Khordha Diaries- The jungle story

Satyakam Ray

Love is manifested more if it senses an untimely irreversible separation by fortuitous means or deliberate manner. This philosophy works not only in the case of humans but also among animals, which can be felt.

My father, in his youth, used to go on hunting trips to escape the mundane aspects of living. It’s his first-hand experience that is the essential crux of narration. He has seen the manifestation of love and respect among the victims of his hunting trips- a sad love story of the wounded male deer and its female counterpart.

Let’s start the heart-anguishing jungle story in its primitive version.

Binjhagiri- a place close to Bhubaneswar was full of unspoiled dense green surroundings and its wild inhabitants. The tale belonged to 1970 when my father was still a roaming brat with wild enthusiasm. His aunt used to live in Binjhagiri then. On vacations, my father visited the place to take secret shikar trips in the jungle.

Ravi, his shikar mate, was the person who helped with the daily chores of the household. At midnight, Ravi used to come prepared for the jungle expedition with high-ankle boots, a double-barrel gun, and an axe. Aunty used to reprimand papa for going on the night jungle adventure as it was full of danger. On Ravi’s signal, my father used to escape the suspecting aunty to join the night thrill.

On one of his night expeditions, Ravi and papa explored further down the usual jungle path than planned. They were looking for a deer or “sambar” to hunt down as its meat was quite tasty among the villagers. But that day, there was no luck. Not a single animal worthy of the bullet was visible by then.

The jungle was eerily silent at midnight. All they could see in the cloudy night sky were the dense foliage of trees and occasional elephant footmarks. The duo discreetly searched for their hunting prey in the near vicinity of the bushes. Something was making a hissing sound at them. Frightened by the intruder’s approach, papa asked the hunter what it was. The hunter replied in a hushed tone – it was a kind of indigenous snake in the jungle. To counter those snakes, the duo had worn high-ankle boots to survive its bite. The search continued a bit further with no success, so they decided to call it quits.

When they returned to the village with no hunting trophy, a group of deer accidentally crossed their path. The group was very close to the village-jungle borderline. Upon sighting the hunters, the group hurried back with great speed. In a desperate notch to have a parting hunting gift to his friend, the hunter fired a bullet at the last escaping deer. The aim needed to be better. The deer survived the first attack and ran at full speed. So did the hunter duo after it.

After searching for a half kilometer ahead, they found the wounded deer close to a shrub. It was affected by the bullet wound and was unable to run. The hunter was ready to take the second fatal shot at a close distance when he heard shrubs crackling. Another deer was approaching, unfazed by the hunters to the aid of the wounded deer. It was a female deer looking for its wounded male partner.

According to papa, the remarkable scene was epic to experience, a bit dreadful. The female deer showed bravery and a demeaning not-caring look at the hunter duo. She carried on caring for her partner with no fear of bullets and stood her ground there with no intention of running back. The wounded male dear was shrieking, almost crying in pain. The female deer also joined the chorus with a sad, bellowing howl. As if both are communicating to exchange the grief of imminent fatality. Dreadful fatal excursion brings out the inner poetic love sometimes.

Any nursing to the wounded deer would have invited a glaring brutal attack from the menacing-looking female partner. After this unusual encounter, the hunter duo was in a moral dilemma and decided not to take any other shots. They left the place without assisting the deer. They didn’t want to make the issue anything worse.

The hunters came back to their village with no hunting. But with a saddened heart, an eye-opening life experience coerced them not to retake hunting trips. To date, they have no idea what happened to that wounded deer. Did it make it or succumb to the bullet wounds?

Sometimes the heart-warming love manifested by the female deer dances in front of my father’s eyes as his voice tails off during the end of the narration.

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