Wild Part 2, Chapter 15 of Memory, a novella
Written for nanowrimo extention
Copyright (c) Soumya Mukherjee
For those unlucky people who missed part 1, please go back and read it. But try this one out first. I Will try to provide a link in the end for persevering readers.
We left our hero, i.e. Boy,, in a dilemma. This was resolved, quite literally, by a cliff-hanger. Boy hung over the cliff outside the cave, clutching at vines for dear life, praying the tiger isn’t about to pounce, and got rid of the excess Rajasthani hospitality that his delicate bong system was loathe to accept.
Early next morning, woken not by birdcalls but by screeching of langoors, they climbed down to the stream for a morning frolic, unaware of the import of the langoors’ agitation. Soon the frantically gesticulating Sadhu called them back to the cave. There, he gently chided Boy for destroying the harmony of the forest. Apparently, the stream was part of the beat of a tigress, and the langoors were announcing the presence of her majesty. Unknown to the city folk, but evident to the Sadhu, she had made a kill last night, and had enjoyed the meal at her favourite spot a short stroll away, and had been coming down to the pool for a refreshing drink, when their rude transgressions disturbed her majesty. The Queen of the forest had left in a huff, and withdrawn into deeper forest.
After a breakfast of Roti and Aloo courtesy the forest hermit, and tea courtesy Jo and his billycan, and enjoying the morning chillum and satsang, their host showed Boy the way to the lake via the stream, with a warning not to disturb the kill. Slightly sceptical, giving credit to the hallucinatory qualities of good jungle weed, they rounded the bend and stood still in shock! There, on a flat rock just below the overhang were the gory remains of a Sambar. Boy did not disturb the kill. It was the kill that deeply disturbed them.. The pugmarks leaving the stream were clearly visible in the sand. They seemed very fresh. The thought that this kill could have been them, anytime that they were walking around this area, Boy relieving himself late last night, or taking a dip this morning, when they were within sniffing distance of this mayhem made their hair stand on end. Boy hurried down the path, cursing Desi for having got them into this.
Further shock awaited Boy, but a beautiful one this time. In the tall grass, he came face to face with a majestic Sambar stag. They both froze for seconds, when suddenly someone breathed, and the magic was broken. The stag disappeared with a mighty leap.
Boy reached the ruins by the lake and found shelter, where they carefully lit a fire as the tourist lodge was on the opposite bank and they had to stay hidden. They dined on the villagers’ gur and chana and Jo’s porridge and settled down, taking turns to mind the fire and stand guard. Jo had been carrying a Lonely Planet, but blown away by this experience which no guide book had warned him of, he decided to donate the pages for rolling Js.
After an incident free night they rose at dawn with the light shimmering on the lake and water birds everywhere. Herds of cheetal were at the lake, oblivious of them. As the sun rose, they saw some crocodile sunning themselves on the bank. This led to a problem as their water was being rationed for drinking only and they needed more for washing and for tea. They drew straws and Boy lost. With the billycan, a jerry can and a stick he went down quaking, stomping to make the crocks leave, as advised. They slithered off into the water. But the water near the edges was murky and covered in green scum, making it opaque. He was certain the prehistoric beasts were lurking just under, waiting to drag him down. Ignoring his friends’ encouragements to go in and get clean water, Boy stood safely on the bank, as far from the water as possible. He hooked the billycan and jar on the stick and collected muddy water full of flotsam and vegetation. Jo patiently strained it through a cloth, boiled it and made tea, tricks he had learnt in the Great Australian Outback, and everyone had tea and porridge and left to explore the lake.
Finally their luck ran out. Some tourists mistook them for tigers, and disappointed on finding some kids instead, alerted the guards, and that’s where the story began in Part 1.
Hearing the commotion and realizing that they were exposed, Boy stopped hiding in the grass, where they had crouched on the jeeps approach, and made a run for the fence, which was quite close here. Boy went to the tree their village friends had pointed out, whose branches straddled the fence and throwing their rucksacks over, climbed the tree and jumped the fence. The guards were still some hundred yards away.
Boy’ great escape was being watched by a college bus trip waiting on the road outside. Boy whetted their curiosity, and Jo hurriedly collected his cycle from the villagers, whom they profusely thanked in broken Hindi. Then the students gave them a lift to Sawai Madhopur, providing a meal and transportation in exchange of Boy’s stories, much like the troubadours of old.
They decided to dispense with buying tickets again, much to Jo’s delight, and decided to spend their remaining funds on a local brew called Santara. This was too potent for poor Desi, a teetotaler till then, but after the strain on the nerves he decided to sample some, and promptly passed out.
The first Delhi bound train that arrived was jam packed, and they just managed to get a foothold in a doorway pleading an ill companion and showing Desi. So space was made, the poor in our country being compassionate people, and Desi was stuffed between people’s feet, while Boy sat on the steps of the open doorway. Jo used his skin colour to store his cycle in a first class compartment and came to join Boy. They spent the night perched on the moving train’s steps, and occasionally pulling the comatose Desi out so that he could be sick on the tracks. They reached Delhi alive and returned to their Hostel and Jo to his backpackers’ dorm.
Boy returned to find an appointment letter waiting, and has been serving that sentence since. Desi went on to top the Civils, and is a glamorous diplomat now. Ron lived out his dreams, travelled the world, running canteens, gambling dens, being a tea taster despite drinking only alcohol, and is now settled in Europe. Jo, after a short stay in Delhi, cycled off in the sunset, never to be heard from since. Boy did not see the tiger on that trip, but much later, of which you can read in the link below. But for all of them, this was one incredible, wild, illegal, dangerous trip that they never should have undertaken, but are glad they did, because this experience can never be repeated or forgotten.
This trip obviously had no photographic evidence other than those seared in their minds. The photos shown were taken years later in Bandhavgarh
The link to part 1, for the patient reader who tried this, and is brave enough to ask for more, is provided below.
https://soumyamukherjee8.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/tiger-tiger-burning-bright/ The first tiger spotting story