By Devraj Singh Kalsi
This was the first time I strayed from the caravan. I must admit that the wayward journey was full of adventure and thrill. Nobody could anticipate that the linear path we were following in a disciplined manner like a marching infantry would suddenly be deprived of my august presence. I had no idea what I was going to do the next moment. In a flash, something took over. I decided to break away. But I do not think my absence was conspicuous. Not a single fellow looked back, stopped in the tracks, or tried to persuade me to return to the fold – perhaps least bothered because their mission was bigger and more important to achieve. My derailment did not inspire a minority to stray and follow my anti-establishment path.
I love to imagine how some inmates would have felt or reacted to my sudden disappearance. When the family does not miss you much after the search proves futile, I should not harbour great expectations from the community. Antagonistic reactions would defame, defile, and write me off, using my example to teach the vagrant and the flagrant some life lessons.
The fact I went solo along this unexplored path was an affirmation of the fact that losing me did not affect the movement, speed, or the direction of the caravan that was supposed to reach the stainless steel tiffin box of the young schoolboy that was smelling so sweet from so far away and our alert team decided in a jiffy to march forth and gather the taste of the finest sweets brought from the best traditional Mithai shop of the city.
When I jumped from the carved wooden leg of the antique table, I landed on the hairy thigh of the householder. I think it was the right one. It was tough to navigate the surface as I was constantly getting lost in the hirsute jungle but the urge to find a treasure kept me going. I was driven by the rather unusual smell of something cool, fruity, and refreshing. Variety is the spice of every life and I do not think it was a gaffe to experiment with a myriad of gastronomic delights. Just because I am an ant, it does not mean my short-lived, insignificant life should not have something worth celebrating. Remember, I have the power to kill an elephant. All I need to do is get into the right orifice and make life hell for the giant that never thinks I have this lethal potential.
Coming to the story, the man had possibly just finished off ice cream with pastry made of exotic fruit like kiwi. Some crumbs and melt-down leftovers were lying somewhere around. The upper thigh retained some tell-tale signs of it. I stopped there and slurped, taking care not to sting the fellow who was offering this feast. I exercised caution or he would have slapped me hard to end my worldly journey on a sweet note.
Frankly speaking, I do not recollect how long it took me to polish it all off. But the greed to savour more led me in search of creamier pastures just like you guys look for greener pastures. For more such stuff I travelled north, and went right to his back, with tyres of flesh hanging loose on both sides, without any intention to back-bite.
My wonderful trip was over now. After the lovable treat, the stinking smell of perspiration-absorbed innerwear was unbearable. I rushed out of the fold of his vest, away from the darkness of the fold, seeking fresh air and sunshine. I was now desperately looking for a shortcut to the chair. I wanted to reach his hand resting on the arm of the chair for that purpose. I was looking for the best strategic way to save myself, but his hefty hand studded with gold rings landed near me. It was a close shave.
I did not think I would have luck on my side again. Somehow, I managed to walk away and hide near a shirt button. When he gave up the looking for my corpse and returned to his chore, I emerged out of the hiding spot and travelled slowly to ensure my movement did not give him any sensation. I chose to walk close to the buttons and finally reached his lower back ensconced on the comfy leather chair. He did raise his hand to slap his back repeatedly as he suspected some movement.
Despite my best efforts, he got to feel the presence of something crawling right there. I waited for his series of assaults to end soon. He did hold the edge of the shirt to pinch me hard between the folds. While I was navigating the escape route, I noticed the caravan I had broken away from was still on its way to the edge of the table.
This was perhaps the last opportunity to save my inconsequential life. I pored over the idea of making a last-ditch attempt to rejoin the group, but the gap was as wide as a river between us.
As luck would have it, the householder got up from the seat and used his hands to dust off his behind. I was on the edge of his shirt, and as he came closer to the table, it facilitated my return to the fold.
When he brushed against the table, I made a swift, calculated move and landed on the inside of the table. From here, it was a short distance walk to my caravan. Finally, I was reunited with my troupe. I felt like recounting my tale of survival and the ordeal I went through. The wholesome treat I enjoyed made my outing memorable. I continued with my slow march and soon mingled with the team. I do not think they would get convinced by the reality of this impossible journey I had made on my own. I gave up the idea of sharing it with others. Also, nobody feels happy to find other people leading a good life.
Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.
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