Book 1: Page 48


Akshay: ahem…ahem… Do you mind if we enter miss? (He interrupted the emotional moment.)

Sis noticed that I was bothered but she also noticed that I did not object. I was getting accustomed to Akshay’s company in my sister’s presence. In the mean time footsteps stomping the staircase with the bulk of my uncle’s heavy built made an announcement.

Uncle: So how was your trip boy?

The Terminator: Tremendously refreshing. I think we can take on any curriculum now.

He shot the first words to steal the attention. I knew it wouldn’t be possible for me to hide my pain and resentment from my uncle. Though I never wanted to dishonour the S.B.X.P. but it was always a possibility under the towering presence of my uncle. So to minimize our father son interaction Akshay and I left for the hostel the very next day. We took our room-keys. We raced to get the top birth and guess what? I won, though reaching my room on the first floor was rather painful this time. I began panting. This had never happened before. The luggage was the same, the distance was the same, and even the racers were the same. However something felt different this time. I felt a serious jolt somewhere in my right abdomen, as if a very sharp flint shifted in my gut with every breath of mine. I presumed them to be aftershocks of the rollercoaster ride that I had been through. Soon we were joined by other batch-mates and the whole hostel was vivacious. The dinner was served and it was a delight to eat with all my associates after such a long time. The usual fighting, growling and teasing followed the welcome lecture by the principle. No dinner can be complete without the fight for one’s partner’s sweet dish. Everything was the same. Only I ate less than usual. Only I spoke less than usual. Only I fought less than usual. Only I was in pain.

Book 1: Page 46


Our journey mutated in to a misadventure and nurtured our friendship in to a lifelong bond. I understood whom I could trust and whom I should have not cared for.

I was all patched up but something was just not right. I could feel a lot of pain in my abdomen, a little to the right, the exact place where that bear had punctured. It was necessary to visit a doctor, a sense of discomfort lingered in my walk. Being a small town my uncle knew almost all the good doctors. A visit would have proved terminal for our covenant. So I decided to bear the pain and apply the ointment instead.

Book 1: Page 45


Akshay: You are right. We have exploited all the resources available to us. You suffer because of us. We are responsible and now you must share our responsibility. Shower us with your compassion. You are the captain; you are the machismo of Dehradoon. This is your exploitation and our ‘Spoilt Brats Exploitation Program’.

Their persuasion was futile. I had made my decision not on vague arguments put forward by the group. I signed the covenant because Akshay wanted me to sign it. This was to be my last covenant. I promised myself that I would never get myself into such a situation in the future. No lies for my family anymore. The last covenant signed and christened   “Spoilt Brats Exploitation Program” (SBxP).

Book 1: Page 43


Keshav: It must refer us as ‘Brats’

Sahib: I will add a ‘Spoilt’ to that.

Kalsh: Your Program ah… (I was still in pain) sucks big-time.

Akshay: Awesome ‘Spoilt Brats Program’ that works for me. What do you guys think?

Kalsh: Hey that was not a suggestion. I actually think we must tell our folks about it.

Keshav: Please, Kalsh we all know your brother will vouch for you. He will convince your family that the only people responsible were the ones administering the jungle. But if and when your family tells ours, we our dead meat!

Sahib: Won’t you do this much for your friends? (I was astonished t o hear about friendship from his mouth.)

Akshay: See the point is that it was our fault. We lied to our families. We entered the prohibited forest area. We angered the animal. But the media will blow this attack out of proportion. The Indian bear is already endangered and the media frenzy around a “Man-eater bear” will only worsen the situation. Think of the greater good Kalsh.

Kalsh: Stop it you guys. This is called emotional ‘Exploitation’.

Book 1: Page 42


Akshay: Yeah, yes hmm… Then she gave me an ointment and said it is very effective and will heal the wounds quickly. Anyways there is something more important that we need to discuss (he came closer, Sahib stopped the car.)

Kalsh we must, all four of us, sign a covenant right here right now. See, our trip was a secret. The place where we were camping was out of bounds. We had no idea that the area was frequented by animals. We lied to you, but all three of us knew about the clandestine nature of our outing. The forest official has asked me not to mention this incident ever. He has been recently posted in this district and a mishap like this would reflect poorly on his record. Moreover we don’t want negative publicity for our town, our school or the animals that are already endangered. Brothers (he raised his right fist to touch the roof of the car) we all must sign a covenant here. What we survived this weekend must go to the grave with us. If my parents come to know about it, I will be eternally grounded. If Sahib’s dad learns about it he would never get a car for any road trip ever. If Keshav’s mother hears of what he has been through they will ask him to leave the hostel. And Kalsh nobody can imagine the havoc that your brother would rake once he finds out. Surely the whole school would learn about it, the forest officer would lose the job and you will not know what privacy is for the rest of your teenage. So all four of us present here must enter this covenant of muteness, which we shall call…err… help me out here.

Book 1: Page 41, Para 2


Our foremost priority was to get you treated so we made our way to the forest inspector’s hut. There I had to lift you on my shoulders all the way to the emergency room.

Kalsh: Ah… that explains the blood stains on your shirt.

Akshay: Yes right, now shut up and listen. Although the ranger was nowhere to be found but luckily there was a nurse in the hut. She cleaned your wounds. A kindhearted lady who made sure that you did not die of septic.

We cannot thank her enough.” Keshav and Sahib chimed in unison.There were tears in their eyes. Akshay ignored them and continued:

But you see she was not a specialist doctor. Her stitching skills were not perfect. Although she tried her level best but she couldn’t stop the bleeding. We tried ice, water, and bandage but to no avail. So to cut the long story short, you bled for one whole night. She also contacted the ranger.

Sahib: He wanted to interview all of us but I made sure that he did not disturb your sleep.

Akshya: Will you two stop interrupting. (Sahib pretended he was looking at the road.) So where was I?

Kalsh: The forest official…

Akshay: Yeah, yes hmm…

Book 1: Page 39


My mother on the left, sobbing; my brother giving her assurance of my well being; a fruit basket on the right; and handful of well wishers from school on either side- this is what I had wanted to see upon opening my eyes. That was not to be. To my shock I saw two uniforms. One was a green shade of khaki and the other a starched white. I tried focusing but to no effect, their faces were not recognizable.

Keshav: He is awake! (I recognized the voice)

White Uniform: Let me see. Hmm I can’t measure the mental trauma, otherwise he looks fine. Let me just clean the wounds.

Akshay: Thank god! You are alright.

With divine intervention I was finally able to see. The person in white was actually a nurse. Unfortunately my sensory abilities had not returned completely. I had been searching for an expression of motherly kindness on her face. But all I could make out was a nose. Or shall I say I was interested only in the nose. This was a nose which degraded my life to catastrophic depths. It was a nose without nostrils, a rather annoying site.

The man in khaki turned out to be a forest official. He asked my friends a few questions.

Forest Official: Shall I interrogate him? (Pointing towards me, he asked the nurse.)

Nurse: Only if you must. Although let me tell you that he is not in his senses completely.

Book 1: Page 38


The protracted journey of the jeep had come to an end. I knew my best friend Akshay had fought a bear to rescue me. Surviving the night with all the bleeding and unattended wounds on the contours of my rib cage was a subject of petite discussion. More confident than ever on my decision I opened my eyes. Akshay, who was sitting next to me, looked back at me. He was tired by the night’s misadventures. He pressed my hand against his and winked his eyes reassuringly.

Kalsh: Akshay I must tell you. Probably you are the only man I can trust my sister with. (These were my last words before they asked me to go back to sleep.)

He must have been very happy. That day in the forest we laid together the foundation of a very special bond. The bear was as much responsible for my decision as Akshay’s courage. However, not to my surprise though, Akshay never used my indebted life as an excuse to date my sister. His was a much purer form of love. He is still dating my sister. The couple is happy and soon they will tie the holy knot.

Book 1: Page 30, Para 1


It occurred to me then, as they ran off half giggling and half jiggling, that they had given me some moments of solitude with Akshay. He crept over to my side of the tent.

Akshay: We need to talk.

Kalsh: Yes, I knew you were going to say something. You are quiet predictable.

Akshay: But what I am going to say is not predictable. In fact it’s unthinkable. I actually want your consent for a major decision of my life.

Kalsh: Of course. You are my best friend. I will help you.

Akshay:  Let’s take a walk. Please not here.

Kalsh: Now, what is wrong? Please get over with it already.

And I turned my face towards him. I heard footsteps approaching the tent. Keshav and Sahib were unusually quiet. Akshay got up and fastened his shoes. He peeked out of the tent. There was only Keshav. Sahib had actually gone to attend the call of nature. So Akshay got out of the tent stretched a little and…then dropped the bombshell, “MAY I DATE YOUR SISTER” and he ran off with the agility of a puma.

Book 1: Page 27, Para 2


My heart wanted to write about the immense beauty of the greens, but my hands were trembling with anxiety at the sight of the equally daunting woods. The jeep was covered from the top, but open in the back. We were comfortable with our luggage under the seat. A smile was noticeable on Sahib’s face. He was signalling something to Keshav, with the his squinting eyes. I had never seen him give such a smile since the fifth grade. I was clueless as to what would be coming my way. I turned towards Akshay who appeared very restless. It appeared as if he was framing sentences, probably to disclose something to me. Presumably he would soon make the announcement.

Into the Jungle
Into the Jungle

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