I got up as the alarm rang into my ears. I looked around, my cousins were still sleeping beside me.
"Get up Vinu" I patted on Vinay's shoulder.
" ?" he said in sleep.
"Oh, come on, get up. It's already 7:30 am now" I pulled his blanket.
"Let me sleep just for five minutes" he said and pulled the blanket on him.
I turned right, it was Khushi.
"Get up Khushi"
"Ice-cream" she said in sleep.
I found there's no use of waking them up and leaned to right to wake Harsha.
"Harsha get up"
He woke up yawning and stretched his body.
"So?" he asked me.
"We need to get these sleeping giants up before granddad comes" I said.
We tried to wake them up. Harsha purposely threw himself on Vinay to get him up. The jump made Vinay up.
"Hey you. Why did you jump on me?" Vinay ran towards Harsha to have fist fight. They used to have it always but not seriously just for fun.
"Stop fighting now" I said as a pacifist.
"Oh, you girls don't know what fun we get at fighting" Harsha said.
"You're right my dear cousin Harsha" said Vinay.
"Ok. You may fight, but the Peace …."
"Have you all got up? Granny cut in when she heard our voices.
"Yeah. But Khushi's still sleeping" I said.
"Let the poor girl sleep" she said from the kitchen. "Come, have your breakfast"
We raced to the bathroom to fresh up. Harsha won the race and got into the bathroom.
"Oh God!" Vinay said "Megha, he'll never come soon, mark my words"
"Yeah, you're right" I said
After few minutes Harsha began singing in bathroom.
"Hey bathroom singer, come out" Vinay said knocking the door. After a long time he came out and we freshed up.
Khushi was sitting beside Granny as she was preparing dosa. We all sat before banana leaves waiting for big round dosa with tasty butter. We used to enjoy it only in our holidays because we lived in cities and that place was a small village, Manchikeri.
Manchikeri was a small forest like village. It was famous for peacocks. We used to wait for holidays and when the holidays come we used to rush to Manchikeri. I was 13 years old, my uncle's son Harsha was 16 and Vinay, another uncle's son was 14 and Khushi was 9, my dad's young sister's daughter. We used to gather at Manchikeri and enjoy having fun time.
We enjoyed dosa and butter.
"Hey, where's our granddad?" Vinay asked looking around.
"He went to market today" Granny said.
Harsha and Vinay stared at me.
"What?" I asked.
"Why didn't you let us sleep?" they both yelled at me at a time.
"I don't know. I never knew that he's not in home today. Remember how we got into an awful row with him for getting late" I said.
"Hm. She's right" Harsha said.
"Sorry" they both apolized.
Khushi's mom who was helping granny said "Well, your aunt Shantala need some children to play with her children. They are too small and she wants someone to help her in it. So, will you go to her house?"
We all looked each other. "What?!" Harsha said. "I mean, why does she want us? We are too big for playing with her children. Send Khushi, she may enjoy with them"
"Why? What happens if you go to her house. She had telephoned me and invited you. Obey what elders says, got it? I can't send Khushi all alone. You three have to go" she seems to be more serious now.
"Why should she be serious about this?' Vinay whispered.
"Khushi's coming with us?"
"Yeah, you four have to go" she said serving butter in y leaf. "Otherwise, I'll complain to your granddad"
"OK. We are going" said Harsha and got up to wash his hands.
Vinay and I didn't follow him because of tasty breakfast.
"So" I opened my mouth. "When we are going?"
"Today" she said.
"I know it. I meant at what time we are going" I said.
"At 10 o' clock" she said giving a small piece of dosa to Khushi.
I got up from them leaving the breakfast half. Vinay too followed me.
We never liked to go to aunt Shantala's house. We never liked her husband, mother in-law. And now we had to go to her house.
We both came to hall and found Harsha lying on the cold ground. We sat beside him.
"When are we going?" Harsha asked.
'10 o' clock" Vinay said. Harsha looked at the clock hanging on the wall. It was 9:30 am now"
"God" Harsha muttered.
Khushi came jumping to us and sat beside me.
"I don't want to go to her house" Vinay said.
"Oh, come on." said Harsha. "We've to do it. Otherwise our granddad'll be angry with us"
We all got up. We met Khushi's mom and said that we are going.
"Very good, children. Well, it's only 9:30 now, no need to go now. Let Khushi take her bath" she said and took Khushi to the bathroom. We had already bathed and we waited for her.
Khushi was dressed now and we all moved out of the house.
We took the path which leads to Shantala aunt's house.
"I never liked her house" Vinay said.
"Yeah, me too" said Harsha.
"This beautiful nature…." I began.
"Yeah, I know what you say. It's fourteenth time you are saying it" Vinay said.
We walked in that forest. We weren't so happy that time but the Mother Nature made us happy. The noise made by peacocks far away making us happy.
We saw a house there, it was the house which we are supposed to go.
"Here comes the house" I said.
The house was built with mud and it was just like granny's house. The mother in-law of my aunt used to sit before the door but the place was vacant.
"I think that witch's not here" Vinay said.
We entered the compound and went straight towards the door. It was locked.
"What the" said Harsha. "The door's locked"
"Where are they?" I said. We went around the house and found a servant who was well known for us. He was working in the cattle shed. He smiled at us when he saw us.
"Well, how are you?" I asked him.
"Fine. What about you? When did you come to Manchikeri?"
"We're fine. We came here last two days" Harsha said.
"Where are they?" Vinay asked.
"To marriage" he said.
"Marriage?" we all asked with surprise because there was no need to stay in her house and were shocked because we simply walked to two miles.
"But she called my mom and said she want us to be with her children" Khushi said.
"Yeah. She had called to baby-sit because she was going to a marriage. But she took her twins with her" the servant told us as much as he knew about it.
"Damn her" Harsha muttered.
"Come on. Let's go" said Vinay.
"When they are coming back?" I asked the servant.
"Evening I guess" he replied.
"Let's go" again Vinay said. He turned back and went. We greeted the servant and followed him. We went out of the compound.
"Shit" said Harsha. "What's this nonsense?"
"They think we are machines" exclaimed Vinay.
"It's all because of that aunt. It's not fault of Khushi's mom" I said when I didn't like him serving the word 'they'.
"OK. You see, I'm not blaming her" Vinay said in the way of fighting.
"I just told you. I don't want to have a quarrel here" I smiled at him. It was my trick to smile at others when they misunderstands and make the scene as quarrel.
He said nothing. He pushed his both hands into his pockets and started whistling.
Now we were too far away from her house. There was a long silence in that moment.
"Peacock!"said Khushi and pointed her finger at a bush.
We all looked at that bush. There was a peacock which had scattered its feathers. The peacock was so wonderful. Our mouth fell opened. We slowly neared to it. That bush was very far away from us. We walked without making noise. But it saw us and escaped.
"Oh, what a wonderful peacock it was!" I said.
"Yeah. If I had a camera I would have taken its picture" Harsha said.
"Hm. Bad luck" Vinay said.
"I'll never forget that peacock in my life" I said.
"Yeah, me too" others agreed with me.
We stood there remembering the peacock for some time.
"We need to go" I said and stepped further. But we were in the forest. Many big and tall trees were around us.
"Oh no" Harsha said looking around. "I think were lost in this forest"
"Oh God!" I said. "It's all because of that peacock and because of us too. We could have seen the peacock from where were we"
"It's my entire fault" said Khushi wiping her eyes.
"Oh, come on" Harsha said. "It wasn't your fault" He bent towards her and kept his hands on her shoulders.
"Yeah, it's not your fault" Vinay and I chorused.
"Really?" she asked us.
"Hundred percent guaranties" Vinay said.
"So, what's next?" Harsha asked.
"Hm. Let's turn back and walk to the place back and walk to the place back as we came here" I said.
"Hm?" Vinay said.
"Well, we came to see the peacock here right?" I said.
"Let's step aback, I mean we'll walk as we came here" I completed.
"Oh I see" Vinay said.
"So, shall we move?" I asked.
"Yes" others said.
We all turned back and stepped further as we came here. We walked and walked, but we never got the footpath in that jungle.
"Oh, God! What shall we do?" Harsha asked in a tone of worry.
"I'm sorry" I said.
"Why?" He asked me and understood what I meant and said "It's okay. Your idea was best"
"Hey, do you have cell phone?" Vinay asked to Harsha.
"Oh yeah" Harsha said and put his hand into his pocket to get his cell out.
"Are you nuts?" I asked them. They both looked each other and said "No. Why?"
"You are nuts" I said.
"Oh, is it? Thanks. I never knew that I'm a nut" Vinay said in such a way that made us burst into laughter.
"Don't you know that we are in jungle" I became serious. "In jungle there'll be no network. We are not in the city here"
"You're right" Harsha said. "But let me check it once" he took out his mobile and checked whether there is network or not but there wasn't network.
"No network" he said.
I looked at my wrist watch, it was 11 am now.
"We gotta do something" I said.
"What about screaming?" Vinay said as if he got a good idea.
"Whoa, scream? What do we get from screaming?" Harsha questioned.
"Well, if we scream, anyone can here it and help us" Vinay said.
"There's nobody around here to help us" I said.
"OK. Let's scream" Harsha nodded.
"What? It doesn't make any sense." I said.
But they began screaming.
"Silly" I muttered.
"Stop screaming now" I yelled at them. They stopped.
"Have you gone insane?"I asked them.
"Yeah, we've gone insane" Harsha yelled at me.
"Look, we need to do something" I said.
No one said anything. Khushi was feeling guilt.
It's all because of me" she said.
"Stop saying that" I said.
"The only thing is 'walk'." Vinay said "Walk wherever we like"
We had to walk to return home. So, we started walking. We liked the forest before an hour but now we began hating the forest.
"God" I said. "My legs are paining" I stopped and knelt down.
"You forgot to take your tablets" Vinay said. I had a drawback, legs pain. So, I used to have tablets. And Vinay who had ambition of becoming a doctor knew everything about the diseases and tablets. Daily he used to remember me to have those tablets. But today we both forgot about it.
"Shit? Are you feeling sick?" Harsha asked me with concern who was a great caretaker of others especially me. "Can you walk?"
"Yeah, am feeling sick. I'll try to" I said and tried to get up.
"I'll give you a hand" Vinay said and led his hand to help me. I got up with his hand and looked at them. All three looked too worried about me. Their facial expression made to laugh.
"What was that for?" Vinay asked.
"Nothing. You three look too worried as if I'm dying here"
"Shut up!" they said with anger.
" , well, let's go" I said.
"Are you really all right?" Khushi asked me.
"No, not really"
"Really?" she asked. "You sound funnier"
"Yeah, I'm not funny and uh, my legs are paining" I said. "You looked more concerned so I laughed"
"Ok. Let's go" Vinay said.
We continued our walking. We came near to a stream. The scenery was so beautiful and we thanked the God for creating such beautiful nature and cursed the human kind for destroying it.
The stream was flowing forcibly. We rushed to it and formed cup by using our hands open and joined and drank the water. It was the sweetest water we ever drank. We sat beside the stream listening to the melodious sound made by the water flow and rested there. I again looked at my wrist watch, the big needle was pointing 12 o'clock.
"It's twelve o' clock now" I said.
"Lunchtime" said Khushi.
"God, I'm starving" Vinay said when he hear 'lunchtime' and got remember of lunch.
"Well, I'm too starving. Let's eat anything we get here." said Harsha looking at the trees around him.
"We shouldn't" I said. "We can't eat anything we get here. They maybe poisonous"
"But we can eat the fruits which are known for us such like chikku, guava, ect." said Harsha.
"There's a guava tree" Khushi told and showed us the tree. It was right beside the stream. Harsha and Vinay climbed up the tree and plucked some fruits and threw down. Khushi and I washed the fruits in the water and we all equally shared the fruits and ate them.
"We are running late. We should be home before the sunset" Khushi said.
"What's the time now?" Vinay asked.
"Twelve fifteen" I said looking at my wrist watch.
"Don't worry. We have time we'll be home before the dark" Harsha said.
"Watch out!" I shouted at Harsha. A long snake from the stream was nearing to him and was about to bite him up. But Harsha suddenly got up from there and ran towards me.
"God!" we all screamed. Khushi began crying looking at the big snake ever seen. I held her hand and comfort her. But we got scared of it and ran away from the stream fastly. We were all were panting and sat on ground.
"I never knew that this forest is also famous for big damned snakes" Harsha said. "I only knew it's famous for peacocks"
"Thank god, there are no lions and tigers" Vinay said.
"Thank you, Megha" Harsha said "For saving my life. If you hadn't told me I'm danger, I would be a dead body right now"
"That's ok, bro" I said.
We had forgotten about poor Khushi. She was still trembling and was crying.
"It's all right. It didn't do anything to us. Stop crying now" Vinay said. We all tried to console her, but we didn't win.
Finally Harsha got up an idea and said "Hey, chant Hanuman chalisa. Hanuman is your favourite god isn't it?" It was really good idea which made her stop crying and she began chanting chalisa. We too joined her saying "Jai Hanuman jnana gunasagar…" we completed saying chalisa. Hanuman was favourite god of Khushi and me and was role model of Harsha and Vinay for his huge iron like body.
We got somewhat courage in us.
"Don't scare for anything because Hanuman's with us" Vinay said.
"Jai Bhajarangabali" Harsha raised his fist and said. Khushi became bold now and followed Harsha.
"So, what next?" I asked.
"Building the tree houses of our own. Staying here until our death and come in history text books of next generation" Vinay said. And I forgot to say that he was like Charlie Chaplin. He had pound of humour sense. He used to cheer others telling his own created jokes.
"Well, I don't like history" Harsha said.
"Oh, that's the problem now" Vinay said scratching his head.
"I can't walk further, my legs are paining much" I said with great pain.
"Well, I really feel so sorry for you" said Harsha came to me followed by Vinay.
"I got an idea" Vinay said.
"What's that?" Harsha asked.
"Carry her till we get home" he said.
"Superb idea" Harsha said. "I'll carry her first and you carry next. Done?"
"Done" Vinay agreed.
I hesitated and said "I really appreciate your concern but…."
"Oh, come on. We are your brothers and it's our duty to take care of you both" Harsha said. "And I'm elder one here and I need to care you all" he completed.
"Am I included in 'all'?" Vinay asked.
"Yeah, you too are included in it" Harsha said and turned to me. "Come on"
"Are you doing to be a donkey?" Khushi asked him and laughed.
"Nah, he 'is' a donkey" said Vinay.
"Hey you!" again they both started fighting I didn't stop them because I knew they both say, "You girls don't know the fun we get at fighting". And I knew they are fighting for fun.
They remained fighting, the fist fight turned into Karate and next Boxing.
"I say, Hanuman didn't fight with his cousins or friends"
They both stopped when they heard me and sat next me.
"How are feeling now?" Harsha said.
"Not fine" I replied.
"Don't cross your legs, stretch them and relax for a while" Vinay advised.
I was really feeling happy to have such caring cousins and I loved them a lot. I had many cousins but Harsha, Vinay and Khushi were my favourite. We all loved each other.
We nearly spent about 20 minutes. I again looked at my watch, it was 12:55pm now.
"I think we stay in this forest forever" Khushi said. Yeah, she was right. We didn't have any idea where were we. If we had lost in city somehow we could get home. But it wasn't.
"God! I'm getting insane" I said. "We've lost in a jungle and we know where we are and which the way is for granny's home"
"You're right. Granddad, I'm started loving you. I know I'll never be back. It's better to get beatings from your big stick than getting lost in jungle" Vinay said.
"You're right" Harsha agreed.
Our granddad was very strict with us especially for Harsha and Vinay. But he used not to either scold or beat Khushi and me just because he loved girl children. So Khushi and I used to escape from him. Harsha and Vinay were scared of him and his tiger like voice. They both used to run away from him when granddad used to come before them. He was not only strict with us also with the family.
"I wished we all would get lost in jungle and make granddad worry about us" Vinay said. We all stared at him crossly. "I, I just wished, I….think you don't believe that…..the wishes come tr…true" Vinay said.
"I don't. But I began believing it now onwards" Harsha said.
"Well, it's not because you wished it" I said.
"Yeah, it was fate. God want us to be more bold and adventurous" Khushi said.
"Come on. Let's go" I rose up.
"Where?" Harsha asked.
"I don't know. Umm, let's make a plan, go right, left or straight"
"Left" Khushi said.
"Right" Vinay said.
"Straight" Harsha said.
"Right" I said.
We decided to go on right side and marched. We walked and walked and finally got tired.
"Wait, I got an idea" Vinay said. "Let anyone of us climb up a huge and tall tree and let's see is there any house nearby or not"
"Ok. That's a good idea. I'll climb up" Harsha said.
"Beware you break your bones" I said.
"Don't worry about me" he said and climbed up a huge and tall tree nearby to him. He climbed and climbed tree. My heart was pounding as he was climbing up. But he was excellent in climbing trees. He faded into the leaves.
"Be careful" Khushi and me shouted at him.
"He'll be" Vinay assured.
"Hey" Harsha called us from the last branch.
"What can you see from there?" Vinay asked him loudly.
"Trees and a road"
"Yeah, but it's too far. I can't see it much better. I'll try to move further."
"Please don't" I said.
"Ok. Well, we have to head towards left, there are no trees much and soon will be out of forest. But in right, front and back, there are more trees"
"Come back." We called him
"Coming" he said back.
"Be careful" I shouted.
"Don't worry. I'm safe here"
He slowly climbed down the tree and jumped from lower branch.
"You're brave" We cried and ran to him and hugged him. I noticed a wound onhis left hand. "God! Are you hurt?" I asked him.
"No, not really" he said. But his hand was bleeding much. I took out my kerchief and tied around the wound.
"Well, how was the idea? Good?" Vinay asked.
"A worse idea I've never heard" I yelled at him.
"Oh, I'm really sorry for you bro….."
"That's fine, Vinay. You gave a good idea so that we came to know that if we head towards left, we surely get home" Harsha said and looked at me. "It's nothing to worry. I'm ok"
"You're a great hero" Khushi hugged him.
"Thank you dear" he said stroking her hair. "So, shall we move?"
"Yes, boss" Vinay said.
We head towards the left having hope that we go to our home. We walked and walked.
"What's the time now?" Khushi asked.
I again looked at my wrist watch and said "1:30 am"
"I'm really tired and I'm hungry a lot" Khushi said.
"Me too" I said looking around to find fruit tree. And I found a chickoo tree.
"There's a chickoo tree" I said pointing my index finger at the tree. We all rushed but Harsha said "One should be standing in the place from where we rushed so that we don't get lost again in the forest" So I returned back to the place and stood there. Now Vinay climbed the tree and plucked the fruits and they returned back. Khushi gave me two fruits. But the fact is I never liked chickoo but I had to eat it for my hunger. We walked and walked eating the fruits. We walked for half an hour and sat for a while and took rest. Whenever we used to sit I used to look at my watch. It was 2:15pm now.
"The time is 2:15 now" I said.
"Oh, it's getting late" Khushi worried.
"We'll be getting home soon" Vinay assured.
Again we walked and walked and walked. I had forgotten about my leg pain and I didn't care for it much. Because of my leg pain Harsha used to stop and sit us and we used to get relaxed. Khushi didn't complain about any pain but only worried about home and food especially.
While going I noticed Harsha's hand was still bleeding and the handkerchief was wet with blood and some blood stain on his left side of his shirt.
"Do any of you have handkerchief?" I asked.
"Yes, I have" Vinay said.
"Give it to me" I said and he gave his hankie to me.
"Harsha" I called him, who was little away from us.
"What?" he turned back.
"Your hand's still bleeding and look at your shirt" I said.
He looked at his shirt and said "Gosh!"
I untied the tied handkerchief and threw it away because it was wet by blood.
"Again it becomes a History. Four cousins were lost in jungle and elder one got hurt…..am sure it comes in History" Vinay said.
"Oh, shut up" Harsha frowned at him just because he never liked History.
"Cool down, cool down. I was just kidding lol" Vinay said. Harsha just smiled at him.
I tied Vinay's handkerchief which was rather bigger than mine.
"When we return home, you first change the shirt and keep it somewhere and will wash it secretly" I said.
"Okay" he replied back.
We continued our walking. We were really thirst but we were really helpless. We walked and walked and walked and we a saw a road far away.
"This is the road, I had seen from the tree" Harsha said.
"Doesn't it look so familiar" I asked.
"Yeah, it looks like the tar road which is before our home" Vinay said.
The tar road which was next to granny's home was a highway in Manchikeri and it was the only one tar road in the village.
"Hope, the road is the road is the road which is right before our home" Khushi said.
We walked towards the road and found a house there.
"Doesn't it look our home?" Harsha asked.
"Yeah" we all said.
We crossed the road and went further and came to know that the house was our house!
"Hurray, we're home, we're home" We jumped with joy.
"Bull eyes" Vinay shouted. We hugged each other and hopped.
"But the forest" I looked back. "I'll never forget it"
"I'm feeling like we should have spent more time in forest" Khushi said.
We all turned towards the forest and remembered the times spent in that.
"We love you dear forest" We all chorused. Before getting lost in the jungle we liked it much. When we got lost we started hating the forest slowly we liked it and now we really felt like we'll never have such adventurous day in our life again and we felt like we miss the forest forever and tears came out of our eyes.
"Come on. Let's go" Harsha said. We turned back and walked further. And found our granny walking here and there.
"Oh, you came" she said.
"Yeah" we didn't say anything further.
"Did you enjoy with children?" she asked.
"Oh, yeah" Harsha said. "Did Shantala aunt telephoned you?"
"No. she hadn't. Today we never got any calls from others"
"Oh great" Harsha said and rushed towards home's door.
"You look dirty" she said.
"Well we played, climbing up the tree" I said.
"Oh I see go clean yourself" she said.
"Yeah" we said and ran into the house.
"So, the damned aunt of us hasn't call granny" Vinay said.
We fresh up and by that time Harsha had changed his shirt and we all gathered at our room. I took a first aid box and Vinay began aiding the wound.
"Don't tell anyone that we lost in the forest" Harsha said.
"Because granny and other aunts get scared and scold us and says those old sentences "You should be careful" "You shouldn't go there, you should go here" and ect. And granddad and uncles get furious and Vinay and I get beatings and they punish us severely. These people always think negative and get scared. So, it's better not to tell them the real story"
"What if anyone ask aunt how did we enjoy with the children and such questions?" Khushi questioned.
"Oh yeah, well, I'll manage it. I mean, if we get into the trouble we'll say we were safe and we didn't say to you just because you worry, that's all" Harsha said.
"But it's better to tell the truth now" I said.
"Look, they only scold and worries about the past but they never ask how our was adventure. God! Hope you understand what I mean" Harsha said.
"What are you doing?" Khushi's mom asked us who entered while we were talking.
"Nothing" Khushi said.
"You played with the children?"
"Yeah, we enjoyed much" Khushi repied.
"Good" she said. "Come, I've prepared some snacks for you"
"Snacks!" We jumped with joy and ran into the kitchen before our aunt. And she gave us the snacks and we enjoyed them.
But unfortunately, she saw the wound of left hand.
"What the hell happened to your hand?" she exclaimed and took hold his right hand.
"Well, uh, umm, I fell down from the mango tree while plucking fruits" Harsha managed.
"Is it hurting you much?" she asked with concern.
"No" Harsha replied.
Slowly the sun set in west and we had our dinner. Nobody asked about the day because they had their own problems. We finished our dinner and ran out but granddad called us to him. We slowly walked to him. We didn't dare to ask him the word "what?" We stood there and waited for him to speak. His serious face turned into smiling face.
"Good children" he said and gave us chocolates.
"You've become good children now, you've listened what your aunt had said" he said "Go to sleep now"
"Good night granddad" we all chorused.
"Goodnight" he said back.
We went to the room and lied on beds.
"They never ask aunt about us" Harsha said.
"How?" Vinay asked.
"Because they even didn't ask about today and Shantala aunt don't come or call often and soon they forget forget about it" Harsha explained.
"Okay, goodnight everybody" I said.
"Good night" others replied.
The peacock, the huge trees, the beautiful stream, the sweet water, tasty guava, the damned snake, my leg's pain, Harsha's adventure, the chickoo fruits, the road, our return to our home, everything came before my eyes.
It was the day that I'll never forget in my life.
My eyes became heavy and I slowly closed my eyes and fell into sleep.