The wall of the well slowly opened sideways to reveal a secret chamber inside.
As it opened,a horde of bats scurried out of the well.
I and Madhav stepped away from ,avoiding the nocturnal creatures who were certainly not pleased with the unexpected sudden intrusion.
But Viz suffered badly as he was climbing up somehow.
He was already numbed by what he saw down there and the bats added to his misfortune.
As soon as the parade of bats ended,we peeped back to see Viz’s condition.
As he was about to reach the top of the well,I extended my hand for his support.
Taking my helping hand, he came out of the mysterious well.
Madhav’s question was interrupted by a sudden explosion from inside the well.
“Don’t peep! RUN! ”,I commanded as I ran back near the verandah wall.
We jumped to the other side swiftly and crouched down,taking the wall as cover.
What’s going on?!
We allowed ourselves some seconds to breathe properly and come out of the commotion around.
“What did you see inside?”,Madhav completed his question this time.
Viz shivered in fear as he uttered those words.
“Are you pretty sure on this one?”,I ask out of curiosity and disbelief.
“Yes man! 101% sure. My eyes aren’t weak like yours! ”,he snapped back,irritated.
“Well that means.. ”,I stopped midway and peeped above the wall in the direction of the windows on the first floor.
“…. it will get interesting ahead guys. Very interesting. Be prepared.”
THE NEXT EVENING:
I was back to play our usual cricket match at the ground after a span of 4 days.
“All right now?”,
“Our Dravid is back! ”,
“Here comes the Bombay guy!”
were some of the welcome greetings I received from the local guys.
And what pleased me more was the fact that my form was back.
A blistering 36 from 12 balls proved that fact.
After three matches,we decided to end the days play and sit down for some time and discuss some random topics under the golden orange sky.
“How’s life there in Bombay?”,Satish asked.
“All big flats and skyscrapers right? ”,Sameer added.
“Nah..not everywhere!”,I smile at their utopian view of Bombay-The city of dreams.
“Have you met any Bollywood star?”,Arjun asked this time.
“Nah..not yet..but I hope I’ll meet one soon”
“Any Shah Rukh Khan fans here?”,I ask out in excitement.
Out of the 18 odd guys,just 5 guys put their hand up including me.
“..and Salman Khan? ”
The rest guys,except one or two, waved their hands up.
“I knew this will be the result. People from South like bhai’s masala remakes more than..”
“…what’s that?”,I ask pointing out to the smoke from one of the several hills behind the house.
“That maybe the smoke from the Adivasi settlements there on that hill. Very rare sight of the smoke though..”,Arjun answered my query.
“Well..has anyone gone trekking there?”
No was the answer.
“Why not? I thought you guys might have gone there many times!”
“Actually we never thought about going there..trekking and all..daunting task!”,Satish remarked meekly.
“Nah! It’s fun yaar! Let’s give it a shot tomorrow. What say?”,my voice filled with enthusiasm.
Half of the guys were ready. The others were confused. It took some efforts to win their support.
“Cool then. Tomorrow 9am sharp report here. We’ll meet first and then proceed.Fine? ”
I wanted to end this vacay on a high. I wanted something memorable before I end up in the fast paced city life. The trek was the perfect plan.
THE NEXT MORNING:
As we are Indians,9 am generally meant 9:30. We knew this would happen.The guys would turn up late.Still,I forced Madhav and Viz to be in on the spot by 9. Compromising with punctuality is never my cup of tea. If I’m late that just means my schedule went haywire due to things which aren’t in my control.
By 9:35 everyone turned up and we proceeded towards the hill.
Once at the base,we took rest for about 10 minutes before continuing the upward journey.
After half an hour, everyone got exhausted.
“Breaaaak!”,Satish waved his hands and sat down. The others agreed and followed suit.
But we three weren’t ready to stop.
Above that,the peak was just 15 minutes away.
“You guys rest.Meet you at the peak!”
We three started again,leaving the rest behind.
5 minutes later, I was exhausted too. I stood there and looked down.
The others have started too. From that point, I could see the entire town. Everything so small..
..that’s when an arrow whizzed past me.
What the fridge!
“An attack!”,Madhav screamed out.
In no time, we were surrounded by 40 odd armed tribals,with paint all over their face.
“Khremak woah!”,their leader ordered his men to nab us in their language.
We started running back although we knew its more difficult to go downsides.
As expected, they caught us easily.
By this time the other guys saw this and ran for our rescue.
But they were few in number when compared to the armed tribals.
“ESCAPE GUYS!”,I shout out at the top of my voice and hence got a tight slap from the tribal who was holding me from escaping.
“No! We won’t! ”,Arjun shouted.
“There are many of these armed men here! You’ll be trapped like us.Back out!”,Viz yelled.
But he didn’t get slapped,that too for such a long dialogue. Unfair!
Sensing the correct thing, they backed out slowly.
“Atreshv Khey!”,their leader blabbered again as they took the three of us captive and forced us to move ahead,following the leader.
They moved straight to the east side and then started going up.
Few minutes later,we reach their camp.
Scantily clad tribal children ran helter skelter,playing their games.
Women were busy with their vessels and firewoods outside their huts.They all cast us a look before resuming their daily chores.
Moving ahead,we spotted a huge banyan tree with some statues of their Gods and Goddesses.
Small lamps adored the tree branches and it was surrounded by small earthen diyas at the base.
Then we reached the place we were ought to be brought. The Chiefs place.
There stood a hut which was comparatively bigger than the other huts. Two huge chairs made from wood were put up outside the hut,most probably for the Chief and his wife.
We will know soon….
Then we saw a masked person coming out from the hut.
He seemed a bit old by his posture
but he was tall,looked sturdy and well built too.A thread across his torso…
This can’t be!
He came and had his seat.The others bowed down to him in respect.
He waved his hands and took off his mask.
We couldn’t believe our eyes as we saw Mr.Raghav in front of us!
“You cheat!”,I shout out again expecting a slap again from the tribal,which I definitely got as a reward.
“Welcome boys! Meet our King!”,Raghav couldn’t stop laughing at our condition.
Another man came out of the hut.
But he was dressed in normal tees and trousers unlike the tribesmen.The Ray Ban goggles and his fingers full of diamond rings caught our attention.
The tribals bowed again as he took his seat.
“Meet our King.”
“King Ashok! ”