“Sahib ji, sahib ji”
“Ah huh”, Bhanu opened his eyes and felt a severe pain in the forehead.
“Sahib ji what happened to you? I just came and saw you lying down here in the bushes”, guide said.
“I don’t know what happened”, Bhanu replied and immediately got up. He looked through the bushes; the jeep was still there but neither tigers nor the tourists. Even HE was not there.
“Where are they?” Bhanu questioned.
“The rangers have come and rescued those tourists. One of them is no more and the other one was unable to speak due to the shock. He just said there was a man who came and took away the tigers with him. I think he is in shock because of his friend’s death. I mean how can someone tame those ferocious wild tigers? Moreover there was no one here except you”, guide replied.
“Yes, you’re right. I think I slipped and hit my head on this stone. Anyway it’s already late. Let’s leave before we become food to some other wild animals”, Bhanu said while walking towards the jeep after picking his double-barreled gun.
“Sahib ji, you’re very lucky. At this hour, any animal would have attacked seeing you lying unconscious”, guide said.
Bhanu just smiled, he knew nothing would have happened. He saw those shining eyes staring at him through the leaves of a tree, while walking towards the jeep.
He clearly remembered the events, after Corba tapped on his shoulder; he took the red cloth around his neck and smelled it. After that, he smiled while looking towards Bhanu. He was still unable to understand whether Corba was a human or an animal. He had never seen a 7+ feet creature with the body full of hair. He looked more like a chimpanzee or a bear. However, he walked with a straight back like a human.
After meeting him, Corba proceeded towards the tourists through the bushes and Bhanu followed him but tripped. He fell down and hit his head on a stone. That was the last thing he remembered about that first meeting with Corba.
Later in staff quarters
“Sir, this is your room”, the attendant said while keeping his luggage in a well-lit and ventilated room.
Bhanu gave the attendant a 100 Rupee note to get him a bottle of whiskey. After that he proceeded towards the window and opened it. A cool breeze was blowing outside, the sound of the crickets and the howls of foxes were making a different kind of jungle music along with the leaves rustling in the breeze. He almost forgot about his grandfather’s death which happened only one day ago , amidst what all had happened since evening.
“Bhanu Pratap Singh”
He immediately turned around to welcome this new visitor into his room.
“Hello Sir, I was about to visit y...”, the man cut him short.
“No, let me have the privilege of meeting this brave forest ranger. Like grandfather like grandson. He also fought the challenges bravely, and just like you he also saved people from tigers many a times”, Chief Forest ranger, Mr. Rajesh Rawat said.
“Sir, your whiskey”, the attendant knocked the door of the room.
“Arrey Raghu, keep the whiskey on the table. Go to my room and bring the double malt. I will drink with Bhanu tonight.”, Mr Rawat said.
“I know you need someone to be with you, I got the news about the demise of Ram Avtar Sir. Tonight we’ll talk about him, I have many memories of the time I spent under him in this forest”, he intervened Bhanu again.
Bhanu was uncomfortable around Rajesh Rawat, he had heard the stories about how he had enormous wealth and he bought a Rs 2.5 million car for his college going son. However, more than that Bhanu wanted to be alone; he wanted to read those letters his grandfather had given him.
Few days later
Bhanu started to settle well into his new job. He was assigned the region, which he along with his team of rangers had to take care of.
“Hey where is everyone today? I have to go to Dhikala and there are no jeeps around”, Bhanu enquired.
“Sir today is the Kartik Purnima and everyone has gone to Garjiya Temple. The fair is starting from today”, the person replied.
“So, is there anyone around?” Bhanu asked.
“Yes, there is one guy. Hey RDX, sahib ji wants a jeep.”
Bhanu saw a man coming towards him. He guessed that it was a guide. However, when he came near them, Bhanu recognized him. He was the same person who drove him into the jungle the day he met Corba.
“Sir, I can drop you”, RDX replied.
Bhanu picked up the bag and sat in RDX’s open roofed Maruti Gypsy. Bhanu was carrying his grandfather’s letters that day in the bag. He wanted to read them as soon as possible, but he wasn’t getting anytime in past few days.
“Why did he call you RDX?” Bhanu asked.
“Sir, actually RD is the short form of my name Ravi Dobriyal. And every Diwali I get free crackers for these people, so they call me RDX.”, RDX replied with a smile on his face. Bhanu too laughed after listening to the logic behind his name.
He opened the bag and took out his grandad’s letters. He opened the one numbered as ‘2’
I hope you have read the instructions I had written in the first letter. Now is the time to tell you the story about how I met that creature, Corba. I know you still don’t believe me, but it’s true and one day you’ll also meet him. I hope that day comes soon and he recognizes you.
Around 20 years ago in 1980, it was the time of June and we were all getting ready for the monsoons. The time when they close Corbett Park for the tourists. I clearly remember that day was very cloudy. We expected the rains to come after 15th June but they have arrived 10 days earlier.
We advised all the guides and the tourists to return early as the weather was not looking suitable for safari rides. Plus it had already started getting dark around 1400 hours and inside the jungles, it gets even darker. It was turning out to be a nice and slow day but we were all on alert in case there was an emergency and there was.
I was having my lunch around 1415 hours and immediately the phone started ringing. There was an officer on the other side who he said that a child had gone missing from a jeep. He said that the incident happened when apparently the jeep was moving and not when it was stationary. It was the first time I came across something like that. Yes, wild animals do attack small children but pulling away one from a moving jeep was weird. I wondered where his parents were all this while. He replied that they were going through a dense part of the forest and within a minute all this happened when the child’s parents diverted their attention towards some wild animals instead of their own child.
Anyway, I took my jeep and proceeded towards the part of the jungle where the incident happened. Four Rangers were already there. We decided to divide in 3 groups of 2-2-1. I decided to go alone, as I was very familiar with that area and knew the places I can use to survive in case of an attack by wild animals.
The dense forest was making it look like late evening. It was so dark that I had to switch on my torchlight. As it had rained a few minutes ago, it was almost impossible to locate the pugmarks of the animals; therefore, we weren’t able to find out which way the child would have gone. I continued the search, cutting through the dense forest and finding my way through the shrubs. I thought of climbing up a tree, so that I can get a clear view of the activities going on in the area from above.
As soon as I reached the top of the tree and looked towards the northwest direction, I located the child. He was safe and secure, but there was no animal around him. I was surprised, but at the same time I felt a sudden sense of urgency because I felt it could have been poachers who had kidnapped him.
I was wrong.
To be continued..
(The story was also published in 21fools.com @ http://21fools.com/above-18/manohar-kahaniyan/398-the-legend-of-corba-part-ii)
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