with more and more gifts, like colorful trees, clouds with mysterious shapes, azure sky, euphonious, soothing twitters of birds and suchlike.
Thus the military, regimented way of life no more seemed dreadful as the nature turned into a shelter for me; whenever I needed to run away from the frustrations, I found myself sitting on a shady nook, feasting my eyes out on the naked nature with all its grace, listening to the birds’ twitters. And it took the nature only some seconds to wipe all the anxieties off my mind, and replace them with feelings of fascination, surprise, ecstasy, peace, and what not.
These days, the moment any gift of nature fascinates me, I dredge up that miraculous incident, and murmur with incalculable gratitude, “Thank you, Mother Nature. Thank you for the miracle.”