A fearless story – final part

The adventures of the night had sapped the living daylights out of him, and he felt a heavy sensation in his head. He collapsed on the surface of the raft and laid on his back, staring blankly at the sky, his teeth still chattering. The moonlit violet sky slowly faded into blackness, as unconsciousness came over him. He was unaware of how much time had passed, but a gentle rocking of the raft stirred him into consciousness. He leaned up and looked about himself, trying to get hold of his bearings. The night was slowly turning a lighter shade of violet, and he noticed from his watch that he had 43 minutes before dawn broke out. Strangely, he felt elated and free, and the chilling sensation had completely vanished from his body; puzzled by the fortunate turn of events, he glanced ahead of him, and noticed that the raft had reached the end of the river, and was now anchored on a soft embankment. The shore led to a clump of palm trees, which seemed to form a sort of pathway between them, leading to a place further into the place. His mind tingled with excitement – he instinctively knew that he had arrived at his destination. He walked onto the shore, holding his faithful machete, squinting his eyes at the path ahead of him. He felt remarkably fresh and alert, and the strain of the past events in the night had vanished completely. However, he wasn’t going to be lulled into a false sense of complacency, and continued to remain alert for any signs of trouble. The ground felt smooth under his feet – seemingly the entire place was man-made. The walk across the pathway between the trees was short, and soon he found himself witnessing an amazing spectacle. He spotted the ruins of an ancient temple, dotted with 4 square shaped structured on the corners of the area, and a huge monolithic statue at the end of the area. The aura around the temple radiated a sense of serenity and warmth, undisturbed for eons by human civilization. The artistry behind the mammoth sculpture was highlighted by the attention to detail paid to every part of the statue, which portrayed a woman with six arms standing atop a pedestal, two hands holding out a huge stone cup in front of it, two hands stretched out towards the sky, and the remaining pair of hands resting on the sides of its hips. The surprising thing about the statue was that it still looked so real and beautiful, unaffected by the sands of time and the corrosive effects of nature’s continually changing face – which led him to believe that the entire thing was carved out of a mineral alien to Earth. Arriving at the site, he looked up at the statue, which towered at least 25 feet high from the ground. There was an assortment of fruits, plants and meat placed in front of it on huge leaves – signs that he was not the only living thing in the area. What if they are cannibals? I don’t see any signs of human sacrifice here though…. He walked around the place, looking for some sign of life. Finding nothing, he walked closer to the statue, aware of some invisible energy radiating from it. The statue’s surface glowed dimly in the fading moonlight, and he stretched his left hand towards it, wishing to know what would happen. He heard a faint sound before he could touch the statue, and an arrow whizzed past him. Startled, he withdrew from the statue and looked in the direction of the shot. He spied a man from atop a tree, naked except for a loin cloth, holding a bow and aiming another arrow around him. At the same time, more men stood up from their hiding places among the trees, all aiming their bows at him. His eyes made out the outlines of small wooden huts nestled in the branches of the trees, as several pairs of eyes were trained on him. So, these natives are actually tree dwellers… they would have watched every move of mine. He walked backwards to the middle of the area, dropped the machete to the ground, and raised his arms above his head, hoping to convey to those locals that he meant no harm. A few minutes later, as he stood rooted to his spot while the archers continued to train their arrows at him, he espied a group of men emerging from behind the statue. There were about six of them, and they were bedecked in masks and fine red cloth – presumably the upper echelons of this civilization. The men came to him, and the man in front, whom he assumed was the chieftain or figurehead, barked out a command. The men withdrew their bows and fell back into their hiding places among the tree. The chief, who was adorning a red and white mask, uttered a word in some strange language, and a second person stepped forward. He let out a gasp of shock, as the second man removed his mask, to reveal Caucasian features and a rough white beard; there was a white man who lived among those locals! The chief conversed with the foreigner in a gruff voice while he listened calmly. Once they were done, the foreigner spoke in clear English to him. “Our respected host here wishes to let you know that Brodinga is the protector of this forest, and her statue is sacred and should never be violated by anyone. I know it was not your intention, but you would have been turned into a statue had you touched it; in fact, the man who shot at you saved your life. Now the chief wants to know what could motivate you to go through a great deal of trouble to come to this place. “ “Yes. A white man like us, whose name is Henry Summers… had said something about finding a place where he finally knew no fear… we got his last radio call seven years back. I came to find what he had found, and am certain Henry was here in this place the last time we heard from him. Do you know where he is, and if he is still alive?” The other man translated his speech for the chieftain, who nodded in response and spoke in that strange language again. It was a surreal feeling for him, as he watched the white man interact with the local chief with consummate ease – surely he must have been living amongst these tree dwellers for several years. The white man turned to him and said “He did come to this place and find us, and yes, you can say he found fearlessness. However, this is a magical place, and only the Mizotecs here..” he gestured to the chieftain and other tribals, “… can live in human form, thanks to a rare gene in their blood. The outsiders like you can remain in human form only as long as the night lasts here, and once day breaks, you will simply vanish with the night. “ “Then how come you are still alive and in this body? You should have been non-existent by now, if that was the case.” “Well. It’s a long story. To cut it short, I came to this forest 43 years ago from Hamburg, looking for some rare plants which could provide a cure to diseases like cancer and diabetes. My team was killed by the dangerous elements in the forest, but I managed to find the river and was carried across by the water to this place, afloat on a single piece of wood. These Mizotecs found me and nursed me; the first night I was here, the chieftain managed to commute through hand signs that I wouldn’t survive the day as I was an outsider. However, if I agreed to stay with them and never return to the outside, I could have a chance. I was forced to drink some horrible liquid, which actually inculcated that rare gene in me. Now, I live with them and have learnt many secrets from them, but I can and will never let the outside world know of these.” The old man continued “However, the subsequent foreigners who came to this place didn’t have noble intentions like me. They believed that this place was like the City of Lost Gold, and plundered the village looking for treasure. They incurred the wrath of the Goddess Brodinga, and were turned into statues. After these incidents, the Mizotecs have decided that any outsider has only two choices – give up your human form and live a life, or go back to where you came from. The second one is a catch – you have to be out of the forest well before the sun rises, else you simply vanish along with the magical parts of the forest.” He couldn’t believe what the old man was saying. “So, you imply that whoever comes to this place will never get out of the forest?” The old man nodded his head in agreement. “Henry Summers was confronted with the same thing as you. He chose to remain here. Before he traded his body for a life without fear, he spoke into the radio handset, which he had hidden in his shirt pocket all the time, without our knowledge. Fear is a basic element of human emotion, and it is fear that makes the human side of you visible. Without fear, you are not a human. Even the bravest men fear something. So, my son, the dawn is approaching; time is running out for you. You can choose to either vanish into oblivion, or join your predecessors in the forest. “ He closed his eyes, pondering over the old man’s words. There was clearly only one path for him.He had found what he sought for, but the world would never know of his greatest achievement. Did it matter in the end anyway? He gestured at the chieftain with a slight nod of his head, and the latter replied with a curt nod, beckoning him to follow the group. He was made to lie down on a flat stone slab in front of the statue, while the masked natives formed a circle around him. The old man stood a few feet ahead, watching the proceedings; their eyes met, and he smiled weakly. The natives began chanting prayers to the Goddess Brodinga in a chorus, the loud voice resonating in his eardrums. As he watched, he noticed sparks emanating from the statue, and soon a bright ball of unbridled energy formed in front of the statue; it remained suspended in the air for some time, as the chieftain and the priests continued their rhythmic chant. Suddenly the chants stopped, and the bright ball of energy hurdled towards his body, before he knew it. He felt a sudden shock course through his body, and blacked out instantly. A few seconds later, he opened his eyes. He found himself facing the statue, the huge eyes of the Goddess looking at him at eye level. He looked down and saw his body on the slab slowly withering away into the air, like sand being blown away by the wind. However, he felt no grief at losing his body; on the contrary, he had never felt so free and elated before, and there was nothing to be afraid of anymore. As the first rays of the sun broke through the clouds, his spirit sped away towards the midst of the forest, which was now his new home.

A fearless story – part 4

They walked in silence, the soft clanging sound of the unicorn’s hooves syncing with the hoarse breathing of his in the cold night. A million thoughts were running through his mind. Are there other animals which can talk like the unicorn? How is it possible for everything to be gigantic in this area and not elsewhere? What further dangers lurk ahead? And most of all, how much further to go before he reached the place where Henry Summers’ radio signal was last received? His watch informed him that he had only 2 hours before dawn broke.

In case you are wondering why he was concerned about reaching the place before sunlight – here it goes. Rumors circulated among the adventure seekers and the bounty hunters about how certain parts of the Furchtloser Wald were sort of camouflaged and invisible in sunlight, and would come into view as darkness approached, as chronicled by an old timer who had claimed to be inside the mysterious place for 2 days and witnessed this phenomenon. Many people laughed off this theory, claiming it was nigh impossible to hide a sheep in broad daylight, let alone an entire patch of land. But there were a few people who felt that it was possible, and he was one of them. If sunlight dawned, he would probably never find his target, and the prospect of this happening caused him to walk faster.

“Tell me, kind one. Is it true that this strange jungle contains some areas which are hidden in the day? “

He stroked its mane, as the unicorn replied Yes, human. They do exist. They are magical places, and my brethren tell me these places came up thousands of years before this forest. In fact, if certain things are to be believed, the story goes that the forest was grown by the inhabitants of these places to conceal them from sight. I don’t know how much substance is there in this, because we know better to stay within our limits in the forest.

“Hmmm… interesting.” He continued to scour about the place, catching sight of other strange species – a disgusting brown giant caterpillar with several rows of teeth in its round mouth finishing off a hole filled pinkish leaf; a weird rodent with red circles round angled eyes and a short torso with a long red tail nearly 4 times the entire length of its head and body darting a few metres across them; and many other species which he didn’t bother to look at, fearing his brain would be stupefied by the wealth of new fauna in the jungle.

They walked for a few more miles, before the sound of running water reached his ears. They waded through a clump of bushes, and he found himself in a small clearing on the shore of a rather wide river drifting downstream. The water was crimson in color, as though it had been mixed with blood; the moonlight’s reflection caused it to sparkle an eerie red color, and he observed fish swimming about in it. A few of them jumped above the surface of the river, giving him a clear look – they looked like harmless goldfishes, albeit slightly bigger than the ones you would keep in a fish bowl.

He heard the unicorn snort softly through its nostrils, and touched its snout again.

This is where we part ways, human. The river shall take you to the place you seek; these trees here have hollow branches and make for good flotation. I have seen the man who came here before you built something with these branches to carry him across the water. Farewell to thee, and thanks again for saving my life.

“Thanks, o kind unicorn, for saving my life and guiding me across the right path. I will now take leave of you; hope to find you again when I return after having got what I came for.” He saluted to the creature with a big smile, and his sharp eyes did not fail to detect the hint of sadness in its big black eyes, as it withdrew backwards into the comforting darkness of the forest.

He shrugged, placed his backpack on the ground, and went about looking for wood good enough to make a raft. He collected a handful of green colored sturdy tree branches, which were hollow as the unicorn had said. Fishing out a length of kernmantle rope, the kind used for climbing, he set about assembling the raft, using the rope to bind together the logs of branches. In twenty minutes, he had made a strong and sturdy raft, good enough to carry him down the entire length of the river.

He pushed the raft onto the river, and climbed atop it. Using a long wooden stick as an oar, he steered the raft carefully towards the middle of the huge river, and stayed on course from there, stirring with a little more urgency. The fishes he had seen earlier swam lazily around the raft, but he paid no heed to them, his eyes looking for something distinctive- a kind of marker which would lead him to the place of fearlessness. There was no sign of it, and after nearly 40 minutes of rowing continuously, his arms were beginning to feel heavy, and he felt some numbness creeping over his tired body.

Soon, he felt fatigue crawling all over his mind. He stopped rowing for a while, and allowed the motion of the river to carry the boat along. Mustering his last reserves of energy, he directed his brain to keep him awake; to do this, he began looking at the foliage that lined up on either side of the river. He noticed the absence of gigantic plants and trees as the raft travelled further – was he going deeper into the forest or away from it? Confused, he continued to look ahead, and spotted a line of trees, the silhouette of their branches reaching out above the surface of the river visible in the dim glow of the moon.

The raft came closer to these branches, and he thought he saw one of the branches move ; his eyes were semi closed, and he felt he was seeing things again. He rubbed his eyes vigorously with the palm of his hands, and blinked them to clear his vision.

Holy crap! The branch was moving, and it was headed straight for him! A second later, he realized it wasn’t a branch but a huge snake, evident from its wide open mouth, revealing its pink interior, waiting to swallow its meal.

He fell back, ducking out of the reptile’s grasp, and scrambled for the backpack, the machete strung to its side. His hand pulled out the machete from its place, and at the same time, the raft rocked wildly, nearly tipping to one side, the other side rising up from the water. The snake had come to give him company on the raft.

He spun around, and brought the machete down hard on the snake, as it slithered with lightning speed across the raft towards him. The weapon made a tiny cut in the tough hide, and the snake wavered from its original course; however, its powerful tail whiplashed across his calves, the unexpected impact swept him off his feet, and he fell on his back into the water with a loud splash. The water was freezing and the chillness stung his skin; he gasped in shock, struggling to hold his breath. Miraculously, he had managed to keep hold of the machete, and brandished it in front of him, looking about wildly for the snake. He espied the huge reptile coasting towards him with alarming alacrity, the red blood trailing from its skin making the red water redder. Finding no quick escape route, he hunched himself in preparation for the inevitable, goose bumps forming on the nape of his neck.

It all happened in a blur; he couldn’t register immediately what had happened, as the mammoth reptile was suddenly attacked by something else in the water. It took him a few minutes to register the fact that the new found adversary was actually a massive horde of the goldfishes, which had launched itself into the snake, probably attracted to the blood seeping out from the cut he had inflicted on it. The scene in front of him was bizarre, as he watched the snake swivel and turn frantically, trying to escape from the razor sharp teeth that these fishes possessed. Who would have known that these goldfishes were actually piranhas in goldfish guise?! The water in front of him turned a darker shade of rest, and he realized that the snake was losing the battle to these fishes. He thanked his stars for the timely intervention, and with sheer willpower forced his limbs to take him up to the water, where the raft lay afloat.

His head broke through the surface, and he gasped in relief, taking in the oxygen from the air. He spotted the raft to his left, and swam slowly to it; after a tiring lap, he hoisted himself onto the wooden floatation, dripping wet from head to toe. His teeth chattered from the adrenaline rush and the coldness of the water, and he clenched his palms to stifle the shivering sensation which had coursed through his body. He slunk out of his soaked shirt, and dumped it on the floor of the raft. The arrival of the unwelcome visitor on his raft had caused the backpack to be dumped into the water, and he had nothing except the machete in his hand. With the piranha goldfishes lurking in the waters, going after the backpack would be an exercise in futility. As if to reinforce this conclusion, the bubbles in the water vanished slowly, and a minute later, whatever was left of the snake came up to the surface, a tattered black snakeskin with large red blots on it.

A fearless story – part 3

As he went deeper into the forest, he noticed a lot of strange things around – plants with giant leaves, bigger than plantain leaves; trees with smooth maroon barks, with white liquid oozing out of them in some places; huge spiders of an arm’s length and of varying shades of red and black; a weird species of monkeys with almost no fur and very short tails, but were as nimble as their ordinary cousins; and a plethora of hitherto unseen fauna, concealed in Mother Nature’s own private paradise. They caused him no trouble, but he was careful not to get any closer to them. He came across a huge sturdy tree, and climbed up to the second branch, intent on saving his energy and scouting for anything interesting in the vicinity.

He could see nothing amiss. The moon glistened with a tinge of yellow, as purple clouds coasted in front of it. He felt dryness in his throat, and the urge to take a swig from the cognac flask in his backpack was too strong to resist. He fished it out from the bag, and turned the lid open. The lid, however, was slightly dented from the impact of his encounter with the beast, and refused to budge despite his best efforts. He swore softly to himself; the thirst was now stinging him, and this darned thing only added fuel to his restless mind. He gritted his teeth as he wrapped the front of his shirt around the lid, and turned it with maximum effort. The lid came off finally, but not before it made a loud ‘pop’ sound, which in the silent night reverberated like a mini-explosion. He was startled by the noise for an instant, but the next moment he forgot about it, greedily taking some sips of the alcohol.

Suddenly, the branch under him shook, and sticks and leaves began to fall on him. He nearly fell off his perch, but managed to wrap his hands and legs around the branch in time. He realized that the entire tree was shaking; he sat up and threw a glance up the tree. His eyes widened in surprise and shock as he saw a huge nest atop the highest branch on the tree, which was about as big as the bedroom in his mansion; and now one of its inhabitants was flying out of it, looking for the intruder on its tree!

He hurriedly grabbed his backpack and slung it over his shoulders, placing the machete on his right side and the SIG Sauer straddled to his belt, and gingerly walked across the branch towards the bark, his eyes still fixed on the huge flying thing bound for him. As the thing drew closer to his branch, and he was still a few feet away from the tree’s body, he identified it as a sparrow. But it wasn’t the small cute bird you would find in your garden; rather, it was bigger than him, and the big beads on its heads were fixed on him.

The sparrow is docile by nature, like most birds. But a mother sparrow, like every mother on Earth, will defend its own children at all costs, even death.He understood that the sparrow was going to kill him because it considered him a threat to its fledglings safely ensconced in its nest. The bird opened up its beak, and nearly took off his hand as he leapt in time onto the tree’s body and slid down it, not caring about the cuts and scratches from the impact of moving down on the tree’s rough exterior. He reached the ground, and espied the sparrow making a turn for him again; spotting a clump of trees with narrow spaces between them, he made a dash for them, not looking back to see if the sparrow was gaining on him. As he ran, he failed to notice a rock, hidden in the darkness, and tripped over it. He braced himself for the collision, placing his hands ahead of his head, so that he fell on his palms and elbows with maximum impact. He turned around in alarm as he saw the huge bird closing in on him, and knew it was over; his eyes shone with the realization of imminent death.

A white blur appeared in front of him, and the apparition uttered a loud neigh, causing the sparrow to steer clear of it. It uttered a loud squawk and flew back to its abode. He blinked at the thing which had just saved his life, and he saw a very beautiful horse looking at him with benevolence, its tail swishing from side to side. The horn between his eyes informed him that he was actually looking at an unicorn; he was at a loss for words, and blinked his eyes again to convince himself that the creature of kids’ fantasies was actually in flesh and blood. He stood up from his place, and dusted off the dirt from his shirts and khaki pants. Gently, he walked towards the unicorn and placed a hand on its snout; the softness of its skin sent a shiver of pleasure down him.

He was unsure if the unicorn would understand him, but he spoke to it “Thanks for saving my life. But why did you do it?”

The unicorn nodded its head in unison, possibly to convey to him that it understood his words. It edged closer to him, beckoning to him to touch its snout again, which he did without hesitation. Instantly he felt another voice in his head.

Yes. I understood your words, kind human. It was I who was running away from that predator which you just killed. Because of me, you almost lost your life; I followed you to make sure you were safe, and when that bird came for you for no fault of yours, I intervened and conveyed to it that you meant no harm. You are safe as long as you are with me, human.

He was astonished to hear, or rather think, the animal speak. What more mysteries does this forest hold??he wondered.

The unicorn appeared to read his mind as well.  The forest hides many things you are not aware of, human. But what brings you here to this place?? Many men before you have come here, and I have not seen them return. Are you going the same path these men have travelled?

“Yes, o magnificent one. I seek the place where we don’t feel fear anymore after going there. Do you know of it?”

The unicorn lowered its eyelids, as it gazed intently at him. Some areas in the forest are forbidden to its inhabitants, and this place is one of these. I can see you are a man of a good heart, and I would advise you not to go there, and return to where you came from. Because once you go there, there’s no going back at all.

“So that means you know where it is?” he said excitedly. “I have travelled to strange places far and wide and have seen things. But I really feel I have accomplished what I want, only if I see this very place. I thank you for your concern, but I have only one road to travel, and that is this way.” He pointed towards the middle of the forest.

You have made your choice, human. I will guide you towards the place, but till the lake only. After that, you are on your own. Come, let us go.

The odd pair disappeared into the thickets; two seconds later, their shadows, cast by the brilliant moonlight, followed them into the depths of the forest.

A fearless story – part 2

There was a deathly silence in the midst; it seemed a little too odd for comfort, and he stood his ground, his face writ with tension. He switched off the torch, and sat on one knee, placing it besides him. He held his breath, the machete held tightly, waiting for something to happen. He remained in that posture for some time, ignoring the numbness which was slowly creeping up his legs.

He heard the sound, but was a fraction late. A huge creature burst out from the bushes behind him, sending him sprawling to his side to avoid being trampled. He barely had time to recover from his position and failed to get sight of the creature. But he didn’t have to worry about it, for another creature sprang out from the thicket, apparently in pursuit of the first one. However, the thing came to a grinding halt, as it detected his presence. It turned to him, and he saw a living nightmare.

It was nothing he had ever seen before. The thing stood about 5 feet high; on its legs it could easily reach 9 feet in height. It possessed the face of a hyena, including the gruesome jaws; but its body was akin to that of a wild cat’s  – a combination of tough sinewy muscles and nimbleness to outrun and out-jump its prey. Whatever it was, one must make sure he/she didn’t have to face it.

The thing assessed him, taking a gigantic stride with each step towards him. He backed off, drawing on his martial arts skills and his toughness to try and get him out of this tight spot. The PG226 found itself in his left hand, as he waited for the thing to prepare its assault.  The hyena-cat beast let out an ear-splitting snarl and leapt towards him, its powerful jaws waiting to taste human chow. He rolled to the left out of its path, but not before slashing the machete against the underside of its belly when the animal was still in motion. The momentum of its leap caused the sharp weapon to make a deep cut in the belly, and he felt the warm red liquid pouring down the machete onto his hand. The creature let out a hideous shriek, the blood pouring onto the ground from the open gash.

Things were not looking right for him, and the thing was going to finish him off in a frenzy of rage. He made a dash for the two giant trees a few meters ahead, and felt the ground shake as the creature dashed after him. He stopped, whipped around in an instant, and fired his pistol at the creature’s legs. The bullets hit the thing’s legs and chest, and halted its furious chase, but only for an instant. It struggled up on all fours, and its bloodshot eyes continued to fixate on him, slobbery saliva drooling from its agape mouth. It let out another roar, and ran at him again.

He was running out of options, and continued for the trees. However, a huge shadow blotted out the moonlight, and the beast appeared in front of him the next moment. Startled, he fell back on his behind. The creature took a great lunge at his legs with its jaw, but he did a somersault on the ground, lifting his legs over him and getting up on the surface in an instant. He thrust the machete at its face, and the steel met flesh, making a mark on the creature’s snout. The creature snapped at the machete, getting a firm grip on the weapon, and fiercely dragged it away from his hands. He held on to the weapon too tightly, and the momentum caused him to fly back a few feet towards the middle of the clearing, falling hard on his back.

Dazed, he sat up and cleared his head; the machete rested somewhere in the bushes; the gun was near the beast; he was defenseless now.  The beast stared at him hungrily, a triumphant look on its eyes; he scrambled backwards on his legs, his hands searching for something to fight it off. He heard another roar, and at the same time his right palm felt something cold. The next instant, the creature was on him, its jaws ready to take off his head.  But he was faster – he shoved the huge torch into its mouth, trapping its jaws wide open.

The creature left him alone for an instant, maddeningly trying all it could to wrench the torch embedded between its jaws. He didn’t hesitate for an instant, and ran to the spot where his pistol laid. He took aim and fired shots into the creature’s hind knees, causing it to collapse hard on the forest ground. He walked to where it laid, and aimed the gun at the spot between its eyes. “Eat this!” he murmured, as the gun shot echoed through the woods.

The ordeal over, he heaved a sigh of relief and inspected himself. He grimaced at the amount of blood on his hand, which thankfully wasn’t his. Opening up his backpack, he fished out a few things. He changed from his perspiration soaked and torn shirt into a clean crisp white one, and dressed up the bruises on his thighs and left elbow. He searched the area for his machete, found it nestled in a clump of thorny bushes, and cautiously extricated it from its place. When he was ready to carry on, he went to where the dead beast laid, and gave a curious glance at the strange specimen. He tried to take out the torch from the thing’s mouth, and was able to do so only after prying open the thing’s jawbones with a sickening crack. A glance at his watch told him it was 18 minutes to midnight. He had to find the place Henry was last found at, before dawn broke.

A fearless story – part 1

The forest beheld his view as he stood in front of the gnarled trees which marked the solitary entrance to the pit of the eerie jungle. The moon shone bright silver even at 6.30 in the evening, illuminating the violet coated sky with streaks of white, as bats noisily flapped over the gigantic trees which loomed over the entire canopy against the silent sky.  A faint North-Easterly wind drifted through the air, and the dry brown bushes rustled noisily in harmony with the draught, accompanied by the strange howling sounds which you would hear in a typical eerie forest setting at night.

Legend has it that the forest, Furchtloser Wald(Fearless Forest),  hid many secrets and creatures which one would normally associate with the fantasy stuff written for kids, a la Harry Potter. Many brave men have dared to enter it, but no one had come out of it alive yet. However, a Brit adventurer, Henry Summers, who had ventured into the forest 7 years ago, had sent a radio call “The foray into the forest is fraught with danger, but once you muster all obstacles, you come to a point where you become scared of nothing, knowing you have seen it all…….”. A second later, the sound of the radio hitting the ground was heard, and that was the last anyone heard from him.

Now, it was his turn to uncover the mystery behind Henry’s words. He looked behind his back at the crowd of onlookers, comprising of the locals and media persons, who had come to check on one of those crazy fellas hungry for some publicity. He gave a confident smile for the benefit of the cameras, while turning a deaf ear to the questions darted at him by the reporters. He had visited several parts of the world, and his achievements were widely known. However, this forest would truly be his crowning glory, and he was certain of it.

He silently stepped forward onto the muddy path, oblivious to the murmurs of the crowd and the maddening flashes of the camera behind him. With practiced breathing, he kept his mind fresh and alert; his left hand gripped a huge beam torch, directing a bright yellow beam ahead of him on the path. His other hand held a machete, to slice through the dense undergrowth and also serve as a handy weapon against unexpected adversaries. His ears straining for any odd sounds, his eyes directly following the field of vision ahead of him, his rubber boots cushioning the sound of his footfalls, he steadily made his way through the trees, hacking at a few stray branches obstructing his path.

He trudged through the mass of vegetation for some miles, without any incident. Spotting a fallen branch nearby, he walked up to it and sat on it, slinging his backpack by his side. His watch told him he had been walking for an hour and 13 minutes, and yet he felt he had only scratched the radius of the forest. He had no clue as to what lay in store for him, and the very thought of this sent a rush of adrenaline through his brain. By intuition, he fished out his Sig Sauer PG226 pistol, and slid in into his belt. Gulping a few sips of water, he got up and began his trip into the heart of the devil.

He soon lost track of time, and there was nothing dangerous except for some rodents hiding among the bushes, and strange birds squawking in shrill voices.  Soon he came to a secluded spot, where the ground was bare and bereft of grass or bushes. He looked up and perceived the silhouette of the trees swaying back and forth, the moonlight flashing through their leaves on the ground like a weak disco light.  A huge grey owl stared at him from atop a branch, its huge bulbous eyes scrutinizing the intruder in its lair. After a few seconds,  It ignored him and continued feasting on the small creature entrapped in its talons.

Demystifying the belt!

It was Saturday noon when I returned from an exhausting game of football in the scorching summer heat; I resembled a guy who had just survived a car wreck. After 4 hours of rest throughout the afternoon, which included a hot shower in between, I felt refreshed and raring to go out somewhere in the evening. I opened my wardrobe and carefully selected the pair of t-shirt and jeans to don for the occasion; once done, I reached out for the hanger inside the cupboard, where my belt usually waits for my hands to take it and drape it around my waist, without looking – and grasped nothing but empty air. My eyes widened in surprise, and realization dawned upon me. My trusty belt, which I had purchased for 100 bucks from a platform shop for my first placement interview(incidentally with Infy), and which was my faithful companion for 2 years, had snapped into two the previous day as it could no longer bear the strain of my girth!

Mayday! Mayday! We are out of belts. We are losing our grip on Prasanna’s waist! my mind screamed. I realized the enormity of the situation – without a belt, my pair of pants would appear like low-waist… no, make that really-low-waist… jeans! As a matter of fact, my waist size is 34 cms, but because of my long legs, only size 36 pants would accommodate them. As a result, the belt is a very essential part of my wardrobe. Without it, I felt like how Foghorn Leghorn would have felt when stripped off his cock suit by the Barnyard Dawg! 😀 .

As a consequence of my discovery, my plans for the day were replaced by a single goal – to find a really good leather belt which could last for atleast 5 years. It seemed a pretty straightforward plan, but there was a catch – I had to go to the shop without a belt! The thought of my jeans pant continually falling down my waist, exposing the name of my underwear brand, sent shivers down my spine. But I had no choice ; 45 minutes of discomfort was rather bearable than going to office with loose pants. I mustered my courage, selected a t-shirt which nearly extended to the top of my knees, and the pair of jeans with the smallest gap between the buckle and my waist. Once done, I set off on the greatest conquest of my life, on which rested the fate of my dignity and self respect.

The ten minute walk to the bus stop passed off without incident, as I kept my hands in my pant pockets all the time, substituting the role of the belt, even though my t-shirt was long enough to conceal my waist. Thankfully I got a seat inside the bus – imagine having to stand in the bus, one hand holding up my jeans and the other clinging on to the overhead bars of the vehicle, being subject to scrutiny from fellow passengers (my giant frame attracts attention anyway). The real trouble started when I had to walk a kilometer to the shop after meeting my friend. I am not going to elaborate on the bumbling journey for the entire stretch, when I had to stop every two minutes to ensure my t-shirt hid my exposed underwear, and hitch the pants up every now and then. Every passing minute seemed to increase my agony, and once the shop came into sight, the relief on my face was palpable!

Once inside, I virtually rushed to the belt section, taking care to ensure my pants did not slide down and trip myself on them. After 15 minutes of rummaging through the selection of leather belts, I managed to find one to my liking, and hurried to the cash counter. After the purchase was done, I couldn’t wait to get out of the store and get my pants hitched up. A large crowd was gathered outside the shop, but I was in dire straits and had to somehow wear the belt. As you know, putting on a belt means lifting the shirt up and slipping it around the waist through the loops, which meant that my underwear tag would definitely be visible if I tried slipping it on in public. So I sat down on a stone ledge in front of the building, throwing a furtive glance to my right and left every second, while slowly sliding the belt through each loop. In the end, I managed to fasten the belt around my waist, and let out a triumphant cry of joy at having accomplished my mission, without any curious glance from the nearby customers (which included 5 hot girls too! :D). My friend was totally amused with my odd predicament, but I was not concerned, as my mind was overcome with delirious relief!

So, my dear reader, there ends my misadventure with the belt. It was a defining moment in my life, one which made me believe that man’s greatest invention was NOT the wheel, but the belt or whatever man used to hold his garments together. In fact, I have come to realize that the world would not have been a good place to be in, without the item/object/thing commonly referred to as ‘the belt’. To reiterate my apparently ridiculous theory of the belt being one of the most crucial man-made products, I am presenting some scenarios where the belt figures in the scheme of things: –

1. No belt, no western movies!

Imagine Clint Eastwood in his trademark cowboy attire, giving a scowl in front of the camera lens, as a gang of baddies on horses train their rifles on him. As per the western logic, Clint would have his hands ready to fish out the guns and blast off every thug. But imagine the viewer’s surprised look, when instead of the hero aiming his pistols at the villains, he lets out a confused outcry “Oh crap! Where’s my goddamned belt? I don’t have my pistols without the belt holsters!”, and before he can flee he’s punctured with bullets and hung up for public view. Hence, the belt is a vital component of western movies.

2. Sports

We all know that the knowledge of a person having a black/brown belt in Karate can instill fear in men with bad intentions and maintain a safe distance from him/her. Hence, the belt can be a status of strength and command respect. Imagine that if instead of belts, we had ribbons for karate – then, do you think that saying “Beware! I have a black ribbon in judo!” will save your ass? However, the absence of a belt has the biggest impact on that ultimate source of entertainment called wrestling. People in US pay truckloads of money just to watch half naked men and busty women in skimpy clothes break their bones and teeth over something as nondescript as a belt! The championship belt has caught the fancy of the youth and inspired them to make a dumb career move towards a scripted, entertaining career in wrestling. In fact, I remember that during the wrestling-crazy days of my young life, I used to take the magnetic belt, which amma uses to support her weak backline, which closely resembled the shape of a championship belt, and play imaginary wrestling matches with Undertaker,Big Show and other mammoth wrestlers, with ‘my championship belt’ on the line 🙂

3. Belt on!

The seat belt needs no introduction. It has saved many a life during accidents (when used, that is!). Now all that is needed is to extend the usefulness of the seat belt to shut up annoying co-passengers in the car!

4. Even machines need belts!

Life has never been made so comfortable with the discovery of the elevator, escalators, heavy machine equipments and other everyday use machinery. These are incomplete without a conveyor belt, which ensures smooth operations of these inventions. If the conveyor belt was not yet discovered, we would still be living in the stone age, our machines resembling those used during the times of the Flintstones!

5. Wanna escape? Use a belt!

Seen those movies where the guy wants to escape from a building, and espies a stretch of wire connecting the building with another one at a lower height in comparison? The guy does the most expected thing – hurriedly take out his belt, loop it over the wire, grasp the ends of the belt tightly, and begins sliding down the sturdy wire towards freedom, the belt being able to withstand the frictional heat generated on the continual contact with the metal! If the guy doesn’t have a belt, it’s just his bad luck! The other alternative is to climb through the sewage like Andy Dufrense did, but you need guts for that!

6. Have belt, get a baby!

You might have come across many articles highlighting the risk of infertility and impotence associated with the radiations emanating from mobile phones kept inside the pant pockets. In such case, the belt can support a mobile pouch to reduce the risk! (Scary,ain’t it?!)

7. The saving grace for clumsy guys!

For the uninitiated, the dhoti/mundu/veshti is a very common mode of attire in Kerala and Tamil Nadu(especially among the Brahmins!). I have been forced by my parents to wear veshti on some religious occasions, but I can never place my faith in a single piece of cloth covering the lower part of my torso. To worsen the situation, my long legs pose the potential risk of tripping on my own mundu and give the people around me a free demonstration of _______ (you fill in the blanks). But the belt comes to my rescue! Every time I need to wear a dhoti, I always wrap my belt around it and hide it with another piece of cloth (commonly wrapped over the dhoti, but insufficient to prevent the dhoti from falling off!) . The extreme importance of the leather apparel was highlighted during my ‘upanayam’ (holy thread ceremony), where I had to wear the veshti for 4 hours at a stretch, and my belt did not let me down at all (also considering that I wore cream colored shorts under the dhoti as a backup security option :D)

8. Even the solar system has a waist!

Crazy as it might seem, it’s true that the solar system cannot survive without the belt. If the asteroid belt did not exist, then Jupiter (which could be analogous to a pot belly), might sag down on Mars, which in turn would shift its weight on Earth and so on, triggering a chain reaction which could make the sun woozy from the excess weight exerted on it by the collective mass of the 5 planets, thereby upsetting the solar system’s balance and sending all planets into crazy unpredictable orbits (like the after effects of a bout of diarrhea). Therefore, the asteroid belt maintains the natural balance of the solar system and ensures the orderly motion of events occurring in the universe!

To sum up, the belt will always figure in my top 5 list of the things I can’t live without. I had attained nirvana during that precious ‘beltless’ one hour, and have realized how seemingly simple things can change the course of my life. If I go on droning about belts, I will soon be writing stuff like “how to belt the cat”, ”the crazy men of Beltimore”, “If it’s Wednesday, it must be Beltgium”,”For whom the belt rolls”  and so on. So, that’s it! Wear a belt, save the planet!

Life is short

Drinking and driving makes it even shorter 😦

Last night I received news that my friend Vikram, whom I had known since 1994 and who stays in the same street as me, had lost his life yesterday morning at 2 am in Bangalore Chennai, due to drunk driving. I do not know the details of the accident and don’t wish to know, but my friend informed that Vikram and the other guy had instantly died on the spot, and the bodies were unrecognizable apparently. 😦 I am still shuddering at the thought of having to meet his parents this weekend, and hope they have the strength to bear the sudden loss. Update: They had collided with a concrete mixer lorry (courtesy: The Hindu).

This is the second time I have lost a friend to this bane, and I am certain there are so many more related deaths. But why the hell doesn’t anyone learn from others’ mistakes? I can only empathize with the traffic police’s attempts to create awareness of safety on the road, but despite all their best efforts to inculcate some sense into the empty minds of the modern youth, no one learns the lesson yet. The point is, we have no control over our life and can die any time, but why do you want to ditch the world even sooner and change your destiny?

On hearing the news, I was thinking out aloud “Why again?” My college classmate, Pravin, was riding with his friend, both drunk to the core. His friend rode the bike at neck break speed even within electronic city. Even as they came to the U-turn which connects Gate 3 and Gate 4, his friend did not slow down the bike at all. As a consequence, the bike skidded off the road and both the riders were thrown off. The friend was lucky and escaped with a hand fracture, but Pravin was not so fortunate. His head bumped against a rock and his skull was fractured in the process. He also suffered internal injuries in the torso. But what made the whole thing even worse was that he relapsed into a coma, and the doctors were not sure if he would wake up, but suggested keeping him under observation. For three months, his parents stayed in the hospital, not even once stepping out of the hospital grounds. But at the end, his brain activities started decreasing, and the doctors did not have much hope for reviving him. I went to the hospital and remained with his parents for the last 5 days of his life. In the end, his parents understood that he was gone forever, and they consented to switch off the ventilator. It was a very traumatic experience for all of us, considering how much of pain his parents had undergone these 3 months. This memory can never be erased in the years to come.

Yesterday night, my friend Amith, who also lived in the same street, conveyed the sad news to me. I was shell shocked as to how a nice guy like Vikram could suffer such a cruel fate, but in the end, he was no different from Pravin. It was almost a repeat of Pravin’s accident, but only that Vikram was mercifully killed on the spot. Amith did not know the full details, but confirmed that his friend was barely unrecognizable in the wreck. *I can’t believe i have to type this!* My parents might be knowing the full details, since Vikram’s mom is our family friend. I feel totally sorry and helpless for his family, and can only pray for their peace of mind. I had known Vikram for close to 15 years and used to hang out with him in school days, and play cricket on our street every evening. Now, I don’t have a chance to say a hi to him and ask him how life is going on. He is in very good hands now, and I hope he will watch over his parents from there. What makes this incident even worse is that Vikram is the only son of his parents, while Pravin is survived by his younger sister. I now realize how much I love my parents and don’t want to displease them at any cost. 😦

dont drink and drive warning at Bangalore

dont drink and drive warning at Bangalore

Picture courtesy: Rindo (colleague). This picture gives me an eerie feeling, and I can imagine Vikram being like this. 😦

Now comes the big question – WHY DID THEY DO IT? I have known Vikram for long, and in the last 2 years of college I became close to Pravin, and he used to drop me home after classes. In both cases, they were thoroughly dissatisfied with what they had and always fantasised having better things without working for them. Vikram was a bit dyslexic and did not excel in studies, but he had a very good nature and always sought to make friends with everyone, not to mention he was good at cricket. His parents did not approve of his behavior,and I remember they always used to tell me “Give him tips on how to study better”. They did not pay much attention to what he really wanted, and was concerned only with his academic performance. This could have impacted him and made him lose his faith in them, and subsequently he resorted to boozing, the most common way to get over sorrows and what not. In Pravin’s stance, he was literally a casanova, but could never manage to get a girlfriend. To exacerbate the misery, my classmates ruined him and introduced him to the world of addiction, and soon he became a total wreck. Whenever I spoke to him alone, I could sense his lack of concern for his life and his family. His mother always pampered him and yet he never reciprocated her love and pain, and she had to go through hell for this.

I had intended to blog about Pravin’s death in July last year, but did not wish to make things gloomy in InfyBlogs. Now Vikram’s death leaves me no choice but to write about the two friends, whom I lost to the influence of alcohol. The most pitiable thing about these, is that no one still gets the message about how precious our life is, and they resume their bad habits (case in point – my classmates during the kodai trip). I am certain there are many infoscions who drink a lot and sometimes drive on the way home from the bar. If you are one of them, for god’s sake stop acting like a total dumbass and give some respect for your life and your parents. Your parents took pains to make your life comfortable; do you intend to repay them by losing your life, and shattering their hopes, consequently making them feel their lives are worthless?!

I can’t stop people from smoking and drinking, but I intend to make sure they don’t lose their minds. Even if only one person gets the message, it will be a major victory for me. Folks, please do your bit too; make your friends understand the importance of putting their life and others’ lives at risk if they try this. You can’t prevent your friends from getting drunk, but at least ensure that they walk back home, or find a teetotaller friend, who would be willing to drop them home. I swear that if anyone dismisses my sincere request, I am going to kick their butt to high heaven and give them a much needed dosage of common sense. I simply can’t afford to brood about more losses!

So the message is loud and clear: If they say you must not drink and drive, they are clearly telling you to give an iota of respect for your life and not to endanger other people’s lives because of the need to drown yourself in alcohol. I am certain many people will continue to ignore these warnings and contribute to the increasing death rate, but there’s always a glimmer of hope that some people have the sense to imbibe the meaning of this warning.

Life moves on. But learn from others’ mistakes too!

Cross posted from internal blog

Edit: If you can’t quit drinking, atleast ensure you don’t drive when u have drinking plans!

Max payne 3?

When I was introduced to the world of PC gaming, the first game which truly set the tone for a period of gaming addiction was the all time favorite, Max Payne. The game noir of an American cop after the gang who killed his family, coupled with amazing gaming features like bullet time and an excellent story line, had everything that could make you stare at the screen for hours together. I managed to finish the game in a month during school days, which is a mean achievement in itself. Then 2 years later came Max Payne 2 – The fall of Max Payne. But I confess I have never played it :$, because GTA was the new crush at that time, with excellent gameplay and outrageous stunts giving me adrenaline rushes every half an hour. 😀

For those who don’t know what I am talking about, Max Payne is a PC game, which has earned a cult status among hardcore gamers. The PC covers for the 2 editions of the game are shown below:

max_payne_cover2 maxpayne21

And now there’s news of the third edition coming up. I am really looking forward to it. In fact, I was one of the exclusive users in the official max payne site to get a sneak preview of the game trailer and game cover for PC/PS3/X-Box, and I was blown away by the picture. I have decided to put up the cover picture, for the benefit of my fellow bloggers.

prazypayne1

In the latest edition, Mona Sax, who supposedly died in the second edition, will be back as Moaning Saxophone, who always screams in despair whenever Max Pain starts firing his deadliest weapons, the PJ-47 and the PJ-84876. The plot line deals with how Max Pain attacks unsuspecting friends and colleagues with PJs, and must escape unscathed from the rampaging mob, who leave behind a trail of blood on the road due to ruptured ear drums. :p The third game is longer than both editions, owing to the sheer number of victims available in Infocity, the background of every exciting action in the game. I sincerely wish for the grand success of this game, and Rockstar games have announced plans to launch a new game – Hitman code name N03, if Max Pain is a roaring success!

Ok.. That must have been a big shock to you. I will try to reduce your blood pressure and heart beat for now, by asking a simple question.

The Indian cricket team returned to their hotel after a fruitful practice session. To their consternation, the single door leading to the suite, where the whole team was put up, was locked; the players didn’t know who had the keys, and some of the stronger players tried barging against the door, but met with limited success. Sachin, who was the last to arrive, after a brief 5-minute BOOST advertisement with Darsheel Safari(of TZP fame), noticed the commotion in the hall. When he realised what was going on, he said in a calm,confident voice – “Mates. Don’t worry. I know how to open the door.” He walks up to the heavy suite door and stands in front of it, while his team mates watch with bated breath. After 10 seconds, to everyone’s utter disbelief, the door opens on its own!!!!

“How did you do it, Sachin bhai?” asks Sehwag.

What did Sachin say?

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“Simple, Viru! I am the key player of the team,right?” 😀 😀

OK. I am out of here before the stones hit me….. *Runs as fast as his long legs can carry him*

Crossposted from internal blog