As for the events of the past in general are concerned, particularly events of the childhood days, one may not remember the routine day to day events. However, there are certain events that get etched in memory so much so that these keep on rewinding in your mind time and again. We enjoy relishing those moments as we do watching particular favourite moments of a repeat telecast.
I must have been 6 to 7 years old then. My father was working in the forest department. For sometime he was deployed deep inside the jungle in the tribal district of Koraput, Odisha. Usually whenever he was deployed in remote locations we used to stay back in our native place. But this time he took us – me, my elder sister and my mother – along.
Our dwelling was a huge cottage in the middle of the jungle. Of course, some area surrounding the cottage were cleared of vegetation to avoid jungle fire catching up. it was a single row cottage with seven to eight rooms. While, we occupied three to four rooms, some rooms were used as stores and in one room a few of my father’s subordinates stayed. The nearest human dwelling was a tribal village, perhaps two to three kilometers away.
One day it so happened that I got upset. I do not remember the reason. I threatened my mother that I would go away inside the jungle never to return. My mother laughed. My sister challenged me and said, “Go. Who bothers”. But, they did not know I meant what I had said.
My father was away on his project site. After some time my mother and sister got busy with their chores. Slowly I sneaked out and ran towards the jungle.
Of course I took the temporary muddy road made for the trucks to ferry jungle products. In my concern not to be tracked I had run so much that I now lost track of where I was. When I realized this, I panicked. But, then I heard a familiar voice following me – “Baba, Baba. Stop”. It was a worker at my father’s project. Frequently he came to meet with father at our cottage. Whenever he came he made jokes at me and tried to be friendly. Suddenly, at the sight of a familiar face, panic feelings gave way and I became adamant again.
“No I would not” I shouted. “I do not want to go back to that house again”, I said and started running again, this time into the wild growth, leaving the muddy jungle road.
The worker was a robust tribal man form a nearby village and I do not remember his name. I could not outrun him. He came near me and caught hold of my hand. I tried to wriggle out.
“Listen, Baba” he said, “I will not take you to your house. We will go to my village. Come first see my house. If you do not like it,I will bring you here and leave you”.
I consented and he lifted my on to his shoulders. For the entire journey of two to three kilometers I rode on his shoulders. On the way, he picked of wild fruits and gave me to eat. We reached his village, a small village of about twelve to thirteen houses. His house was a single room hut at the middle of the village. His wife and son welcomed me. His son was almost of my age. His wife offered me a kind of sweet made of millet and jaggery.
What followed afterwards was a full day of fun, much more thrilling than the kind of fun you get in a modern amusement park. First he took me and his son to a nearby water body for angling. We played Tarzan. There were huge swings made out of the roots of the banyan tree. Every hour I was given some special delicious fruit, root or preparation to eat. We also enjoyed water sports. His son tried to teach me swimming.
But then, towards the evening I remembered my mother and started crying. He realized that I was ready to return to my source. Immediately he lifted me on to his shoulders and carried me back home. He was so fast in his walk that we reached our cottage within no time. But my mother gave no reaction. She taunted me, ” Why have you come back?”
It was only later that I came to know, the tribal man was deployed by my mother to take care of any eventuality, i.e in case I actually ran away.
I thought my mother would not know and I would surprise and shock her by running away. But I was so wrong. Especially about a mother’s safety concerns for her children.