I have this childhood memory that has decided to surface after I read something in a book. It was a long long time ago when I was a little boy but I remember it like it was yesterday. I can see every detail with clarity and every emotion in my heart. I can replay it backwards and forwards as I please, which is rather strange because it isn’t really an important memory of something significant. It’s just something that happened to me a long time ago and something has triggered this memory now after all these years. It’s not that I keep thinking of this memory in particular. It comes back to me once every couple of years. Only this time, I’ve decided to write about it.
This was way back when dad was posted in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. It was a funny place. Sand and thorny bushes everywhere. The summers were so hot that it would melt the tar on the roads. My brother and I lived with our parents in an army colony or an enclave as they used to call it. The area covered was huge. The roads made an excellent cycling track with many crests and slopes. One had to be careful at the corners though because of the sand and gravel. Infact bro and I had a bad accident once but that’s a story for another time maybe. Surrounding the colony was a rather dense coverage of trees, bushes and thorny shrubs. It went on for miles and wiles and eventually reached a tiny hill right at the north end of the colony. A small dirt track used to lead right into the woods from the main road passing by next to it. As kids we would like to pretend to see and understand something that wasn’t there. Probably to spook the others or for some other stupid reason. Who knows why kids do what they do and why we did things when we were kids. But anyway, our large gang assembled one day and decided to see where the dirt road eventually leads. We made stuff up as we went along and created mysteries that weren’t there. Everyone was in a bit of a jumpy mood. A hint of fear and nervousness and the thought “we shouldn’t be here” on everyone’s mind.
I decided to use that to my advantage and spook everyone out. Me and my partner in crime slowly started to lag behind from the pack. I don’t think anyone noticed because the group was so large. Soon we were out of sight. That’s when we decided to strike. We ran up to the group and shouted that the cops are here and we have to get the hell out of here. Everyone panicked and shrieked. I couldn’t contain my laughter and everyone realised they’ve been hustled. That did not sit well with them. They came charging towards me and kicked my shins, threw sand in my face and shoved me to the ground. I was shocked and amazed at their reaction. I started crying and ran away in some unknown direction and I kept running till I couldn’t hear their voices anymore. But here’s the thing, I didn’t know where I was or which way was back. I stood there looking around for signs of familiarity but there were none. I figured if I kept walking I would eventually hit the road again. So I went deeper and deeper into the thorny forest. The silence was new to me. It was both scary and intriguing since I had never ever experienced this kind of lifelessness. I had never been alone before in an unknown place with no idea about how to get back.
It wasn’t easy though. Every now and then my clothes would get stuck in the bushes or needle like thorns would go straight through my shoes. I was pressed for time though as the sun was setting and I had to get out before it was too late. I figured if bro went and told mum that I had run away into some thorny forest I would be in a whole new kind of a trouble.
I heard a faint rustle of leaves. And slowly it started getting louder. I could hear it coming from my right hand side and I had no idea what was causing it. I stood dead still with my hands clenched in a fist and cold sweat dripping from my forehead. I had no idea what it was and I wanted to run but I just couldn’t move. And then I saw what it was.
A deer. Twice as tall as me. Stood about 20 feet away. We looked at each other through the branches and the gaps but none of us moved. I remember looking at him brought me so much ease. The innocence of it’s face, the gleam in it’s eyes and the look that we shared for several minutes. I took a step towards it and in the silence of the forest that sounded like an explosion. Quickly turning on its heels, it ran away from me. I stood there smiling for a while watching it canter away from me.
I heard a truck go by near me which told me I was close to the main road. I found my way back and reunited with my friends who saw an odd smile on my face and wondered what was wrong with me. They were glad to see me. Bro told mum anyway and needless to say she got angry. Very very angry.
I don’t know why this memory came to me today. Like a ray of sunlight within a cloudy sky. I wonder now what must’ve happened to my companion in the forest. Almost two decades later, I am reminded of him and the smile he brought to my face.