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JUNGLE MAGIC
by Paromita Mukherjee Ojha (Contest Entry) | Published On: 08-Sep-2015

Inspired by the 2009 blockbuster 3 Idiots

“Rehan Kureshi, you have been urgently summoned to the big boss’s office,” announced Shaila from the doorway of Rehan’s cabin. He was busy giving finishing touches to his latest photographic collection. Rehan had to get this ready by evening for a book on wildlife photography that the firm he was working for was bringing out on its anniversary issue. Rehan had gained expertise in wildlife photography while working with Andre Estavan in Hungary. He had gained worldwide fame as an accomplished wildlife photographer and had shot around twenty documentaries for National Geographic and WWF. His heart lay in India where his other two ‘idiots’ who were equally successful were waiting for him. So after working abroad for five years, he had come back and joined a private organisation that worked for wildlife conservation. He was offered a plum role and had a team of forty people working under him.

Today, Rehan reluctantly left his work and rushed to his boss’s cabin anticipating appreciation for his latest photographs on an Indian bird species ‘Black Francolin’. What awaited him was not to his expectation. His boss casually asked, “Do you fancy a trip to Narcondam, a tiny island in the Andaman and Nicobar Island group? Our firm has been approached by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL); they want us to send our best photographers to join their team members who would be visiting Narcondam this weekend. A private organisation has approached the government to build a radar station there in collaboration, which would go a long way in securing maritime borders of India. The plan includes new constructions, a wide road through virgin forest that will require considerable tree felling, additional human presence, and high potential for chronic and increased disturbance to this lushly forested island and its small hornbill population. NBWL is concerned and want to voice their protest against this proposal; they need expert photographers who would photograph the flora and fauna of the island which would be presented along with their report before the ministry to substantiate how the radar station would irreparably harm the unique flora and fauna of this region. I have forwarded your name from our office here in Mumbai. You would be joined by Samiksha Kaur from our Delhi office. She is a very good photographer too. You can ask your assistant Jyoti to accompany you since she has been to Andaman before to photograph the Jarawa tribe.”

Rehan knew very well that though his boss’s tone was deceptively casual, he meant business. Rehan nodded absently and took the tickets from his boss, still pondering whether he was doing the right thing and that too when there would be a new woman in the team. After a recent heartbreak he wanted to stay away from that species forever. A day later, he along with Jyoti flew to Port Blair and from there they hired a boat to reach Narcondam. Once they reached, they awaited the arrival of a certain Ms. Samiksha Kaur.

Samiksha arrived with flourish a day after. She too had no idea how a certain Mr. Rehan Kureshi looked like…but she had heard a lot about his dexterity with the camera and had imagined him to be a man around 45–50 years old, with shaggy hair, unkempt beard and a pleasing demeanour. On reaching Port Blair, she was aghast to learn that her luggage had been promptly misplaced by the airline. After much argument she walked out of the airport with a huff to await the arrival of the dear old man, Rehan Kureshi. She immediately spotted a genial senior citizen waiting near the arrival gate and started walking towards him. She halted in her tracks on hearing her name being called aloud from behind by a deep voice, clipped with impatience. Samiksha whirled around and stumbled in the process, she was immediately steadied by a dark muscular hand. Samiksha found herself staring at a pair of dark black, cold eyes fringed with dark lashes and a tanned face. She watched mesmerised and the sweltering heat and chaos of the airport faded away. She soon re-focused when she realised that an austere faced man of around thirty was staring at her with exasperation and disdain. “I am Rehan Kureshi,” the man announced; he was anything but old and definitely not at all genial. Samiksha blurted before she could stop herself, “I am sorry I was staring as you are not at all what I was expecting”. Rehan retorted, “Same pinch! You do not look like a professional photographer”.

He looked Samiksha up and down, taking in her lithe body frame, unruly black curly hair, the guileless brown eyes, and a mouth that tilted up at the corners giving the appearance of a permanent smile. Samiksha became conscious under his scrutiny and fidgeted realising that she must be looking a complete mess, with her crumpled shirt that she could not change while rushing to the airport from office and her trousers that were stained from the coffee she had, managed to spill in her permanent hurry to do things. She did not look like a professional photographer at all and Rehan’s mocking stare reasserted that. Samiksha lifted her chin proudly and waved her camera at his face, meeting his stare defiantly. “Well, even if I don’t look like a professional photographer at the moment, at least unlike you I carry my camera around so you will have to believe my words, there is no other option.”Rehan’s face darkened. “Well I believe my boss’s words, not yours. I had insisted that I don’t want any woman to be part of my team as they are nothing but distraction and a waste of time, but my boss insisted that you too come here.” Rehan glowered at Samiksha when she started giggling. She choked on another bout of laughter and said, “I am terribly sorry but you sound like someone from Stone Age. I felt no one said these things about women anymore”. Rehan ominously snapped, “Well if you have finished giggling please hurry so that we can push off before its dark, would you be kind enough to tell me where your invisible luggage is?”

“Ah…a very pertinent question,” Samiksha stated and threw up her hands in a helpless gesture. Rehan swore under his breath. “Don’t tell me you have managed to misplace your bags? I knew from the start that a woman photographer would spell nothing but trouble, now further wastage of time and energy to trace the missing luggage of a certain Ms. Samiksha who unlike her name is totally incapable of any rational analysis and logical reasoning.” Samiksha protested, “Well if it is any comfort to you, I have not deliberately dropped my luggage somewhere in the middle of Bay of Bengal just to irritate you”. For seconds they stood glaring at each other. Rehan acquiesced first and apologised. He dealt briskly with the formalities of filling forms required to trace her missing luggage. They left for Narcondam and arrived after a minor loss of a pair of shoe. Samiskha had bent over the boat railing to admire the azure sea and when the boat lurched she lost balance and her slippers glided happily towards the water. On reaching Narcondam she was introduced to Jyoti, Rehan’s assistant and Rahul Rastogi, Rehan’s college friend who had taken the trouble of taking leave from his work for a few days and joined Rehan to spend time with his dear friend. Samiksha stared curiously at Jyoti since Rehan had made his displeasure regarding the female species very clear earlier. Rahul noticed Samiksha’s stare and later when they were sitting alone in the veranda of the circuit house, he told her that Jyoti was a very efficient assistant who knew her way around and Rehan considered her as one of the boys. Samiksha could not imagine the petite and beautiful Jyoti to be ‘one of the boys’. It was evident that Jyoti adored Rehan and was forever echoing his statements. Samiksha was surprised as why this observation disturbed her.

After dinner Jyoti and Rahul walked off to the second cottage where they were staying and Samiksha stayed with Rehan in the same cottage. Each cottage had two rooms with adjoining bathroom, a kitchen and a man servant who stayed during the day. Samiksha decided to take a bath to escape the oppressive heat. She started humming her favourite song when the cold water trickled down her skin giving her instant relief. She gaily pulled the towel from the rod and wrapped it around her. Suddenly she felt something moving and looked down to investigate. To her horror she found a cockroach proudly squatted on her towel, seemingly leering at her and waving its dreadful antenna. She shrieked and jumped frantically trying to dislodge the evil creature but the resolute cockroach was edging closer. Rehan heard her scream and rushed from his room. He frantically knocked at the door asking if she was alright. Samiskha anticipating sarcastic comments from Rehan decided to keep quiet rather than tell him that she was being terrorised by a cockroach. She bravely kept quiet till the cockroach threatened to rush towards her neck. She screamed again and promptly opened the door, landing unceremoniously into Rehan’s arms. Rehan stared at her face expressionlessly; steadying her, he looked at the cockroach thenhis black eyes surveyed her from top to bottom. Rehan drily stated, “I was trying to prepare for tomorrow’s photography session in the jungle when I heard caterwauling, then squealing like pigs”. Samiksha snorted and reminded that it was not caterwauling but her attempt at singing. Rehan rolled his eyes and said, “You screamed like hell on spotting a measly cockroach? I had no idea that bathroom could be such an adventurous place”.

Rehan couldn’t stop himself anymore and burst out laughing, slamming the cockroach with his shoe at the same time. He left the room with a wink. Samiksha suddenly remembered her semi-naked state and lurched towards the clothes that Rehan had loaned her.Over the next few days, Samiksha felt love rising furiously in her heart for Rehan but her feelings, she felt, was never reciprocated. Samiksha spent eventful days in Rehan’s company, she fought, and she argued, she grumbled about his disdainful ways but she also looked forward to his company, his laughter, his virility. She revelled in the traces of his masculine scent lingering in the clothes he had loaned her. Rehan on his part exasperatedly tried to save Samiksha from innumerable trouble that she managed to land into, like being caught by the local security personnel while trying to click photographs of restricted area. Rehan also failed to decipher why he became grumpy when he found her laughing with Rahul over some joke about the trio’s engineering days or when she had fun with NBWL team members. He felt immense pain when she got blisters while trying to match up with his brisk steps in the jungle during a photography trip. He found himself laughing more at her silly antics and her garrulous talks with Bhola, their man servant. Rehan was shocked to discover that despite his hatred of women he looked forward to his teaching sessions with Samiksha where, he taught her more about sophisticated lenses, camera angles. He could not help but kiss her when she deliberately flirted with Rahul one particular evening. Rehan wondered what was happening to him but failed to find any answer. Once, Rehan took her to meet the chief of the local tribe who offered her a swig of palm wine. She happily sloshed it off despite Rehan’s warning. She spent happy hours clicking photographs with the chief and his tribe while Rehan watched with a resigned expression. While returning, Rehan stated, “You are impossible, Samiksha. Was it so difficult to behave like a sensible photographer that you always claim to be? Jyoti had rightly stated that you are childish and impossible.” To add to Samiksha’s horror, Jyoti was waiting in the veranda when they arrived at the hut and witnessed her faltering steps. Rehan announced drily, “Samiksha has been introduced to palm wine”. Samiksha tried to walk to her bedroom and stumbled.  Rehan swore, scooped her up in his arms and put her to bed.

A few days later, Samiksha, accompanied by Bhola, went to the local flea market to purchase some grocery. She bumped into a handsome man while characteristically walking on the road without looking. The man steadied her and spoke, “Since there are not many unknown faces here and I know the NBWL team, I gather you must be one of the photographers they have looped in to strengthen their argument of not setting up a radar station here. By the way I am Imran Malik”. Samiksha introduced herself, quite enjoying the attention of a handsome man after so many days dealing with the grumpy Rehan Kureshi. They chatted for a while till Imran cast her lingering glance and left.

Bhola watching them from a distance shook his head disapprovingly and told her that she should henceforth avoid Imran since he was the front man of the private organisation vying to build the radar station and was not on good terms with wither the NBWL team or Rehan. Samiksha decided to stay mum about her meeting with Imran since it was just a chance meeting and she had not discussed with Imran anything related to the action plan of NBWL team that had been shared with her and Rehan a few days ago. The NBWL team had handed Rehan and Samiksha the file with the entire findings, along with copies of photographs clicked by Rehan and Samiksha. They would place all the evidences before the Ministry next week to fend off the radar project. Rehan had kept the file in his room to study it later.

Samiksha one evening woke up choking, there were fumes everywhere. She ran out to see Rehan’s room engulfed in flames, Rehan, Rahul, Bhola and the other men were furiously trying to douse the leaping flames. Samiksha saw Jyoti standing at a distance looking worried and asked her about the reason of fire. Jyoti turned towards her with an accusing stare and said, “Samiksha if I was you, I would immediately leave this place. How could you betray Rehan’s trust? Bhola saw Imran loitering outside your bedroom window. He must have come to meet you. Bhola, on probing by Rehan, told that you had met Imran a few days back on the way to the flea market. Isn’t it obvious that you must have told Imran everything about the findings of the NBWL team alongwith whereabouts about the file? Realising that he stood no chance of securing permission for the radar project, he decided to destroy the file by setting Rehan’s hut on fire. Samiksha! Rehan could have been killed in his room if he hadn’t smelt kerosene and decided to come out of his room to investigate.”At that moment Rehan turned towards her with ice-cold eyes and she could feel his contempt even at a distance. Samiksha’s heart was shattered completely. Samiksha blindly walked towards the road without a backward glance, and somehow reached Delhi. Samiksha requested for few days’ leave from her boss. One morning her doorbell rang, she opened the door and looked straight into familiar black eyes. Samiksha hardly dared to breathe, with eyes brimming with unshed tears; she could just whisper “Rehan”. Rehan said, “I found your address from your boss in Delhi”. Rahul and a family of four were also there behind Rehan. Rahul winked at her and said, “Meet the third member of the naughty triumvirate of Imperial College of Engineering, Mr. Dhansukh Bangroo, his wife Ria Sahasrabuddhe Bangroo, who also happens to be the daughter of the ex-dean of I.C.E. and their two beautiful bundles of joy, Roja Bangroo, an aspiring dancer and Rancho Bangroo, a wannabe painter”.

 

Once inside the house, Rehan went down on his knees and said tenderly, “Samiksha, I apologise for doubting your integrity. I apologise for deliberately ignoring the love I saw in your eyes. I fell in love with you the moment I saw you at the airport, I knew my vow of protecting my heart would not hold anymore. PLEASE MARRY ME! The NBWL team found out that one of their team members was colluding with Imran and siphoning vital findings to him, it was never you”. Rehan held Samiksha’s hand and said, “Life came to a standstill after you left Narcondam. Bhola mopped around for days, the local tribal chief visited to tell that he missed seeing you and your infectious laughter. He was mighty impressed by the fact that you drink so bravely, he misses his drinking partner. The NBWL team wants to thank you for the fantastic shots we took that helped substantiate their report and halted the radar project. I miss your distractive ways, I love you, Samiksha, come back with me to Mumbai. In fact, I invited everyone I know in Narcondam, as well as Rahul, Dhansukh and Ria along with the kiddos in advance to our wedding which I am hoping can be solemnised next week with your permission. Jyoti, by the way, has left for a better job prospect in the US”.

Samiksha gladly went into Rehan’s open arms; she finally was where she belonged for this lifetime. Rahul, Ria, Dhansukh, Roja and Rancho chorused from behind the group’s anthem – “All is Well, Bhaiya All is Well”.

Rahul wondered will he also find his one true love like Rehan and Dhansukh.

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Author
Paromita Mukherjee Ojha

Paromita Mukherjee Ojha

Written: 12 Stories

Member Since: 27-Aug-2015

Country: India