It was a beautiful rainy Saturday morning when I left with my bag and some sandwiches for munching on the way. The clouds were in a mood to shower the earth and its beings. The touch of rain elevated from whispers to forte. It was a rainy day and while for most it’s a time to stay indoors with a hot cuppa; I had a special reason to be out there to meet a million friends in nature. A million fireflies who flock into this village for mating just in time before the rains. Around 9 am when I was on the Mumbai-Nashik highway for an exciting journey to the village of Purushwadi with Grassroutes. Purushwadi is located about 180 Kms from Mumbai in Ahmednagar district. Grassroutes organises experiences in rural villages; adopts villages and works with communities to promote sustainable rural travel. Purshwadi is one such adopted village that Grassroutes has been supporting through its programmes. For many, the mention of Purushwadi village itself seemed unfamiliar. However, smiles and a few verbal footnotes got me to the base of this village. Around 11.00 am, the warm and friendly Hemant from the tribe was waiting at a junction below the village to lead me up all the way to the village. A make-do path bordered with trees winded up the village. The sun peaked over the glittering hills and the Infinity dispersed. The remoteness grew while the drenched clouds dried themselves up. The greens and yellows now graced the thatched houses. Upon arriving there; I was mist-wrapped, as walked through the clouds. My eyes; fixed on the blurred silhouettes of lush mountains vast.
The cool breeze and the swaying tress were up in the morning to greet me at this beautiful haven. The smiling villagers and the mud houses were just enough to warm my heart. I settled into my tent, soaking in the beauty around over a humble cup of tea and conversing with hemant on village traditions. He narrated tales of the village deity Zakubai and the origin of the village. Legend has it that a goddess took over this village to protect it herself without any help from a male gods. Also Purushwadi was earlier known as Purunchwadi which means ‘a village perched atop a mountain’. I slurped these stories over a few Chais with Hemant. He told me how each visit to this village provides for their livelihood. The process of connecting with outsiders enriches the lives of the guests as well as the villagers. Hiring a tent for a day up here can bring home books for the children in the house. A reasonably priced festive celebration can light up houses with a bulb. Experiencing a harvest festival can contribute to their growth, albeit in the humblest ways. It’s in moments like these when travel feels meaningful and transformational. To connect over rural life’s simple pleasures is enriching. That journey towards inner self opens up paths for many lives. These moments of connection is when our inner universe extends to the outer universe.
Over an hour full of enriching conversations, the cold wind roared and the hunger in my tummy spiralled. In time, I was led through a narrow path strewn with stones towards a mud house. An old woman was waiting outside the house and greeted me with a warm hug. Her little heaven endearingly smelt of earth, cow dung and the smoke of wood fired bhakris – a nutritious local bread baked on earthenware. In brass plates came, piping hot bhakris circled in simplicity. This was followed by a sweet which is known to be served with jaggery and milk. But Tai, meaning Elder sister in Marathi apologetically conveyed that her cow; referred to as Gauri couldn’t give milk today, hence she humbly put together water and jaggery with the sweet. Yet nothing felt amiss. Such hospitality, love and kindness of Tai not only filled my stomach but also my soul. It’s these delicate moments that brings alive journeys. For this was only the beginning of soulful moments before I witnessed the magical rendezvous with the ever-glowing fireflies that can truly light up any soul.
The sky brushed itself in orange and pink hues as the Sun bid goodbye to us. I eagerly awaited the entry of the Fireflies. The fireflies had a mind of their own. A few ones who landed earlier loitered around the trees in the camp. The bonfire was lit to warm it up for all. I proceeded to a local’s house for humble portion of rice, vegetables and lentils. After a fulfilling meal, I headed out for a walk in the village. I now noticed, everything had begun to appear brighter. The moon shone in full glory. The trees were illuminated. The awaited carriers of light made a grand entry. Some spiralled around trees, some flocked in groups, some hugged the trees and some came around us to say hello. The magic spread wider as the fireflies grew in numbers. They were finally here to charm us all. It was nature’s magnificence that startled me the most. All of nature is synced, it’s rhythm, its love and beauty. This magical experience of witnessing a million fireflies was a proof of nature’s miracles and beauty. Despite all attempts, my camera wasn’t able to capture the sights and gracefully surrendered to its beauty instead. In fact from the first sight itself, the company of fireflies had caused me to withdraw from my phone and camera. As told by a local, fireflies have light organs as a defense mechanism so that they can warn other animals, birds, insects and creatures about their unpleasant taste. A firefly’s lifespan after mating and laying eggs ranges from one day to a year. Despite the short life span, what the fireflies bring to the night and our eyes is beauty. Such are the invaluable lessons we can learn being in nature. The fireflies are a metaphor for impermanence and bringing your inner love and light to the surface. For sharing this light with others can create magical moments and outcomes. The search for an experience of million glowing fireflies of Purushwadi, invoked the light in me through the love and simplicity of its people. We can do the same by evolving from our ideas of adventure and travel. Adventure can mean bringing light into lives as we traverse places. A tiny share of our travel fund can contribute to sustenance of communities we come across. A small step and a big heart is all it takes to give back to the places we travel. Two nights later, it was time for me to leave. And I left with a deep content within; playing the wind flute I bought from a village artisan and reflecting on my magical moments here. Because somewhere while seeking the glowing fireflies, a little boy could turn his life with a book. Choosing to live with locals could bring food to their table. And by being light ourselves, we could be the fireflies lighting up the dark corners of this beautiful world.