Today's mood

सानू सौदा नहीं पुखदा, सानू सौदा नहीं पुखदा...

रवि तो चेनाब पुछदा,

"की हाल है सतलुज दा?"

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Hunt

It was raining cats and dogs but the old man was not afraid. The old man didn't bat an eyelid to the rain, he was hardly moved by the chill that accompanied the rain and the thunder in the backdrop. He had seen too many winter rains to count. Few were better than the others, but in the end all of them were melancholic and filled the emptiness inside his heart with more sadness. The ferocity of the clouds had forced the sun to take an early leave today. Slowly the greyish tower, standing taller than the nearby trees would disappear in the engulfing darkness. Birds which occasionally used to perch on the tip of the tower had abandoned the resting place for an early retreat- probably the weather compelled them. The old man was sad. The rain did the task of causing a hairline crack to the embankment of the dam he was trying to build to encompass his grief. He was sad because his wife had died a couple of years ago. He was sad because his children had decided to migrate to cities; and he was sad because the eyes of the doe haunted him today.

The man was a hunter before he decided to hang his boots. His days when he was in profession were similar to any other hunter’s. Sometimes the darling woods was kind and granted gifts from her womb and sometimes she was miser and the only thing he managed to get out of her were his blunted arrows. When he was young and he had a tough luck in the trees he abused the lady, but as he grew older he realised she was kind. It threw tantrums only when things were out of her control. When he got married he was in his early twenties. The day he used to catch a rare game he brought it to his wife to impress her rather than taking it to the market and getting a hefty price for it. As the family size increased the rare animals he hunted found themselves being traded over the bargaining counter of the butcher shop, and feasts got rarer than blue moon. Another two decades passed in which his two girls were married, his three sons grew up to become fine boys- one of them joined him for hunting expeditions, one decided to work with the mason from the village and one was killed in war.
Images of the past diffused in front of his closed eyes. On that particular day he woke up at four in the morning, touched the floor, thanking the stars and the gods for the wonderful morning, washed his face in water that was cold- more so on account of the freezing temperature outside. The chill of the water made sure that every semi-sleeping neuron of his brain was awake in a snap. He had a brief look at his wife. How lovely and graceful she was even in her sleep! It felt it had been days ago, rather than years, that he married a smart girl from the other side of the village. He picked up his quiver, dozen sharpened arrows, his bow and a sharp long knife. His son was away to the city with annual gifts for his sisters. He had to hunt alone today. He would have loved if his son would have accompanied him. Hunting alone meant too much of time to himself, too much of talking to himself and too much of listening to his own thoughts. He didn't like listening to his own thoughts. He wasn't a philosopher rather a man of actions.

By the time the sun rose he had cleared the sparsely spread trees and was navigating through the trees with thicker trunks and whose leaves on the top touched each other forming a canopy of leaves. Light filtered through the canopy of lush green leaves to light the grass and weed growth on the ground. There was hardly any sound around him. The breeze hardly managed to reach these parts of the forest, and various birds were hardly in their homes. The grass wasn't as beautiful and long as the Prairies his son used to retell, and the growth was marked by a faint trail made by villagers. He expected to be in the clear where wild life flourishes in another half an hour.

When he came out in the open he looked at the sky. The Sun was in its proper place, the sky was blue and it looked like a fine day with no traces of rain. He could see the horizon without having to strain his eyes, there was a patch of green somewhere in middle where the lake was located. Animals used to spend their mornings around the water body and it was where he wanted to go.
He started the walk wondering if he could catch a rabbit for dinner, if Lahkesis, Atropos and Clotho favoured him he could catch an antler deer; the traders would pay him 100 gold coins for a rare white deer. By the time he reached the lake he was sweating. He took out his water bottle, made of camel skin, and took two small sips to quench his thirst. He had sufficient water to last him the day.

Orion, the hunter, stood silently leaning against a tree waiting, listening and watching. The land beneath his feet was soft, probably it had rained a couple of days ago in this part of the land, truant of nature. He was intently watching and praying at the same time when with a flash of brown a deer revealed himself ambling slowly towards the lake to drink from it. The sight of the deer brought a smile on his face. He deftly and quietly drew an arrow from his quiver. He took a long breath, strung his bow, stretched himself and aimed as precisely he could. With a mute prayer on his lips, he let the arrow go.  He saw the arrow trace the distance in a flash and strike the deer in his lung. He jumped in air seeing the fruit of his effort. The deer would easily fetch him 50 gold coins without a bargain, if the trader was happy he could even give him 75. The deer gave out a sharp cry of pain, and leaped towards the trees.

Orion removed his dagger from his pouch, with the sun teasing him on his back he started tracing the blood droplets.  What he saw next moved him.

The deer was lying in a small clearing underneath a banyan tree. A doe was sitting next to him, wiping his blood with her long drawn out tongue. The tongue was deep red in colour on account of the blood. He started approaching the deer with the intention of ending the pain of the poor creature. As he was couple of yards away from the deer, the doe startled him. In a flurry of moment she stood on her legs. Without any hesitation she placed herself between the deer and Orion. Her big bulging pitch black eyes met the eyes of Orion. There was unflinching bravery in those eyes. She gave a shriek- a shriek mingled with sadness, anger and loss in it to make the whole world cry. She made a run towards Orion. The hunter was so taken aback by the sudden movements of the doe that he took a couple of step backwards and stumbled on the ground. The doe stopped in midway and gave a look that till this day torments Orion. The glare was a window to her heart. Her eyes was home to an agony. Any heart to reside such an agony is a pity! The doe was angry and sad. Angry that her tenderness and mercy did not allow her to kill the hunter and sad because she knew the inevitable. Her eyelashes were moist with tears and the skin around her eyes was dark grey because it was wet. It only occurs when you lose something you love more than yourself. I doubt anyone dared to love anyone that much. The doe traversed back to her love.

The deer looked at the doe with a hope as he gasped his last breath. The vulnerable eyes had hope in them- hope that she will charm some miracle out of thin air. The doe, with tears rolling from her unblinking eyes, sat close to the deer. The hunter stood with his bow fallen somewhere close to his feet. It really didn't matter. The deer took a last gulp of air and fell on the ground motionless. The doe lost everything that day.