“There are a lot of monkeys here, I suggest you go have your lunch under one of the trees in the garden diagonally opposite from here” said the parking area caretaker at Jamboodweep Hastinapur.
“Move on a bit to the side…sit under that tree, as this is the direct path of the monkeys as they return…keep a stick near you to scare them…don’t throw your shoe at them for they won’t return it” said this boy who had materialized, it seemed, out of nowhere…all of a sudden. Clad in underpants as brown as his deeply tanned body, this bare torso-ed boy must be around 7-8 years of age, yet much wisened on the topic of survival in a monkey infested environment!
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the monkey…you carry on with your lunch.” he said. And armed with a stick he walked around, circling the area where we sat. Something about him drew me to him, and I couldn’t help observe him closely…as did the deep scars he bore on his body!
Having finished eating, we offered him the food we’d served for him, before we ate. His outright refusal to accept it, and insistence on not accepting it was too surprising! His not accepting money in return for his help, even more so!
Ravi hung out with us as we explored the place further…climbing the ‘kaner’ tree with the kids…enjoying pictures of him being taking, pumping water for them out of the hand pump. Seeing pictures taken of the digi-cam amazed him, and taking a few with my camera elated him beyond measure! It was a pleasure to see him let down his guard at times, and let the child within surface, as he insisted with me to buy him Rs.5 worth of ‘namkeen’ he could feed the langoor, that was brought on constant rounds to scare the monkeys away.
While the others were busy exploring, I couldn’t help ask him what gave him that deep big scar that covered his entire thigh, and another even deeper one on the left side on his waist. “My parents did” hurt and pain clouded his cheerful countenance as his thoughts transported him back into the dreadful time “with a smoldering stick, a couple of years ago” unconsciously moving his hand over the scar! I bristled as his words seared my imagination, and brought forth a picture of a little boy thus tortured! Ah!! Life!! What all it brings forth! And we let ourselves be miserable even at our trivial pains and sorrows! I had no clue what to say or do, as my heart went out to him! The next moment he ran off,only to return in a few minutes, clad in trousers this time…still bare torso-ed though. “His mark here” he said pointing to the scar on his waist, “was caused…” “what all’s here to see in Hastinapur? Are there any remains from the time of Mahabharata?” I cut him short! My curiosity that brought us to the town in the first place, came to my aid, to avoid another description of some brutality caused unto a child! “There’s a little bit” he said, as he ran off to a nearby statue of white elephent with 5 trunks, saying “this is ‘Eirawat’, lord Indra’s elephant. Take a picture of me with it! Posing holding it’s trunks or leg! It was a delight to indulge him! “Ok, now I’ll take a picture of you” he’d say from time to time! Elated at his newly acquired skill of photography! Of course he did a good job with it!
He approached me suddenly, and said “This scar on my waist is from a big monkey bite”. Monkeys began to approach me as I was eating, so I threw a stone at them. They grew wild and caught hold of me…one of them managed to bite me hard before people could save me from being mauled further. My parents didn’t care! Employees here arranged for my treatment and food. This is my home now, and these people my family” He volunteered! My heart writhe silently a little more, for the kid, as he rose high in my esteem for such bravehood!
Ravi vanished somewhere just as he had appeared, as we moved towards the tower to climb it, and then to other places in Hastinapur. It was time to say a silent goodbye to this self appointed escort, I told myself, as we left Jamboodweep. I just couldn’t stop thinking of him though! …still can’t!
We were on out way in search of the ‘Draupadi Ghat’ and ‘Draupadi Mandir’ when we chanced upon a kid with a young man. We were all so happy to see Ravi again! Within no time he was with us in the car…guiding us towards our destination…sharing anecdotes, asking us to stop at times, so he could get us a picture, or a stray peacock feather! Time and again we’d have to ask him to sit on the seat seeing him sit on the window opening, holding on to the car roof!
It was dusk when we left ‘Draupadi Ghat’, winding out way through wheat and sugarcane fields once again. We soon arrived at the spot where Ravi had got on to the car with us, and he asked to get down there. He happily accepted the packet of cream biscuits that he so liked “I hope the monkeys don’t like them too!” he joked. And it was really time to say goodbye to Ravi. We wished him well, and embarked on our journey homeward…It’s been more than a month sice, and it’s all so fresh in my memories…yet I was unable to express myself until now, for some inexplicable reason!
All I can say at the end is, not all of us hunger for food or money or the like! There are those that crave love, kindness and humanity! This he what Ravi hungered for!
I wish him well with all my heart each time thoughts of him take over. I’d surely love to do something for him one day…until then, I can just hope for the best to befall him!