Sunday Scrawl #1




By Neel Anil Panicker

As a child I loved walking the paths untrodden.

I remember the big, rectangular park adjacent to where we lived. It was grasssy, had more than a couple of swings, a long disused see saw and a big, spherical sand pit that was variously used__for long jumps and high jumps, free style wrestling, to build sand castles, and even as a place to pee come an exigency.

Well, this was the park that was peopled by all the children of our locality.

It was the place where all the children congregated after school hours; headed went to after their mothers, elder siblings, or maids, as may be the case, had stuffed their mouths with enough proteins and carbohydrates to help them last through the day, which as was more often the case, extended itself to long, langurous evenings, especially so during summer solstice.

Did I say all the children? Well almost all, but dfinitely not me.

I may have been barely ten or so but had known even back then the pleasures of exlporing unknown frontiers.

Off I would go ambling around and shuffling feet past the ever bustling bylanes of Patel Chowk, lazing around its myriad shops, gaping wide eyes at big monster petrol guzzling vehicles and at the even bigger billboards that advertised their worthiness, their oomphness, their desirability quotients.

My feet would drag around at narrow gulleys, around hole in the wall shops, my nostrils flaring up and my mouth salivating as I peeped into large steel tumblers in which swam like small baby elephants huge palm sized balls of sweet meat.

Gulab jamuns they were called, those spherical gastroniomic delights; their heavenly taste lasting for long; well after dusk had fallen and I was safely tucked in bed, the lights all out in our two roomed house where I lived with my parents.

It was during one such off beat trip around that I stumbled I bit too far from civilian surroundings and entered the forest and discovered the secret pathway.

I remember the day very well. It was a Saturday evening and my parents were at work. Left to myself and having got a bit bored of circumambulating the regular haunts, I had walked a little beyond, a a few fifty meters or so away from where I lived.

It was a slightly deserted place in that it led to a wooded area, one that was secluded by iron wires. A sign affixed to one of the poles that held them read, ”Forest area, entry restricted”.

The words caught my fancy. I had never seen a forest earlier and hence my curiosity upped.

What what really pushed me to action were the words “entry restricted”.

I read that as an inviolate order, a strict rule of law, a non negotiable command that brooked no

interference and therefore I decided to interfere.

Without thinking I slipped my four foot slender self through a gap between the wires and the ground.

At first looked it looked like no different from the small bush that stood adjacent to where our school was. I could see small light green shrubs protruding out from wet earth.

I looked ahead and saw some rocky outcrops.

I decided to explore further.  I stepped forward gingerly, careful not to fall and mindful of the uneven pebbles all around the grassy landscape.

By now I was past the rocks and the trees around me gradually thinned to reveal something that looked to me, far that I was, as some sort of a giant black pit.

Hacking my way through the overgrowth, I narrowed my eyes to get a better view.

Was it a black boulder or something else?

I turned around and near emptiness stared back at me.

All of a sudden a shard of light escaped through the branches and lit the area.

I looked once more at the spot and saw what it was: two small railway tracks that disappeared into a dark as hell tunnel above which stood a moss covered bridge.

A tunnel in the middle of a forest area? A fusillade of whos and whats and whys assailed my inquisite young mind as I stood there, transfixed, rooted to the ground, as if immobilised by an unknown enemy.

God knows for long I stood there but soon after, fully intrigued that I was,

I tiptoed towards it.

It was then that I heard them; the voices__they were human and, not very pleasant.

©neelanilpanicker #fiction #sundayscrawl#1  #episode#01

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