“You don’t take anything from the jungle Sir, which the jungle doesn’t give you”
The villager told the young hikers as they walked past him but they did not pay heeds. After all, what was once a jungle are now cities, cities spread all over the world. Man has always taken from the jungle, always.
They walked the dense jungle climbing the mountains. The rains had turned the jungle into a big soft coat of fresh green grass. As they cleared another hill, they came across a big clearing. Rain had started pouring again and fog had engulfed the forest.
Crossing the clearing they would come to another part of the forest. An hour walk from there and they would be in the comfort of the warm bed in the resort. As they continued walking, Arnab noticed the pile of stones stacked neatly.
“Imagine that! All those stones, in the middle of the jungle, stacked so neatly?” He remarked
“Yeah! Looks strange! I mean why in the middle of the jungle, arranged so systematically?” Sumeet questioned
“You know what? I know what it is” Ranjit lighted up
“What?” The other two asked in unison
“See I had read somewhere that there lived monks in these jungles”
“So when they died because of their meditation they turned into these unique stones and all the other monks kept these stones here to remind them of their fellow monks” He was explaining
For a moment both of them looked at Ranjit unable to register what he had just said. It was not until Ranjit started laughing that they both realized that they have been had.
“Look at your face” He was laughing
“Yeah! yeah! We always knew” Arnab tried to still sound brave
Ranjit was still laughing.
“Let’s go before its too late” Sumeet said “We have to get out before dark and we still have to cross the small stretch”
The other two nodded. As they walked, Ranjit stopped and picked up a stone from the pile
“What are you doing?” Sumeet turned back
“Oh! Nothing” Ranjit replied “These stones fascinate me”
“Come on Ranjit” Arnab looked frustrated “Don’t play with nature. You don’t even know why these stones are for. They could have some religious value”
“Oh! Hello?” Ranjit laughed “Do you really believed what I said?”
“Come on! Remember what the villager said that don’t take……” Arnab started
“Anything from the jungle, which the jungle doesn’t give you. I know and its a legend” Ranjit smiled “But these stones really fascinate me”
Arnab shrugged. He knew it was useless to argue with Ranjit. He was the stubborn one.
Ranjit carried the stone in his hand as they entered the jungle trail. It was a well marked trail and no question of getting lost. An hour walk and they would be at the resort. They walked silently as the morning enthusiasm had totally waned out. Ranjit walked behind everybody still watching the stone closely.
After an hour walk, they finally reached the resort.
“Boy! I am tired” Arnab finally gave a tired smile.
“Where’s Ranjit?” He looked back
That was when they both realized that Ranjit was not with them
“It must be one of his prank” Arnab sounded frustrated
“Ranjit! Ranjit” Arnab shouted “Its not funny. We are tired and its no times for games”
But the forest was silent, just the way it was supposed to be. Nothing moved except the soft breeze that just about moved the leaves a bit. They waited expecting him to come laughing out of the bushes. They desperately wanted to hear his irritating laughter now. But nothing happened.
They called out again but still no response. He was really testing their patience. As minutes passed by, they realized that the situation was really serious. They may have really missed Ranjit back in the forest. It was walking back all the way to find him but at the same time they expected him to burst out laughing any moment. The heart beat faster as seconds turned into minutes and still no signs of Ranjit
“We need to get help” Sumeet finally said
Arnab agreed and he knew they did not have choice either. They did not know the forest and it was already late evening. A few more minutes and darkness would descend on the forest. They risked getting lost in the forest themselves. They waited still more before raising the alarm at the resort.
The resort people searched till midnight before they gave up. Police arrived early morning and started the search again along with forest officials.
Four days later in the local newspaper, Page 5
Ranjit Shivner, a resident of Mumbai went missing in the jungle. Police have called off the search after 3 days of continuous searching. His two friends are in Police custody but police have been unable to find any clue of the boy. This is the 4th missing report since last 7 years with no proof of survivors or any dead body. Although the forest does not have any record of wild animals which can be dangerous for human life, the disappearances have greatly baffled the local police and villagers.
At the time of going to press, police have called off the search and may book his two friends on the charges of murder. Details are awaited
3 days before the newspaper report in the forest near the clearing
He walked absent-mindly in the dense forest clutching the blanket for cover against the cold forest wind. He knew his way around and hardly stopped to look around keeping his eyes fixed to the ground. There were no wild animals for any danger around. He cleared the big clearing as he walked toward the trail leading to the resort. His village was just near the resort.
Suddenly his eyes caught something and he froze on the road. Next to the trail were two stones, unique stones unlike other stones in the jungle. Stones very similar to piles of stones in the clearing. He shivered. He picked up the stones and walked back to the clearing. Placing the stones in the big pile he walked back to the trail without looking back.
His father was right “Do not take anything from the jungle, which the jungle does not give you”
He wrapped the blanket tightly as he shivered inside the warm blanket and thought about the news he was sure to hear in the village
Someone went missing again!
Note: Inspired from a trek to National Park. A pile of stones were found on the mountain there. Still not sure what the stones were doing there. It took me a while to write the story.