The best piece of advice I ever received came from a random encounter during a memorable trip back in 2008. I was with a group of colleagues exploring the remote Mamanduru forest, nestled on the border between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Our adventure led us to a forest guest house, shrouded in darkness and powered by only a few dim lights. As the night grew late and our spirits soared with a few drinks, some of us decided to venture into the enigmatic forest armed with torches.
However, amidst the fun, I became separated from my companions. Lost in the pitch-black wilderness, surrounded by the eerie sounds of unknown creatures, I began to feel a sense of unease. It was in this moment of uncertainty that I encountered a stranger. He was a man dressed simply in a shirt and pants, carrying a lantern.
Initially, I was cautious, as we had been warned about the presence of Naxalites in the area. Yet, fueled by the effects of alcohol, my nervousness waned. The stranger approached me and inquired about my identity and purpose in the forest. I explained that I was with friends but had lost my way back to the guest house.
Assuring me not to worry, he mentioned that he was heading in the same direction, as he lived nearby. During our journey back, our conversation was limited due to a language barrier, as I struggled to grasp the nuances of the Telugu accent. However, one piece of wisdom he imparted has remained etched in my memory: “If you do not harbor ill intentions, you will never truly be lost. Your memories will become your steadfast guide, even in the darkest of times. But never dare to venture under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
Though I cannot recall the stranger’s name or his appearance, his advice has proven invaluable to me countless times when I’ve felt lost. I’ve come to understand the profound truth in his words, and I never venture into the unknown when under the influence of alcohol. This encounter, a chance meeting with a nameless guide in the heart of the forest, left me with a lifelong lesson that has illuminated my path in moments of darkness.