I want to talk to Bhanu,” Ram Avtar Singh said.
A tall and lean person entered the room. Even though he was 22 years old, he had the features of a 12 year old. There was a thin strip of moustache above his lips and army cut hair. There was stiffness in his walk.
“Dadaji aapne bulaya.” (Did you call me grandfather?)
“Yes, but first close the door. I want to tell you something important.” Ram Avtar said in a feeble voice.
Bhanu immediately obliged, the swiftness in his actions was visible to his grandfather. He noticed it and felt good about it. He was satisfied that the eligible person will be replacing him as the forest ranger of that particular area.
Bhanu closed the door and sat near him while holding his hand.
“Son, my condition doesn’t allow me to speak much, therefore, I have written down a letter for you. But before that I want to tell you something.” Ram Avtar said.
“I want you to just have faith in me. You might find whatever you’ll learn or might see in the next few days a little absurd. You just have to have faith in whatever I say.” Ram Avtar felt that this was the last time he would be speaking, and wanted to make the most of this opportunity.
“Dadaji, you’re the only person I have had blind faith in since childhood. I will do anything I am needed to do for my hero, for the person I have looked up to since I have opened my eyes.” a faint smile appeared on Ram Avtar’s face after hearing Bhanu’s reply.
“Remember I told you a story about a man who saved me from four tigers and then again from a tusker?” Ram Avtar said.
“Yes Dadaji, I remember. But why are you talking about those stories right now?” Bhanu was confused.
“Believe me, those were real. And now I want you to take the red cloth out of my trunk.” Ram Avtar pointed towards a trunk which contained his personal belongings.
Silently, he opened the trunk and took out the red cloth. He kept it in his pocket and returned to his place.
“Bhanu I have told you all that I could and the rest is written in these three letters. I want you to read them during your journey to Ramnagar.”
Bhanu nodded and took those letters.
“It’s time for you to leave, just remember that no matter what happens he’ll [AR1] be with you. Bhanu, my son, my love will always be there with you, but I have to go now.” And Ram Avtar closed his eyes. He knew Bhanu would be in safe hands and he would take care of Bhanu in the times of trouble.
Bhanu sat there for sometime looking at the person who used to be his hero once but now lying down in front of him while waiting for death to overpower him.
Two hours later, the doctor declared Ram Avtar dead. It was 12 PM. After performing all the necessary rituals Bhanu walked out of his house at 4:30 PM the next day. There was a jeep waiting for him in the receding light of the sun. It was mid- November; winter had already arrived, and days were getting shorter.
It was a 30 minute journey from his native place Kashipur to Ramnagar, where the Corbett National Park’s headquarters are located. He took out the letters from his bag, all of them were numbered and he opened the one with ‘1’ written on it.
He started reading the letter. His grandfather had written down all the instructions concerning surviving in a jungle. Being a Chief Forest Ranger, he had already asked the staff in Corbett to take extra care of his grandson and he had written about the safe exits in the jungle. He read the letter with utmost attention and reached the last paragraph that was written in different colored ink. He found it awkward and started reading.
“Son, now I have given you as much information as I can to help you during your stay in Corbett. But there is one secret there which is still left. Remember I used to tell you the stories about a man who saved my life twice, those were true. Yes, he actually exists and he is the one who saves animal or stops people from killing them. All those theories about him are true, but except me no one else knew about him. He gave me that red cloth, which I would have given to you before my death. Always tie that cloth around your neck before entering the jungle and he will recognize you. I have shown him your pictures, and I hope from now onwards he’ll take care of you. Always remember, my blessings are with you and now the jungle is yours, take care of Corbett. Save it from all the troubles.”
Bhanu put the letter inside his pocket as the jeep entered the headquarters’ compound. He wiped his tears while getting down from the jeep but the expression of disbelief stayed on his face. He was finding it hard to digest the facts his grandfather had written down, but then Ram Avtar always told him the truth.
“Bhanu get inside the jeep fast, we have to leave.” the other guide came running towards him.
“What happened?” Bhanu was finding it difficult to keep up with the pace of the situation.
“I’ll tell you everything on the way, but right now we have to go into the forest. We don’t have much time.” the guide replied.
Bhanu jumped into the jeep and they proceeded towards the jungle. It was 5:25 PM and sunlight was receding plus the trees around the road were making it look darker. They had to switch on the headlights while entering the jungle.
Corbett National Park-one of the biggest tiger reserves and his new home. Bhanu looked around, he had been to this place many a times before, in fact he knew most of the ways around the jungle but this was the first time he was in charge of this jungle. As soon as they entered the jungle, a herd of deer rushed past them.
Guide explained the situation to him; there were three British tourists who had taken special permission to film Wildlife inside Corbett. While filming, a tiger attacked one of them and they were stuck.
“I never expected tigers to come towards this part of the jungle, I have never seen them doing so.” the guide said.
“So, now what are we going to do.” Bhanu asked.
“There are two guns on the back seat. When we reach the point, we might have to shoot the tigers if they’re around. And once we have shot them, they’ll be unconscious for an hour or so and in this receding light we have to work fast. Who knows what might happen out there, THE JUNGLE HAS NO RULES,” the guide replied.
Bhanu felt a chill passing through his body, there was an adrenaline rush inside him. He was not scared, in fact he always loved being around animal-, something which he had learned from his grandfather. It took them half an hour to reach that part of the jungle where the tourists were stuck. They saw the headlights of the tourists’ jeep, but more importantly, they heard the roar of the tigers.
“Oh shit it’s not just one! I think there are more tigers out there.” Tension was visible on the guide’s face.
“What do you want us to do?” Bhanu asked.
“I think we have to wait until the other rangers arrive in the next 15-20 minutes.” the guide said while trying to hide his fear. He was scared because he was just a guide and was not fully prepared for the situation. He hadn’t thought for a second and had immediately rushed to the scene as soon as he heard the news. Fortunately he had a forest ranger with him.
“Aaaaaa….” they heard a long shriek which was followed by a gunshot and few more tiger roars.
“We have to go now.” Bhanu said picking up his gun.
“Are you sure? We should wait for the Rangers to come.” the guide said.
“You stay here, because we need someone to inform others about the situation in this area.” Bhanu told him and proceeded.
Bhanu immediately took out the red cloth from his bag and tied it around his neck. He knew that if his grandfather was right then that would be the situation when he needed that man’s help the most.
Bhanu slowly walked towards the tourist’s jeep. He was trained to walk without making any noise. He had already marked the trees which he might have to climb in case the situation went out of control. The last few rays of the sun were percolating through the dense forest. He knew that in a few minutes he would have to rely on his ears until his eyes grew accustomed to the dark. There was an eerie silence in that part of the forest, which made him feel that a big herd of tigers was present near the jeep. He had no idea how he would face those tigers. In the next 3 minutes he reached near the tourists’ vehicle and hid behind the shrubs in order to move out of the view of the tigers. He moved the leaves a little bit, to view the situation.
There was a covered jeep, around which two tigers were standing. He saw an injured tiger lying near the jeep and a tourist was pointing a gun towards the tigers from inside the jeep. He saw the blood around the shot tiger and realized that gun had the real bullets. He immediately wanted to rush before they shot the other tigers, but he saw 6 more tigers entering the fray. He took a step back, and realized the situation was much graver than he had imagined. The jeep couldn’t move as one of its tyres was stuck in the mud. Moreover, none of the tourists inside the car could come out because of the tigers. More than the tourists, he wanted to save the injured tiger but he knew that if he tried going towards the injured one then other tigers would attack him.
Bhanu was unable to make a decision, and suddenly he felt a tap on his neck. He felt a hand moving on the red cloth tied around his neck. He immediately turned around to find someone looking right into his eyes.
There he was- 8 foot tall standing in front of him, while looking at Bhanu with his bloodshot eyes. It was difficult to decide after looking at him whether he was a human or an animal. The creature slowly touched Bhanu’s face and a tear dropped out of the creature’s eyes. Bhanu was too dumbstruck to think about anything, he just stood there looking at the creature. Now he knew whatever his grandfather told him was true, whatever news channels or people said was true, those theories and villagers’ stories were true.
THE LEGEND OF CORBA WAS TRUE
To be continued….
(This story was also published in 21 fools magazine http://21fools.com/above-18/manohar-kahaniyan/381-the-legend-of-corba )
1 week ago