Fairy Tale Trek
I was just under
ten. Father had bought his coffee estate on the Western Ghats and
the family was split - with mother concentrating on our schooling
at Mangalore, and father devoting his time and energy on the estate
near Saklespur, a hundred miles from our house on the coast.
Commuting to and
fro was not easy, the ghat roads being treacherous. Unlike today,
when the distance can be covered in two hours, those days one had
to depend on the uncertain rickety buses which needed the better
part of a day to chug-chug along, with many a stop on the ascending
and winding roads to cool the radiator water.
My elder sister had
finished her studies and was spending time at home during that interlude
between college and marriage. So she kept father company on the
estate. I was called one day by mother and asked to take a few things
to her at the estate. Two neatly packed bags were entrusted to my
care and I was ensconced in the bus with numerous instructions to
be careful. Someone would meet me to Saklespur, and walk me down
the five miles of jungle, to the estate. I entertained no qualms
or anxiety, content with the storybooks I had carried to kill time
on the journey.
But when the bus
reached our destination, dusk was falling, and no one was there
to receive me. I waited …. And waited. The bus-stand was soon
deserted. The first signs of panic were creeping in, as I tried
to get a taxi but found one. I took care to carry the bags with
me whenever and wherever I moved. The realization that they were
like rocks was now sinking in. Undaunted, I decided to walk. But
the bags were heavy.
I managed to persuade one of the porters to accompany me carrying
my bags. He insisted on hiring a cycle or else…. I quickly
agreed. Half way through, the porter suddenly wanted to go back
and demand from me the two rupees agreed upon. His expression made
me part with the money. And I watched his disappearing back with
apprehension. Panic bells were ringing now. I was alone, stranded
on a jungle path, with no one to help carrying the heavy load. As
despair would be no use, determinedly I set off again, dragging
the two heavy packages. Every fifty yards I stopped, to catch my
breath and recoup energy to carry me over the next fifty yards.
Throughout this arduous, never-ending walk, the tears were not too
Night came along
as I trudged on the unfamiliar jungle path, expecting a wild animal
or an undesirable stranger, to appear round every tree, stone or
corner. The tears were held back and allowed to roll down only after
I reached the estate bungalow - at what hour, I really cannot say.
Father and sister
were alarmed when I had to wake them up to let me in. There had
been some communication gap about my date of arrival and hence the
My sister eagerly opened the bags to see if all her things had reached
intact. That's the first time I saw what I had carried-her costly
sarees and all her jewellery. These were needed because certain
'proposals' were expected to drop in to see the eligible bride!
The jewellery that
I had carried cost a fortune - in today's terms may be over a couple
of lakhs. Which makes me shudder. Had I not been careful, what would
have happened to the wares?
When I asked my parents
later on how they could rely on a ten-year-old to escort such a
treasure to distant wilderness, their answer made my chest swell
with pride. But really, where have all those good old days gone,
when parents could send their little boys out on their own without
fear or worry?
Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can
interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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