The Moonstruck Columns

Matheran In The Rains

Only the crunching of our footsteps could be heard as the pebbles displaced beneath our feet. We marched the rain-eroded, path in silence—our steps in rhythm with each other. The hills of Matheran weren’t exactly as elevated as a mountain. Yet, it didn’t make it any less perilous. Especially in the rain.

A little stream flowed from up the hill on the left across our muddy, slippery, red soil, was so soothing on my feet that had been scarred with sand rubbing against my skin of my feet. I realised the sharp pain of slashed skin. But we kept walking.

I suddenly realised that there was a spine-chilling whistle coming from the woods on our right. It rose and fell and rose again and blended so well with the constant dripping of the raindrops that it was almost camouflaged within. We had been walking for about forty minutes without a word. It became a little darker as we took a sharp turn along the edge a little further down. The whistling still followed us. Not a soul was to be seen anywhere.
“Wooo, Woo” Pratip imitated the enigmatic whistle.

“Please don’t answer to it.” Arka snapped. I could sense his grave concern. And perhaps Pratip did too because he didn’t make another sound. We were all spooked enough by the predicament that we didn’t want any supernatural to add to the trouble. At least that’s how I saw it.

I didn’t say much but I occasionally paused to take a picture. My breath was heavy but I kept filming with my digital camera. For some reason, it felt like I was going to enjoy the experience as I would recount the memoir at a later date. “Remember when we stayed at the cliff till five of clock?” I would be saying. “Gosh, taking so many pictures and goofin’ around, we didn’t realise that we were almost six miles from the crowd and the fact that darkness falls swiftly in the hills. You know, when everyone was on their way back, we were about to make our trek uphill. No wonder we fell back.”

“Can you please put the camera away?” Arka’s snap instilled a fresh supply of fear inside me. Like Pratip, I obliged but didn’t answer. I knew how serious trouble we were in. “We still have four miles to go. And I’m not so sure, we’re on the right track”

As if the fresh bottle of fear wasn’t enough. I became even more alert. I looked around. Then I spotted something that assured me that we were on the right track.

I caught Arka’s eye and pointed toward the hoof marks on the ground. He nodded. There were both sets, uphill and downhill, scattered and increasing in number. On our way up, we saw mares along the way, sitting on top of them happy idiots who thought perhaps trek isn’t such a bad thing when we are riding on another animal.

Just outskirts of a small settlement where we ate a few hours ago, we spotted a sign that told us that we were indeed on our right track and we just had two miles before we reach the junction. Arka had regained his jolly self a bit. But the adventure wasn’t over just yet.

It kept getting darker and Arka became a little talkative as his worry started vanishing.
We three started joking around. Already tasting our little misadventure. There were still no souls to be seen but an old man, a native perhaps. As we passed him, we saw him digging a hole. A few paces forward, Arka nudged Pratip and me and joked—”Imagine that guy burying a dead body”

My head was already cooking tales I was going to tell about this day. I nudged him back and said. “Imagine you look back; and he’s not there.”

And that thought did it for him, and incidentally, it gave me shivers too.

We never dared to look back.

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