(The hunter in the wilderness of sansara)
Chapter1 (Part 7)- Ancient stories
At a particular landmark moment in his life cycle, sleep had
enveloped the hunter once again. A hundred years before he had lived
with a name tag called ‘Golu Puncha’ or the Small Dumb One. He spent his
day sleeping. This was no crime. Some were amused by it. They smiled,
but didn’t object. He would fall asleep even while eating. He was not an
important part of the society he lived in on account of this penchant
for slumber. When the tree spirit came looking for someone to take with
him into the jungle, he found Golu Puncha to be the most suitable. Golu
Puncha saw the tree spirit waving to him for six consecutive days.
On the seventh day he followed the tree spirit. No one showed any
surprise. As a result Golu Puncha did not feel any regret or suffer
pangs of sorrow on account of parting. Perhaps no one else could see the
tree spirit and therefore did not imagine that Golu Puncha was embarking
on a journey never to return. If not, one of the women who passed him on
their way to draw water or collect firewood would have asked him where
he was going just to satisfy curiosity. That no one did was an added
consolation to Golu Puncha, who had no one to call his own anyway.
The journey was uneventful and without cause for any perturbation,
except when they had to cross the Mee Oya. The Mee Oya, the defining
boundary that marked the beginning of the jungle, was in spate. The
waters had broken the banks. The hunter, who had followed the tree
spirit as though in a trance with no notion whatsoever of sky or earth,
came to a halt. This was because the tree spirit himself had stopped.
They had company. A herd of elephants too were considering the rushing
waters before them. The tree spirit struck up a conversation with the
elephants. One of the elephants knelt down. The tree spirit climbed on
to him. Another elephant, smaller in size than the first, also went on
its knees near Golu Puncha. He took his cue from the tree spirit and
climbed upon its back. The entire herd took to the water.
When they reached midstream the tree spirit started performing what
seemed to be some rites. Golu Puncha was duly informed that this was a
‘water-cutting ceremony’. In any event, by the time they reached the
other shore, Golu Puncha found that he was spotlessly clean. All bodily
discharges caked and clinging to skin and garment had been washed away.
The tree spirit vanished the next moment. Only the elephants could be
seen, feeding in the vicinity. They did not take any notice of Golu
Puncha. It is not possible to say that they did this deliberately.
Perhaps they treated him as just another of the many creatures they
frequently encounter. As for Golu Puncha, he was able to remain without
being worried about the herd.
Watching the elephant graze leisurely and in utmost tranquility, Golu
Puncha suddenly felt hungry. The moment he felt the pangs of hunger he
noticed that the jungle was overflowing with things he could eat. He saw
fruit laden trees wherever he looked. He was various tubers that had
pushed themselves out of the earth and clung to the roots of numerous
trees. The only effort he had to expend was to stretch out his hands to
harvest these or else dig them out with fingernail.
A group of monkey feeding on the fruit of a nearby Maadang tree,
dancing from branch to branch in abandon, laughed at him. The hunter,
endowed with the physique of a gorilla, was at this moment picking fruit
from a Karamba grove. Without any anger or else any notion of
friendship, he flung a bunch of Karamba at the monkeys. As though they
were anticipating sport of this kind, the monkeys immediately threw
handfuls of Maadang at the hunter. Once this exchange delivered to him a
considerable amount of fruit the hunter began devouring the Maadang to
his heart’s content, occasionally baring his teeth at the monkeys.
Next he had to deal with the little ones in the elephant herd. Two
baby elephants came up to him, thrust their trunks playfully over his
shoulders and began gulping the Maadang. He brushed them aside with one
hand only to find them returning again and again. He noticed that the
only other creature interested in all this was a cow elephant who looked
at him intently.
Golu Puncha did not realize that he had been accepted and
acknowledged as another creature of the jungle.
Of all the creatures he encountered in the jungle the only ones that
never became friendly with the hunter was the wild boar and leopard. As
he made his way through an elephant path, he felt instinctively that he
was being watched from a particular direction. He cast his eyes in that
direction. There was no one to be seen. He peered again, with greater
focus. He saw a leopard lying in the shade of a rock looking at him.
He looked back. The too were locked in gaze. By and by the hunter
blinked. In that fraction of a moment that took him to open and shut his
eyes, the leopard vanished.
Where had the creature fled in the blink of an eye? He then saw a
herd of wild boar digging the earth for some yam or another. Although he
had filled himself with huge amounts of Damba, Karamba and Ul Kenda, the
moment his eyes fell on the full and juicy yams, the hunter felt hungry
all over again. He walked up to the pile of yams harvested by the wild
boar herd. They fled immediately and stood at a distance watching him.
They remained there, grunting away in either suspicion or thoughts of
attack, until he had consumed two or three yams. A few young boars ran
about, some even banging against his feet as they played.
Golu Puncha didn’t trouble himself to find out why the tree spirit
had disappeared after they had crossed the Mee Oya and entered the
jungle proper. His mind was not troubled by questions or suspicions
regarding this disappearance. He did however feel a certain trepidation.
He continued on his way as though spurred by some vague objective.
He did not know if he was being led by such an objective. He walked
because he suffered from an affliction that did not allow him to remain
in one place.