We had trekked up the Ugra Stambha, the highest peak in Ahobilam and the Sun was setting down in the Nallamala Forest when we reached Jawala Narsimha, one of the 9 temples dedicated to Lord Narsimha in Ahobilam. And, we needed to camp. Quickly.
We trekked back to Malola temple where we had observed some flat ground and a flowing water source. The place looked like any other in a forest where trees and more trees were around us, and the occasional unfamiliar sounds. Most of the pilgrims had already left the place as no accommodation was available in the area. There was an abandoned hut (appeared so) near the area from where an axe, a utensil and some wood we obtained. Also, there was a tree nearby from which a saree hanged- just stating the facts!
The tents were out and pitched, about 2m apart. There was a boundary-less cliff near our tents but I made sure to not pitch facing that direction. We were almost pitched below a huge tree, and a hole in the ground was located close by. We brought some large stones and had it covered. With the tents pitched, and us dried and settled, the next concern was lighting the camp fire. Having just rained, we were unsuccessful in locating dry wood, and down the drain went the idea.
In the forest, it goes so dark, so early and so quick! We slid into our tent early off, for the dark around was not very promising. A noble idea to leave the curtain of the tent open was also turned down owing to mosquitoes and impenetrable darkness. Sitting inside the tent, tired and hungry, our next big worry was the puppies who were bent upon in biting our tents. It was surely going to be a long night! We gave some of our limited stock to them and their hunger probably abated, for the time being. Cards and ghost stories came next. Cards came as a major distraction to the whole scene for some time but then, ghost stories seemed a more interesting idea. Arka, the youngest of us all was seemingly getting too scared:
Arka:Bhaiyya, Darr lag raha hai. (Bro, I’m getting scared)
Rest of us: It’s okay.
Arka (after a while):Bhaiyya, Bohot Darr lag raha hai. (Bro, I’m getting too scared)
Rest of us: Hahhah.
Arka: Please stop the ghost stories! 🙁
Rest of us: Hahaha
Arka: I will go into the other tent(hardly 2 m apart, we were in the same tent then) if you don’t stop.
Rest of us: Okay, go.
Arka: I can’t, I can’t go alone. Bhaiyya, Darr lag raha hai.
Rest of us: Hahaha
Poor fellow Arka got too scared that we stopped after a while. It was dinner time very soon for us and with no fire to cook the Maggi we had been carrying for our dinner, we had to eat it raw, forcing ourselves to swallow it down. Leaving for the other tent to crash for the night, we saw the darkness illuminated by a zillion fireflies! I and Arka ended up in the same tent in which I was and he had been too scared to mum even a word. He was probably carrying his swiss knife, a torch, a stick, a lighter, and many other things in his hands before he lied down.
I had fallen asleep for some while only when I dreamt of somebody outside and Arka opening the tent to find out who it was. I asked Arka in my dream who it was but actually mumbled it loud for him to hear. The otherwise scared Arka became too terrified of this and said, “Don’t kid with me”, but actually I was not. And then after some while…noises came.
The puppies had again started making sounds and so did their mom. I had woken up to realize the time was exact 12 of midnight! Fear was there, of course, but I started processing things and analyzing. The puppies whom we had treated nicely in the evening won’t be turning against us in the midnight. So, it was clear that somebody/something unfamiliar had come. Or, that they were hungry. Arka and I made no sounds, though we could hear some from the other tent implying Gopal and Prateek were also up. For 1 complete hour they barked and we couldn’t and didn’t do anything. Sleep enveloped me once again after the incident, I can’t say the same for Arka though. It was a cold night but the tiring trek of the day made me numb to everything else.
Hearing the rooster go in the morning at 5 was the best sound in the whole wide world at the time. “It was finally daylight!”, Arka shouted. It was a beautiful morning and the forest looked even more dense. Fog was rising up from trees below and there slept near our tents were the puppies cozied up with their mom. Gopal and Prateek had a frightening night too but they had confused the silence from our tent in the night with our confidence and my experience with camping. Little did they know – Darr sabko lagta hai! (Everybody fears!)
It was a frightening experience, sure but you do need kicks like these from time to time!
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