boys and three girls led by ‘Uncle’ formed the ‘group of seven’, well-known among their peers and professors as a pure fun-loving group engaged in all sorts of conventional as well as exotic activities in search of fun. ‘Uncle’ was no uncle to anybody, he was only one among the seventy odd undergraduate students of science studying in the same class of a city college during the nineties of last century. During his early days in college, Sandip acquired the nickname ‘Uncle’ because of his moralistic stands on many issues, his level of maturity and an attitude befitting an elder member of a family. All the members of this group were much junior to me and whatever I could know about their adventures and escapades was through Sandip who would occasionally share with me the experiences of his group.
This group revived the old art of hand written wall magazines. Whenever they could publish an issue, complete with their own ornamental drawings and commentaries on different aspects of campus-life, there was no dearth of readers. Often their commentaries bordered on irreverence and the identities of the victims of their sometimes offensive observations were but thinly veiled. However, their creative energy received all round appreciation and they enjoyed some sort of encouraging indulgence from the professors so that even when it appeared that they had crossed the limit, they could get away with only a mild rebuke from the authorities.
Uncle acted as some sort of guardian and moderator of this fiercely argumentative group. Barun was always ready to pick up a quarrel and Arko was not far behind. Sudipto and Rita were the most quiet members of the group. Though no formal proposal and acceptance ever took place, they were established as lovers. It had been also in the air that Arko and Ruchika were coming to love each other. The same was true for Barun and Ria . It was an unwritten law that all friends must be treated equally by each member of the group in public; the rule was not applicable while any pair was alone.
For the first time during their college life, at the end of third year, the group decided to spend their summer vacation in the city itself. Summer was unusually hot that year and the met office went on declaring every passing day as the ‘hottest day in the last 75 years’. This led them to spend the first few nights roaming along the bank of the river on the western side of the city, mixing with drunkards and all sorts of odd personalities who take over the reins of the city after midnight.On one similar night, Rita discovered a big white horse carriage was trotting through the middle of the widest road of the business district, which at that time was almost free of other vehicles.
The old world charm of the beautifully decorated carriage with a royal touch induced in her an irresistible desire to have a ride. She broke the news to other members of the group. But the members of the group were then intoxicated with their own ideas of democracy formed by the previous nights’ intimacy with the vagabonds, beggars, drunkards and all sorts of tramps. They began a debate about the propriety of enjoying such royal luxury in a modern democracy. Sudipto, noted for his weakness towards Rita, finally opened up that there was no harm in trying provided it was democratically decided. Every body agreed and the group proceeded towards the coachman and sought his opinion about the propriety of touring a few sights in his carriage. The coach man expressed his opinion in the most democratic manner, ‘I don’t see no harm…. as long as you pay me the proper fare.’
Every body but Arko hailed this opinion as the most correct and democratic one and was preparing for a democratic negotiation of a proper fare, when Arko intervened, ‘But did we take the opinion of the horses? After all, they are the ones to carry the load.’ The Coach-man was under moderate booze and felt that there is a flaw in this argument, but he could not exactly pin point. With some hesitation, he declared, ‘but horses don’t have a….no opinion.’
This proclamation of the coachman incited a great debate. Everybody should have an opinion, horses included, argued the youngsters. For good measure, Arko threw in the remark, ‘horses are like the subaltern members of the society; nobody cares for their views.’ The horse-man was bewildered beyond his wits and could somehow mutter, ‘misters, they must have views and opinions, but they do not speak it.’ Arko bitterly censured him, ‘they must have views, a language and of course the voice. Only you did not care to learn those; your only interest has been to earn money at their expense.’ Uncle had not uttered a single word till then, but seeing that the matter was going out of hands he produced a bunch of bananas and distributed among the group, the coachman included. While the members got two bananas each, the coachman received six bananas. He protested, ‘Why six for me? Do I accept charity?’ Uncle assured him that the distribution was perfectly democratic; four bananas were meant for the two horses.
Having established democracy on all fronts, the group occupied the carriage and directed the owner to proceed towards Victoria Memorial, which reminds one of the beautiful Taj Mahal of Agra. With the blue sky as background, sight of the white marble silhouette of the Memorial made Rita uncontrollably romantic. She whispered to Sudipto, ‘ Did you ever think of building something like this marble -wonder for me? Think of the great lover Shahjahan the Emperor…how fortunate must have been Mumtaj, his love!’ Ruchika overheard and expressed her indignation, ‘dumbest of ideas! How does it affect you….whether your lover spends tons of money to build a memorial after your death? Try to live and enjoy, child!’While the beauty of the Memorial was being thus appreciated, a police jeep screeched to halt by the side of the carriage and an officer in starched uniform emerged, equipped with gadgets like a baton, a gun and a whistle.
Now Barun had the fixed idea that every Policeman is a thief or a robber patronized by the Government. He took it upon himself to protect his friends, particularly the girls, from the indignity and harassment that this thug of an officer was going to hand out. He always sported a costly chronometer, his only possession of any worth. With the chronometer in the palm of his stretched right hand, he humbly invited the officer to accept it and leave them in peace. The furious officer, convinced that he was accosting a band of seasoned criminals, shouted to his subordinates, ‘Search the persons of these goons and make a seizure list first!’
Uncle was a quick thinker. He took the officer aside and whispered, ‘this friend of mine has just been released from mental asylum. It’s a long tragic story, officer! We are just trying to keep him in good humor so he does not relapse into depression. He is a brilliant student, in fact we all are. Please let us go.’ The officer let them go with a golden piece of advice, ‘Next time when you travel with your nutty friends, ask them not to try bribing an officer with any chronometer.’ Uncle readily agreed, ‘Yes, officer! Useless things,….. I mean these chronometers.’
Uncle ordered the coach-man to drive fast, if necessary by whipping the horses, to his apartment. All the members of the group agreed that the sultry summer heat was unbearable, police force had established the ‘rule
of jungle’ in the city, and they must leave the city forthwith. After much argument and counter argument they decided that the jungle was a much better place than the city and they must start for the capital of the neighboring state from where they could go to Naturehut, a picturesque hill town with pristine jungle.
day it was well into the afternoon that the group of seven got down from the omnibus at the terminus of the capital town of neighboring state. The first thing about the town that gladdened their hearts was complete absence of any uniformed law-enforcers. ‘At last, we have reached the paradise of freedom’, Barun observed and everybody nodded. Just then, a motorcycle, with two pillion riders openly brandishing loaded guns, passed by them. Uncle, horrified at the sight of gun- brandishing criminals roaming openly, came back to the terminus and cautiously queried the tea-stall boy about the identities of the pillion riders. The boy couldn’t care less, ‘who bothers? Some operators of the mafia gangs…they must be.’ All the boys and the girls reached the stall in time to receive this piece of information. ‘So, we are from frying pan into the fire,’ uncle muttered while dropping on a chair.
Discreet queries from other customers revealed that so long as there was daylight, members of the mafia wouldn’t touch an innocent person. After sunset it was a different story, not that they were at fault all the time, you know, sometimes it became impossible to distinguish other gang members from unconcerned citizens. ‘Is there no police here?’ asked Barun. ‘Plenty of them,’ replied a customer, ‘otherwise, who would guard the members of the cabinet and high officials? Besides, FIR’s have to be lodged every day and every night after gun battles and court cases have to be fought.’
Naturehut was about one hundred and fifty kilometers from the town and the group could start only in the next morning. The stall-owner advised, ‘quickly move into a hotel before sunset and venture to come out only after day-break.’ ‘How safe are the hotels? You see, we have three girls in our group……,’ queried Arko. ‘Reasonably safe,’ assured the stall-owner, ‘we, who do business here, pay protection money regularly …. to the dominating gangs… also to the police.’
They checked into the nearest hotel. It was a rather cheap one, considering the ‘other’ expenses that the owner had to shoulder. Food was served in their rooms for there was no dining hall or a separate restaurant and the customers wouldn’t venture out at night. They spent the night peacefully in the extremely hot and humid dingy rooms of the hotel; their own sweat almost boiled them. Occasionally, sound of gun-shots in nearby streets disturbed them but more bothersome were two hugely built bearded persons drinking and singing in unison in a neighbouring room with two revolvers kept on the table by the side of bottles of whisky. They hugged each other tightly, talked and sang and even sobbed throughout the course of their interminable drinking session. The manager had assured that they were a perfectly peace-loving couple and ‘if the law permitted, they could live happily as a married couple free from all sorts of ignominy and harassment.’
the morning , Uncle did not allow his friends the luxury of late- rising. After a cup of tea and a few biscuits each, the group marched towards the bus terminal only to find that all transports to Naturehut were already booked.A vehicle from pre-historic era remained, belching clouds of smoke and vibrating like a tuning fork struck by a hammer. They got into it just in time and though the vehicle was overcrowded they found a few vacant seats. Most of the passengers travelled on the rooftop since goats were allowed only there and the passengers on rooftop, goats included, enjoyed fifty per cent concession in fare.
The journey seemed endless with innumerable unscheduled stops where goats would get down and new consignments lifted to the rooftop, not to speak of the trouble that the driver faced in starting his vehicle after each stop. At last it arrived on the hilltop near a very big lodge at Naturehut.
‘Yes, we can accommodate just seven persons and no more.’ said the receptionist and was about to hand over the keys when a family of four arrived. They were overburdened with their luggage. The father ran to the desk and requested for two rooms. ‘Sorry, all the rooms are booked. These young people are the last ones whom we could accommodate today.’ replied the receptionist. The father went on pleading repeatedly, without accommodation in the lodge what would he do...in this jungle with two children..a room for just one night..and so on. Being moved by repeated pleadings and genuine worries, the receptionist called the manager.
‘Gentlemen, only you can be of any help,’ the manager addressed the group, ‘ladies of your group will not be disturbed. If you agree I can accommodate the four gentlemen of your group in the dormitory. This family can then occupy two rooms. It’s up to you to solve the problem.’
The problem was solved but that left Barun, Sudipto and Arko utterly dissatisfied. They had planned to savor the taste of mahua – a local home made drink brewed from the beautifully scented flowers of mahua tree. This now became impossible in the big hall of the dormitory accommodating a crowd. The girls were also separated from them. ‘What fun does this tour offer? Except that we can sleep in somewhat lower temperature than in the plains.’- Barun summarized his grudge.
However, the boys and girls sat in the open after dinner. They sang together for hours and were in no mood to retire to their rooms. It seemed that they could sit there whole night enjoying the splendid view of the forest in moonlight. They retired only after being gently prodded by the manager.
rose late in the true spirit of a carefree vacation. Naturehut is famous for its Sunset point; Sunrise is not much remarkable here. They had their breakfast and went to the weekly market where the locals trade their wares. The girls bought some hand crafted trinkets and the boys went for fresh local fruits and other edibles. Sunset point was quite a distance and they arranged for a jeep suitable for the rough hilly terrain.
While waiting for lunch in the dining hall, Uncle noticed that Arko and Barun were absent. So the group waited for their return and they returned just in time to attend the lunch.
‘Sunset point tour has to be cancelled,’ declared Barun, ‘we have more exciting plan.’ In reply to the impatient queries from the girls Arko gave the details, ‘About two miles from here we reached, passing through dense forest, a spot where the forest is less dense. There stands a beautiful bungalow, big enough to accommodate scores of guests. It belongs to the Forest department and is meant for their officials. The keeper of the bungalow informed us that there is no official visit scheduled for the next few days.’ ‘So what?’ demanded uncle.
‘Simple,’Barun now took over, ‘The keeper of the bungalow who is also the chowkidar
-the watchman- has agreed to allow us in for a consideration
. It will be much cheaper than our present arrangement. Moreover, we shall get fully furnished quarters, not the marketplace of a dormitory.’
They reached the Forest bungalow well before sunset. The consideration
was really cheap but the chowkidar did not issue any receipt for obvious reason. The rooms were very comfortable as well as beautifully furnished. There was a big lounge with leather sofas offering full view of the forest and surrounding hills.
‘How long do we propose to stay here?’ uncle asked the group. ‘Until those two cans are empty.’ Barun said pointing towards two jumbo-sized cans filled with the liquor brewed from mahua.’ ‘That means until we are broke,’ Sudipto roared with laughter. Meanwhile, the chowkidar arranged for tea and some home made snacks spread out on a table in the lounge. The group, excited at their newly earned freedom and comfort, chalked out the plan for spending the evening and the night. Before retiring to their rooms for a brief rest, they took a drink or two of the local beverage.
ncle rose from deep sleep at the sound of repeated knocks on the door. Outside, darkness was reigning over the forest. He felt embarrassed; others must have been impatiently waiting for him. But he found that it was only the chowkidar waiting outside the door. ‘Sir, there are visitors for you,’ the keeper said. ‘Visitors! Who on earth would know that we are here?’ exclaimed uncle. The loud knocks and uncle’s exclamation aroused others and they assembled before uncle’s room. Together they proceeded to meet the ‘visitors’. There was no trace of them in the lounge. The chowkidar pointed to a group of people outside the gate, ‘They are there.’
They came out and saw seven strongly built persons with black wraps resembling a group of black bears. Six of them were armed with sharp tangis
- long axe-like weapons- while the fifth man had a gun.
‘Yes?’ enquired uncle.The gun-trotting fellow ordered, ‘pack up and follow us.’
‘why?’-Asked Uncle indignantly. ‘Otherwise we’ll chop off your heads,' said the fellow with the gun, 'here and now.’ They looked back to demand an explanation from the chowkidar but he was gone leaving no trace. ‘Quick, we do not have the entire night at our disposal. Pack up.’ said the men menacingly.
All the boys and the girls collected their luggage and assembled in uncle’s room. Ria was the first to raise the question, ‘why do we have to follow their order?’
‘Otherwise, what do you propose to do?’asked Uncle. ‘We can stay put here or perhaps try to escape through the windows.’ -Ria Suggested. ‘I have checked, some of them are already guarding the rear side,’ uncle tried to explain as calmly as possible; ‘if we stay here, they will break open the doors and we are finished. We don’t even have a paper-knife….’
‘What chance do we have for survival?’ Sudipto interrupted.
‘In the jungle out there we may hope for a fifty-fifty chance.’ replied uncle. ‘Anyway, friends, we are not going to sell our life cheap.’ Barun declared and everybody agreed.
All of a sudden, Sudipto embraced Rita tightly and began kissing her everywhere. Strange was her reaction; she reciprocated with equal vigor. It was not as sudden as it seemed. Since the appearance of the murderous gang of bears, they had been feeling a strange attraction to each other. They had exchanged numerous lusty glances. Now, when it seemed that their fate was sealed, they felt an irresistible physical urge. They readily succumbed to the urge in the face of imminent danger.
Gradually, Rita felt that her knees were giving in. She unzipped him and fell on the ground with Sudipto still in her tight embrace. Sudipto reciprocated and oblivious of the presence of others started love- making. The spirit appeared infectious. Arko and Ruchika as well as Barun and Ria formed pairs; they engaged in passionate and shameless love- making.
The men searched for safety in their loves’ breasts, the women found security in their partners’ embrace.
All of them became united by an unspeakable feeling. In the veins of each lover flowed the feelings of their partner. Each of them could feel the deepest inside of their love. Bereft of all privacy, without any cover or place to hide and without any feeling of guilt or shame, they discovered the craving for life. A spiritual transformation took place. Or was it the spirit of some ancient cults, which looked upon women as the source of all forms of life and life in abstraction of all forms, that had always been running in their blood and surfaced when lives were being challenged by death?
Uncle stood alone near the door. The raw physicality of the situation did not embarrass him. The naked display of human passion at its highest, that too in a group, did not appear to be a pervert orgy. He was surprised that the scene of simultaneous multiple sexual performances seemed to be the most natural and purest of scenes he had ever encountered. A feeling of tender love and affection for his friends overwhelmed him.
Nobody counted the minutes and seconds. The lovers saw eternity in every second.
At last the impatient men outside shouted, ‘Quick, we can’t wait any longer.’ The girls and the boys, recently transformed into men and women, emerged with their baggage and were made to fall in line. The gunman guarded the rear and those with the tangis distributed themselves in the line and the procession of fourteen persons started towards the deeper part of the forest. Moon had by then appeared in the sky. Moonshine, reaching through the thick foliage, gave the forest some sort of other- worldly appearance. It was as if everything presented itself in complementary color.
After what appeared to be an eternity, they emerged from the deep forest and uncle was surprised to find the lights of the hotel they had left. With time it became clear that they were actually heading towards the hotel.
The seven armed men led the group to a windowless room of the hotel and bolted the door. The room had stacks of various articles of everyday use. The manager was sitting in front of a table turning the pages of some sort of a register. ‘So, you are ultimately in my clutch. What do you think? You can escape me here, at Naturehut!’ 'What do you want?’ asked Uncle.
‘What do I want? I want ….I want to kill you,’ shouted the manager, ‘give me back the two bed-sheets you stole.’‘We are no thieves.’protested Arko.To their surprise, Barun brought out two bed-sheets from his bag, his hands trembling.
'Please,sir,don't murder us,' he appealed. ‘Murder!Yes, I have half a mind to murder you.Before I murder you, would you please tell me what led you
to think so?' 'Simple,’ Uncle now took over, ‘Those murderous bear-like men armed to the teeth! Why would you send them to fetch us if …..’
‘Wait, wait,’ interrupted the manager, ‘You simpletons, you idiots! I sent them to ensure your safety. In such nights black bears frequent the deeper part of the forest; nobody till date has survived a bear-hug, our guests included.’
At the start of the vacation, the girls and the boys had written to their families that they would not be able to spend much time with their families as they would be busy with an 'educational tour' that summer.
Texte: All rights reserved by the author
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 14.06.2010
Alle Rechte vorbehalten