LION HUNT - A short story

Consecutive Serial

*Consecutive Serial: How Much to Say?
Original in Kashmiri 'silsilûvàr- kyà kyà vanû? - *M.K.Raina
Translation: T.N.Dhar 'Kundan'
t was a serious matter. If you believe me, I had been pale for quite sometime but I was trying to put up a brave face. The healthiest boy in our class Ghulam Rasool too was chanting something in low tone. When I tried to shake him, he became mad but did not utter a word. Jalal Din and Raj Nath were so huddled together as if they had vowed not to get separated ever. Jay Kaul tried to muster some courage by puffing at a cigarette but unaware of the fact that it was not lit at all. Munir Ahmad was in deep thoughts perhaps trying to take stock of the situation. He was the team leader and, therefore, responsible for everything. Hanif Khan too had a red face but he was mum. It was not clear whether he was frightened or enthusiastic that made his face red. Munir Ahmad peeped through the gaps of the tent flaps once again. I also gazed through a gap but held my breath due to the fright. The lion was looking towards us with its shining eyes. I was so scared that I could see only one eye but Munir Ahmad said that both its eyes were shining. No body was allowed to talk. Every thing was conveyed through indications only. After hearing Munir I looked once again rather closely. Now I too could see both its eyes. Raj Nath seconded it. Jalal Din could not see the lion’s eyes but he could hear the sound of it drinking water. He whispered, ‘By God, the lion is drinking fast and churning the whole water as it were. I can hear the noise clearly sitting here.’ Jay Kaul was not convinced. He told him, ‘I have seen in the films that a lion never drinks by churning the water of a pond or reservoir.’ Jalal Din wanted to enter into an argument with him but had to keep quiet because Munir Ahmed was watching. Once again we peeped through the tent door but it was pitch dark outside. We were rubbing our eyes and trying to figure out what will follow.

I pushed Rajnath and took the front position. I could clearly see the lion drinking water. Then it got up and stretched its body. Seeing its size I was frightened. It was hardly visible in the dark but its shadow was clear. This gave an idea that it must be six feet long. When I reported this to Munir Ahmad, he also took courage to observe. He was unable to spot anything and insisted that the lion was drinking water. On looking more closely he too agreed that it was now standing. His estimation was that it was about four feet long. All of a sudden Ghulam Rasool shrieked, ‘Oh! We are doomed’ and all of us fell on one another. No body knew the cause for his shriek. When Munir Ahmad asked him, he enquired with astonishment, ‘did you not hear the roar of the lion?’ While Munir Ahmad and I shook our heads in negative, Jalal Din agreed with him and said, ‘By God, I also heard the frightening roar of the lion. But I did not reveal it lest you should get scared.’ Hearing this we were half dead. We concluded that the lion was readying to eat us up. Jai Kaul had dropped his cigarette. He had perhaps realized that it was unlit. I cursed the time when I had consented to Munir Ahmed and had joined this adventure. At the heart of my hearts I was apologizing to my parents for not being of any service to them and fell prey to the lion at the ripe age of twenty five. Tears rolled up in my eyes. I remembered my relatives, friends and other acquaintances, one after the other. In no time I burst into tears. Seeing me cry, others also were in tears. Now that the death was so near, I remembered all my relatives and friends. We held one another’s hands tight and I started reciting the prayer ‘Indrakshi’ in my mind.

We were eight of us in the team. Six were adventurers, Munir Ahmed, Ghulam Rasool, Jay Kaul, Raj Nath, Jalal Din and I. Two were porters, Hanif Khan and Kasana. We should have been eleven in all but three of my friends who usually are with me could not make it this time. They did say that they were busy but I am sure they were scared to enter the forests. My pleading with them did not bear any fruit. They flatly refused to accompany us.

On our way up the mountain we had a problem. Kasana and Hanif Khan got detached from our group at a crossroad. We took to one way. They reached little later and took the other path. We did not realise this for quite sometime. At about noon when we reached a small plateau, we began searching for water to drink but alas water and milk was in the luggage being carried by Kasana and Hanif Khan. We had no other way but to wait but they did not turn up. After waiting for two hours, Munir Ahmed ordered us to continue the trekking. We had no life left in our limbs but how could we disobey the leader? Somehow we reached the bigger plateau at about five in the evening. We camped there. Nearby there was a spring. We drank with such eagerness as if we would not see water for another one year. After sometime, Kasana and Hanif also arrived. They were in a bad condition worse than ours. In spite of having water with them they had not had a drop of it. Hanif Khan said that they were lost and were busy trying to locate us.

All of us were busy pitching the tents. That job over, Munir Ahmed distributed work among all. Jalal Din and Raj Nath were asked to cook the food. Ghulam Rasool and Jay Kaul were given the task of digging a drain round the tents. Hanif and Kasana were engaged in drawing water from the spring. Munir and I began gathering dry firewood for the campfire. Rajnath left on a reconnaissance of the surrounding area. In short, every one of us was busy with one job or the other.

It is dark rather earlier in the forest. Before having our dinner, we began chatting with each other. Hanif was bragging about the tales of his valour. He possessed a gun and the licence for it. He would, therefore, often accompany hiking parties so that if need be, he can save them from wild animals. This would get him a good income although according to him so far he never had to confront any wild animal. He was robust but bad looking. He was so ugly that seeing him a lion or a bear would take to its heels.

We started arranging the firewood for the campfire around nine o’clock. It was decided that we would dine in front of the fire. We had hardly lit the fire that Ghulam Rasool heard some sound. He said that somebody was approaching. We looked around but because of the darkness could see nothing. We were all ears to the sound. I could figure out nothing but Jalal Din could. He said, ‘true some horrible thing is approaching the spring’. Munir Ahmed asked us to get into the big tent. We entered the tent and huddled together. In the meantime Munir Ahmed took stock of the situation. He endorsed that something terrible could be on its way and we trembled in our pants. Later it became clear to us that the terrible thing was actually a lion. I listened to Munir Ahmed while I was muttering a prayer. He was whispering to Hanif to keep his gun ready. Hanif was reminded of his gun and he took out the double barrel gun from out of his bag. Munir made way for him and he came forward. He took position and began aiming. He was about to shoot when Jalal Din shrieked aloud, ‘beware, you should not shoot.’ We thought that the sight of a lion has made him deranged. I felt his forehead to see whether he had any fever. He pushed me aside saying, ‘my father has told me a wounded lion is ferocious and dangerous. He eats up anyone he comes across.’ We thought he was perhaps right but Hanif was not prepared to pay any heed. He said that he knew all about that matter and nobody need advise him.

Inside there was a hot discussion whether the lion should or should not be shot and outside the lion was all eyes towards us. Jalal Din caught hold of the gun lest Hanif shoots and Munir Ahmed intervened. He was advising Jalal Din but he would not listen. Meanwhile Jay Kaul observed that the lion was slowly approaching towards us. Kasana mustered courage to have a look. He cried aloud and said that the lion is sitting just outside the tent. Every one was crest-fallen. Hanif blushed rather more than others. He said that now there was no occasion to fire. That will be an invitation to it to pounce on us. I lost track of the prayer I was chanting silently. Suddenly Jay Kaul rose on his feet and said, ‘I have seen a similar scene in one picture. The lion was in front with its mouth ajar. Heroin was dead with fright. She was hardly six feet away from the lion. Hero was watching from a distance but dared not come near the lion. The lion was alternately looking towards the hero and the heroin. Then it went closer to the heroin. It was about to assault her that the hero got an idea. He spotted a bundle of grass, lifted it and put it on fire with his lighter. The grass was ablaze. The hero jumped towards the lion with this lighted fire in his hands. When the lion saw it, it left the heroin unscathed and ran for its life.’ Jalal Din asked, ‘do you mean to say that we should also light fire? Where is the grass?” Jay Kaul retorted, ‘you mad cap! don’t we have inflammable wood?’ So saying he lifted a log of inflammable wood and set it in fire. Then he set another piece on fire and held both in his hands. Others followed and lit small logs of wood. Munir Ahmed lifted the tent door and everyone came out with fire in his hands. Timid as we are, Kasana and I remained behind. I thought that all of them have gone out with fire in their hands. What if the lion comes from behind and eats us up? We ran after them and what followed is indescribable.

We ran round all the tents, went up to the spring but there was no trace of the lion. We searched everywhere in that pitch-dark night but came across nothing. Ghulam Rasool burst into laughter. Others also laughed in frenzy. It was all because of our fright that some had felt a lion approaching, some had heard its sound and some had felt its shadow. Basically there was nothing. We returned and set the firewood on fire.

Campfire was touching the skies. Chickens were hanging on the tripod getting roasted. Jalal and Jay were laying the table for dinner. Munir became alert lest some one should accidentally pull the trigger of the gun. He called Hanif Khan and asked him to fetch the gun. He brought it and Munir opened the magazine. But oh! The magazine was all empty. Munir Ahmed was pale with embarrassment. Hanif Khan was looking with mischievous gaze towards him and towards the gun that was without the cartridge.

Hanif Khan had come to hunt the lion without a single round of bullet in the gun. The shame that he had to undergo was notable and apparent from his reddened face.
*M.K.Raina (MKR) is a civil engineer by profession and has been inclined to write short stories and poetry in Kashmiri since his college days. He is also fascinated by Kashmiri literature especially old classics, which he is trying to rew-write in Devanagari-Kashmiri for the net. In addition to his own works, MKR has put a plethora of Kashmiri literature of other authors on net (www.mkraina.com) after re-writing it in Devanagari-Kashmiri. MKR's self-authored and published material include 'Basic Reader for Kashmiri Language', 'tsok modur' - a collection of 6 short stories in Kashmiri, 'kenh non, kenh son' - a collection of 5 short stories in Kashmiri, and 'Pentachord' - a collection of 5 short stories in English. He has co-authored Information Digest Series of Project Zaan and has also developed a Work Book for reading & writing Kashmiri in Devanagari script.

MKR was till recently editor of 'aalav' published from Bangalore and 'Milchar' published from Mumbai. He is currently the editor of monthly 'här-van', the net-journal of Project Zaan. MKR was instrumental in development of Akruti-Kashmiri-Arinimal software for writing Kashmiri in Standardised Devanagari Script in association with Cyberscape Multimedia Ltd. MKR hails from Chhattabal, Srinagar, Kashmir. Post-exodus, he is settled in Mumbai.
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