The Sacred Forest - contd
by Diti Sen
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All of a sudden, he knew who they were.
‘They’re timber thieves. Baba was talking about them only yesterday. There is a gang stealing our trees for wood!” he said softly.
His companions shivered in fear. Dacoits! They knew they could be dangerous and that some of them even carried guns!
The thieves now started hacking at the tree trunk. The old mahogany tree groaned and swayed in pain, as they kept chopping into it, further and further.
Paban felt a burst of anger
“We have to stop them!” he hissed .
“But how? They’re so big and strong”, said Pinku sadly. Belu nodded in agreement and Kunu scratched his ear.
But Paban wasn’t going to give up. He was determined to stop them killing his beloved trees. So they put their heads together and thought and thought and after much whispering and discussion, at last, came up with a Plan.
Slowly and quietly, they moved up and took their positions. The dacoits carried on cutting the tree, completely unaware of what was about to happen.
“Ok everyone, let’s get going!” said Paban excitedly, really hoping his plan would work.
“One, two three, GO KUNU!" he said.
At once, Kunu darted off through the thick undergrowth, right to where the men were standing. He saw a juicy ankle, and in a flash, sank his sharp fangs into the hairy flesh. He was so fast that the men didn’t even see him properly.
“OW, OW, OW”, screamed the man, hopping around on one foot, clutching his bleeding ankle with his hands, dropping his axe with a thud.
“Catch it, kill it”, shouted the other man but Kunu bit him too and then ran off like lightning through the jungle.
Now Pinku, who had climbed a nearby bael tree, started plucking the bael fruits growing plentifully on it and raining the big as footballs, hard as nuts, bael fruits, on to their heads.
“Ha, ha ha”, laughed Paban aiming a few stones at them too.
The men screamed and ducked, trying to cover their heads and take shelter, their faces white with fear, lungis tangling with their trembling legs. Some of the baels burst open, as they hit the men’s heads, drenching them with sticky, gluey orange pulp, trickling into their eyes and blurring their eye sight.
Belu, with Paban on his back, had inched up close and as Pinku’s store
of baels finished, it was Paban’s turn to get at the thieves.
Taking careful aim, he let loose a shower of arrows at them. The sharply chiseled arrows,flew at the men, pricking and poking them from all sides, making them run helter skelter, mad with pain. But there was no escape and the arrows kept coming! And soon, they started looking like pin cushions!
Now it was Belu’s turn. With one swipe of his majestic trunk, he hit out at the beehive hanging nearby. At once, a swarm of angry bees buzzed out and started stinging and attacking the men. The thieves, shrieked and cried and rolled on the ground but the bees just kept on stabbing at them, covering their bodies like an angry, rain cloud.
‘Ha ha ha!” cried Paban and his friends. ‘Serves you right! See what happens when you try to steal our trees!”
But the men did not hear anything. They had fainted, clean away.
Quickly, Paban ran over and tied them up like logs of wood with their own chains. While Pinku, Belu and Kunu kept guard over them, he ran like lightning, back to his village. Panting and sweating, he told the forest guards about the thieves. Amazed at his doings, they wasted no time and in a jiffy jumped into their jeeps and whizzed off to arrest the men.
Hands and legs tied with thick ropes, bruised, bitten and stung all over, the men sat in the jeep, their faces red and swollen, eyes half closed, trembling and terrified out of their wits.
‘But what happened? Who attacked us? We didn’t see anyone”, they stammered.
The forest warden winked at Paban, standing innocently nearby.
‘The Spirits protect the forest from anyone trying to harm it”, he said sternly.
“So the Spirits attacked us?” asked the dacoits, looking even more scared, their teeth chattering in fear.
“Hmph”, grunted the warden, starting the jeep.
As the jeep drove away, Paban and his friends looked contentedly at each other. They had never seen Singhbonga, the God of the forests, but they had helped to save his forest.
Unknown to them, high above the treetops, touched by the rays of the setting sun, hovered a radiant smiling Spirit. The forest sighed in relief and settled down for the night.
Paban and Kunu trotted back happily to the village, Belu and Pinku, to their forest home. They would meet again the next day. ***