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 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 41, Para 1


I pushed an iron rod into the bear’s mouth. The beast couldn’t withstand my power and backtracked. The jeep jolted to a start and these two were probably going to run away (he gave Keshav and Sahib a disenchanted glance) without you. It could have been unintentional also. Perhaps, Keshav pressed the gas incidentally with his trembling foot. I was going to pounce at him from the trunk itself but somehow you managed to hold on to the hind bar of the boot and he (Akshay pointed at Keshav) dragged you along for some distance. In fact he dragged you till you actually became unconscious and let go off the jeep. He stopped only when I screamed at him from the last bunk.

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 37, Para 2


Though it seemed to be a simple cast iron rod but it had the strength of true friendship. Both of its ends were fixed. The one nearer to my face was thrusting into the bear’s jaw, while the other was held into place by a knight. A knight with his broad shoulders and tensed brows stood upright between me and my decease. Akshay hadn’t given up on me. He looked me in the eyes and then again at the bear. With all the force that he could summon he pushed towards the bear and jumped out of the jeep. As the bear moved back, its claws withdrew from my abdomen

.bearattackAaahh…!”  I bled like a slaughtered bore. The exit of those paws was even more painful than their entry. If you ask me whether it was bear’s right hand that came out first or the left, I would not be able to recall. But I do remember that a pound of flesh from below my right lung was in its grip. Not only did he move away with an iron rod in his mouth but also a part of me. A muscle that I think ended up as a fertilizer for the forest or food for the ants or a memento for the bear. Akshay’s face was red and then it turned maroon and then an even darker shade of… till it finally became a black spot. My senses could make out a metal piece a handle perhaps. And I gripped my hand around it, although my arms were too eager to break off from the rest of the body. This was my last conscious decision before I fainted.

Book 1: Page 36, Para 2


I was breathing heavily yet I couldn’t smell the mud slipping through my hands. Instead there was a new odour. For the first time I realized that fear had as distinct an odour as anger. The two big eyes were black. It was right in front of me. It opened its jaw so wide that I could count all the premolars. Death is a feeling that can tell us a lot about a person. In that three-second time frame when the hairy beast sniffed my fears I prayed to a hundred gods; thanked a thousand people; pitied a million others and regretted not being there for another billion. That could have very much been my end. Out of all the misadventures that I had witnessed in my life, having an end as primitive as that appeared disappointing. Being the food of another animal is the worst possible way to die yet the most wide spread truth of the animal kingdom. I had closed my eyes. I thought if life were to end like that then why not sleep through it. There would have been pain and I would have not known where to expect the first blow. Maybe he would have swallowed me head first or crushed me under his body weight. Even a single pounce by the beast would have been enough to knock the living daylights out of me.

Book 1: Page 36, Para 1


Akshay had found his way right behind me. He had also managed to drag in the tent (although not as neatly as I would have liked.) He was just behind me (always watching my back). Akshay could sense that Keshav was shaking. He would have never gotten us out of there. So Akshay zipped to the front seat and levered the hand brake. In the commotion it slipped my mind that Akshay wasn’t watching my back anymore. So as I leaned forward with my lower abdomen outstretched to get Sahib into the jeep something happened. Something I could have never imagined Sahib doing. He… he stepped on my face. I could not maintain my balance and fell face first on the ground. All my worst fears had come alive. Everyone was on the jeep except me. Keshav was ready to press the accelerator any moment. Akshay was sitting next to the driver’s seat and reassuring him that we would make it; we…this ‘we’ did not include me. I was down on the ground betrayed by Sahib.

Book 1: Page 35


Even if I would have taken the driving wheel my hands wouldn’t have moved. I could have never pressed the accelerator or guided the car out of the forest. So it was safer and wiser for me to take a spot on the rear seat. At that moment of bravery I was not to be seen or heard. I just wished that all of them would make it in time. Keshav started the engine and my hopes were at an all time high. I could see that god was on our side.

DON’T LEAVE ME HERE!!

It was Sahib not to my surprise. He was crying. He chose to scream. Very few would have done something else in his shoes. I hopped to the bunk of the car. My hands reached for Sahib’s shoulders. I was going to try and pull him into the jeep. He wasn’t listening to my cries.

Come on Sahib! Give a push. This is it. Go for it. I am here. I won’t let you go.

I expected him to jump into the open back of our jeep. He could easily have done it, for he was the tallest among us all. I wanted him to make it, he had to make it.

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