Tusker Trumpet

Vasundhara, Ravi and I entered the famous lush green Masinagudi forests by noon. The road ahead curved gently while the trees were passing us in slow motion letting out silver streaks of light, a hide and seek scintillating effect. They smiled at us welcomingly. All our jagged frayed city nerves were beginning to sooth down as the mesmerising scenes unfolded. The hordes of deer darting across, the peacocks dancing and prancing around completed the picture. We saw a baby elephant looking at us in confusion from the road side while its mother prodded him to behave and ignore our existence. The fresh air on our faces comforted the further thought of meeting the college class mates at our destination. There was Vanathy fondly called as Ooty Rani, Arup, the garment tycoon, Kasi, the great bike racer, an expert foreign two wheeler dealer. Last but not the least was Panneer, the Yule Briner from Pennsylvania. He’s the most successful restaurateur owning the landmark Udupi house in Philly for over two decades.

We arrived at the elegant Monarch resort owned by the famous Bollywood star Mithun Chakraborty. Vanathy, the carbon copy of yester year Tollywood actress Vanishree was at the reception dressed in a killer lace and chiffon churidar set. She flashed a million Pavala malli fragrant smile, while our bangalore beauty Vasundari did a jig, giving the famous Mysore mallige tooth sparkle. We were all blinded and I quickly put on my coolers in a swift reflex action.

Next morning, the walk at the picturesque Moyyar falls was quite an adventurous trek amongst rocky slopes. Mr Melky, the ever smiling head constable deputed by Vanathy’s husband, the Ooty additional superintendent of police. Being a local lad, he navigated us expertly through the narrow precipices. He then brought us to a vantage place with an amazing view of the falls. Majestic. If one looked down, there would be a two thousand feet free fall. Heads sure to spin. Vasundhara looked dazzled and was feeling quite elated. Face glowing. In a poetic style, she said “Listen guys, I feel like a taking a bungee jump now without any support whatsoever!” I know people would lose their senses sometimes at the breathless beauty around, but why is our lass thinking suicidal? Beats me!! Immediately, Arup and Kasi tied her to a tree nearby, securely away from the precipice. You see safety is the best policy. She was laughing but yelling, “hey crackpots, I said in jest”, we didn’t want to take any chances.

The steep Vinch at Mayor village took us down rapidly from a height of 2000 feet. It was a wooden katola kind of receptacle. We were sitting in a funny 60-degree angle, clutching at the hand rails. Paneer’s knuckles were turning white due to his tight grip. His teeth were clenching with mortal fear writ large on his smooth chiselled face. Luckily he was bald, or else we would be witnessing some hair raising spectacles, before reaching the river below. We ragged him endlessly, but not a sliver of whisper from the American Indian. The water turbines were roaring when the piped water was falling on the blades with a great gusto. We got to see some of the intricacies of this electric generation station, while our friend was clasping his ears, almost closing the eyes. To distract his attention, we led him to the quiet sub stream which was 250 metres away. There showed him some nice VAAMs (long fin eels) swimming smoothly. We were then served tender coconut water by the boy. We chatted for some more time while reminiscing our nice memories.

On our way back, we stocked up from the Tasmac for the evening gala BBQ planned. I was getting restless to take a cool plunge at the pool facing the Gorilla mountain. The other guys zipped on the resort’s cycling track, while the beauties gossiped nonstop, keeping a mindful eye on the BBQ mis-en-place by the F&B team. The nip in the air added to the excitement, I was shivering from the cold water dip. All seemed fair and smooth, very soon the fire was crackling with a zeal, lighting up all our content happy faces. Ah nice.

Cocktails were flowing, baby BBQ snacks adding a smack to the tasty tinge. Chicken chettinad roast on the grill was an innovation, with it masala dripping and sputtering over charcoals. Tasted heavenly!!  We started dancing around the camp fire imitating the local Toda dancers. Ravi performed a lungi dance. We were acting like college kids, not of 55 plus, pulling each one others legs with the bygone college incidents. Fun. Rani’s mobile rang. The beautiful face contorting with each hmm and haa. Looked a clear SOS. “Just hang in there, will reach in half an hour before the gates close, its getting dark, don’t step out of the car on any emergency”. She turned, “My friend Kirtana and her daughter are driving from Hyderabad to Ooty, their car is stuck inside the Karnataka border forest. “Can’t leave them. Enjoy all of you, will be back in a second”.  She got up straitening her designer red Theni churidar set with golden laces flowing around. Vasundhara replied, “How can we let you go alone mad woman”? Soon we all jumped into her red BMW.

Vanathy was driving, assuming command, she said, “No camera flashes, cigarette butts or whistles what so ever. We go silently, swoosh them up and return to the party”. Paneer was nodding from the front seat. The rapidly declining dusk light was playing hide and seek with the trees zipping by. The jackals were out howling, while the deer gangs were cautiously returning to their hideouts. The scene was serene. Silent whispering and breathings in the car added to the charm. They were standing beside the car!! “Get into the rear car fast, you silly guys!” thundered Ooty Rani

We were softly speaking; munching chips cautiously, so that they don’t make crackling sounds. The red BMW was like a ship, comfy and steady, cruising smoothly. The doe eyes were shining in the bright headlights, she turned them to dim mode. We drove another five kilometres, ensuring the rear car is in sight and following rules. What did we see in the middle of the road, after taking a gentle curve turn??   It was a huge tusker!  He was standing about eight feet ahead and we felt as if he decided to step on to the road as if to play a traffic police! Vanathy brought the BMW to a complete halt! We could see his tusk gleaming, as if it was polished specially for this rendezvous!

 

She murmured, “lets switch off the engine and remain silent”. Kasi Reddy said otherwise, “just keep the engine idle, he will know that this is another big animal purring. He is sure to size up the car against his own girth and decide the future course of action thereafter”. She nodded in concurrence, but mistakenly pressed the accelerator instead. BOOM!!! it made a loud sound, much to the annoyance of the tusker. As a result, his eyes roved wildly, he took three steps forward however he stopped right there to give a thought! Vanathy’s adrenaline hit tree tops, thinking of the next day’s headline- ‘Police chief’s wife and friends crushed by wild elephant’!  Paneer clenched his teeth and lurched towards the dash board hitting hard. Stay still was the uttering from the captain. We were concentrating on his eye, clearly visible in the dim light. Ten agonising seconds slid by, both the parties unmoving. Paneer had a bright idea, he took his cell phone and clicked. Flash. He gave a low trumpet and moved another 4 steps, ready to charge, trunk lifted, sizing up the red BMW again and wondering if this metallic animal is any stronger or bigger than him? Vanathy was furious, she gave a hard knock on the bald head!  a bulb appeared on his head instantly.  We didn’t know whether to cry or laugh at that moment. With Hearts in our  mouth, we waited for the grand decision!  For us it was now too late to reverse. He would be on us in a matter of seconds. I turned to check the rear car, they were about 15 feet behind, slowly yet silently backing up. Another agonising ten seconds passed. I softly mentioned the killing words to Vasun, “May be you would have been better off jumping into those Moyar falls, rather than getting crushed under a jumbo. At least you would have had a nice levitating free fall experience with the scenery below”. She pinched me hard, drawing instant blood. I had no other option but bite my tongue mutely.

The tusker’s eye was roving again, after Eons of seconds, it shut. With a loud trumpet, he took another 3-4 quick steps forward in a charge mode. We held our breath, waiting for the Corona curve to be flattened. All of a sudden, he turned to the right side stepping into the hedges! Lifted his trunk yet again and trumpeted loudly, giving a Go now look….

The party mood fell flat on returning…. while silent prayers were still reverberating!!

 

Venu Rao

20th August 2020.

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