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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Love and danger in the Jungle : a short story





Sahiba stretched languorously, her muscles rippling in slow motion, in tune with her arched body. She felt rested and fresh, ready to face a new day.  Ramba, hidden  in the thick undergrowth, also arched –in desire. God! She was a tease. He was almost certain that Sahiba knew that he lusted for her. There was a certain something in her eyes when she looked at him. The certain something seemed to say,” I know that you want me. Be a man and confess that you do”. However, coming clean was what Ramba did not want to do, not right now. He sensed hidden currents and danger around him and his sixth sense was working overtime these days, telling him to take it slow and “Be Careful’. So, he remained out of sight and Sahiba, tired of doing calisthenics, stalked away, fuming.  When would he tell her that he loved her?

The familiar grating sound of an open jeep stopped her in her tracks. Swiftly she hid in a clump of bamboo trees. She was not prepared to be leered at, at least not so early in the day. There were days when she allowed them to catch a glimpse of her but today Rambo’s no show had put her in a peevish mood. The jeep passed by slowly, adhering to the speed limits of the wildlife park. She caught a clear glimpse of its occupants. A young girl, glowing with the special radiance that love brings, a man, equally in love , but watchful .The third - hooded eyes in an  expressionless face . The eyes reminded her of Nageeni, the resident python of the park, and someone Sahiba preferred to steer clear of.

Mrinalini looked sideways at Rajat.  Her  Rajat.  He hadn’t spoken since they sat in the jeep for the morning safari , but that was understandable. One was not supposed to talk as it would disturb the wildlife . She was glad she had come, though his presence was an unwelcome intrusion. However, her father had insisted on him accompanying Mrinalini and Rajat. “The jungle is an unknown territory for you both and I will feel better if Shekhar is with you. Shekhar, after all, knows the lay of the land like the back of his hand”, her father had said and that was that. No one ever argued with her father, not even Lini, the apple of his eye.

Rajat  was  inwardly seething with irritation. His dictatorial father in law to be did not think he was capable of looking after his darling daughter. Just because he was not a muscleman like the Schwarzenegger sitting next to him it did not mean he was incapable of saying boo to a goose. He must tell the old man about the time he lifted a car to rescue a puppy trapped under its wheel, earning for himself a grateful lick from the miraculously unhurt puppy and an even more grateful kiss on the cheek from the owner of the canine, a leggy lass with long shiny hair and sooty eyelashes in a dimpled face. Thinking of the kiss immediately put him in an amorous mood and he tugged Lini close to him.

 Lini , pretty as a picture and brainy too. She had topped the Civil Services exam and never failed to remind Rajat that he had come second. They had become good friends in the training academy at Mussoorie and by the end of the training were clear in their minds that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Both sets of parents had given their approval and the wedding was fixed for the next month . The two families were holidaying in a famous resort on the outskirts of the national park . Everybody had come for a morning safari the previous day, but apart from sighting some deer and a wild tusker they had not seen anything worthwhile. Worthwhile meant spotting a tiger, or two. The parents had refused to come that day, preferring to relax in the resort instead. Rajat and Lini wanted another try at spotting the tiger and so here they were.

An hour later, tigerless and thirsty, Rajat decided it was time to turn back. After all, it would take another two hours of drive within the forest before they would reach the exit gate.   He looked at Shekhar, his look signaling that the latter should start the drive back. Shekhar nodded. Fifteen minutes later the jeep came to a shuddering halt. “What happened”? asked Lini. Without replying, Shekhar jumped down and opening the bonnet peeped inside. A few minutes later he walked to Rajat’s side. “The engine has heated up. I need to put some water in it”.  “Where will you get water from?” asked Rajat. “A river flows through the forest. I have a can at the back . We can fill that with water and carry it back”. “ We ? isn’t it unsafe to walk in the forest?”, said Rajat. “ Well, it seems we have no choice. I refuse to go alone. You will have to come with me. Leaving Lini alone in the jeep is not a good option and so the best would be if we all go . ’

Shekhar filled the can with water from the river and straightened up. Suddenly his body stiffened. “ Crocs” ,he whispered. Rajat and Lini looked at the flowing water. “ Where?” asked Rajat. Shekhar motioned for  them to come closer. He put his hand on Rajat’s shoulders and said ,”there”. The next minute a scream rang out in the forest. Shekhar was pushing Rajat towards the water. Lini could see the crocodile, perhaps scenting blood, at the shore.

Sahiba looked at the scene unfolding. This was so not fair. For a brute  with hooded eyes to decimate and destroy young love, and that too in front of her eyes!  She could not allow this! With a nimble leap Sahiba landed at Shekhar’s throat. Shekhar only had time to see yellow and black stripes before sharp claws sank into his throat.

Lini caught hold of Rajat’s hand and both ran, without stopping, till they reached the jeep. Rajat turned the key and the jeep sprang to life. The two looked at each other . No words were necessary. Shekhar had obviously feigned the engine trouble. Equally obviously he had wanted Rajat out of the way. And paid the price for  his jealousy.

Ramba looked at Sahiba. How magnificent she looked – Tigress of the forest and of his heart. With a mellow roar he confessed his love to her. Sahiba stretched- in pleasure.


4 comments:

  1. Hey,this is a great story! what imagination... really liked it.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Maniparna- love the fact that you liked it:)

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