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 40


I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. It was probably several hours later that I woke up. We were going back to Dehradoon. The misadventure had killed our enthusiasm. Sahib was driving. Keshav was sitting next to him and Akshay had fallen asleep by my side.

I tried in vain to get up from my quiescent position on the back seat. My effort ended up interrupting Akshay’s dream.

Akshay: Is it still paining?

Kalsh: Nah… in fact I am enjoying it now.

Akshay: Very funny. Now see, this is important. Take this ointment and apply it on the wounds. (He gave me a tube.)

Kalsh: Great (I snatched it from his hand). Now tell me everything that happened since I fainted.

Akshay: Rest for now. It’s not time yet. You have been through a lot.

Keshav: Tell him about the covenant. (He jumped out of his seat.)

Kalsh: About the what? I didn’t know we had a covenant in place, especially when Sahib stepped on me. (I got up.)

Akshay: Hey calm down you two. It’s not that simple.

Kalsh: Then tell me how complicated it is? I am all ears.

Akshay: Should we? (He asked Sahib and Keshav)

Sahib: We have to tell him eventually. Better sooner than later.

Keshav: Everything suits me as long as I am not the one narrating.

Akshay: Alright then, gentlemen brace yourselves.

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.

Book 1: Page 34, Para 2


We had not got a chance to unwind and most of our time had been spent on erecting the tent, therefore our luggage was still packed. Keshav and I quickly picked all four bags and tossed them onto the back of the jeep. It is amusing to look back at our actions, how even in the jaws of death I wouldn’t part with my clothes. The jerseys, the gloves, the jackets, the mufflers (the most beautiful part of any ensemble), counting all these exclusive clothes which I had collected over the years it never occurred to me that my shoes were still in the tent. A heartache ripped me apart at the bereavement.

You never liked them in the first place.”

More importantly my shoe size would have definitely increased one day and risking my life for the pair of shoes would have been dumb.

Book 1: Page 34, Para 1


Why are you still standing? Someone start the car damn it!!”

There are some particular times in a person’s life when the mind goes numb and that was one such moment. I very vividly remember that my first confrontation with an animal in the wild was not at all encouraging. Sorry brother I actually peed on the same tree where it was looking for food!!” this was the most dim-witted reason to be attacked by a wild animal. Then again it struck me that animals are hyper sensitive to odours of body fluids which they often use to mark their territory. It appeared that our dear Sahib had just crossed it’s territory. Prior to that incident, I believed the bear to be a benign creature that never attacked a human, but I was wrong. Neither a tiger nor a lion, not even a wolf but a bear came for us.

Book 1: Page 32


Nothing had changed around me but it was not the same anymore. Same trees which were shady some time ago; same damp air which was brushing my hair some time ago; same swampy crickets which were annoying me some time ago; but now my mind wasn’t empty. There was no space inside my heart to accommodate the magnificent Nature. The moment of beauty had seized to give me joy. I had a very disquiet topic to think about. I sat down to weigh the pros and cons. Akshay had been my “best buddy” since I had learnt that such a word existed in the dictionary. He was one of the most handsome boys of our school with a hefty built. He was also a true gentleman. God had blessed him with a lineage so pure and noble that I touched my ears three times before taking his grandfather’s name. But it was my sister’s opinion that mattered the most to me. Her decision would make all the difference and I needed to talk to her. It would be best if the two of them decided for themselves. So that was it. The first thing I would do after reaching home would be to stay away from this matter. No preferences. No prejudice. No suggestions. It felt real good to have reached a sound conclusion. I got up from the fallen bark that had been my seat and walked in a circle looking for the remaining gang.

Book 1: Page 31


He was running. I was chasing him. He was jumping. I was leaping behind him. The words that came out of his mouth needed some explanation. Was this his idea of a joke? So all that time he had been rehearsing to ask me about my sister, pretending that that tree was me?

Chase
Chase

MAY I DATE YOUR SISTER”, was that all he could come up with? Was it the lameness of the line that bothered me or its sudden appearance out of nowhere? I couldn’t pinpoint the cause of my agitation. All I could comprehend was that everyone (except me) knew that my best friend liked my sister.

Kalsh: Stop Akshay! We need to talk.

Akshay: You will have to catch me first.

Kalsh: Both of us know I am the second fastest guy here. If I chase you down, you are gone. So it’s better to stop right here right now.

Akshay: Well is your answer “yes”.

Kalsh: Yes to what?

Akshay: To my question.

Kalsh: This is it you are going down.

And I pounced on him like a tiger and he merely evaded my hand by shifting his weight to the left like a black buck.

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