The crackle of piston blades sent shivers into the pilot’s body. The plane nose-dived into the wild woods of Andaman Island, ripping away the starboard door, altimeter dial spinning crazily, dropping below 6,000 feet. The skydivers on board toppled, crashing into the pilot’s seat.
“Thirty seconds to crash!” Harry shouted as he pulled back the joystick- But it was dead.
“All skydivers jump on the count of three!” Sejal yelled as she adjusted her parachute strap. “You guys better land on trees than crash with the aeroplane…!” As the sky diving instructor on board, she took the decision and it was obeyed.
She recollected her horoscope for the day (Fri, 13th of Jun, 2017) which predicted an exceptional day. She always believed every bit of her horoscope-nothing could shatter her belief…! Even the unusual engine sound on the ground fell on her deaf ears-much against the advice of her spouse.
The husband-wife duo was left alone grappling with gravity. “We can’t jump together; your parachute won’t take ninety kilos of my weight…!” Harry’s voice barely managed to reach Sejal’s ears against the gust of the strong winds.
“My only chance is to force-land this machine. You have to jump alone….!” Harry shouted as he gestured her to jump.
“No way! We jump together, Live or die-together!”
“No, think about the young Tinny and her chemotherapy- she needs one of us, in her last few days.”
“Trust me… We will scrape through gravity and win…!” Sejal saw the rapidly approaching green hill through the windscreen. She snapped open her hubby’s seat belt clutching his bulky body from behind and jumping out of the plane. In a flash, she pulled her parachute handle waiting for the parachute opening shock. Nothing happened…!
“Come on, open up!” She pulled again. After a few seconds, the chute obliged and opened. The shock of de-acceleration almost slipped Harry from her grip.
A loud blast broke her flow of thoughts, sending fragments of the aeroplane in the air- missing them by a whisker. Thick black smoke engulfed their parachute, fogging their eyes. The smell of burnt jet fuel filled her lungs as she coughed madly. Their descent ended abruptly as her feet touched the canopy of a tree before crashing into its branches- bruising her body. The downward momentum ended abruptly as the parachute got entangled in the woods hanging them in mid-air, just a few meters above the ground. She cut the parachute strings. With a thud, they fell on the ground. She saw his bruised body, blood oozing from his forehead as he lay unconscious on the ground.
They were in the middle of a thick forest. Probably in the protected forests of Andamans island -inhabited by the fierce Jarawa tribes, cut off from the world. Cold sweat ran down her forehead as she tried to look around to find some water.
“Harry, open your eyes!” She shouted as she felt a pang of pain cutting across her jaw as she discovered that she had broken one of her incisors. After a few moments, he opened his eyes and mumbled “Sejal, your horoscope is true. You survived…!”
But he was wrong. An arrow pierced Harry’s stomach as his head dropped on the ground. She screamed in agony as she realized that they were surrounded by ghastly Jarawa tribes. She felt a bang on her head as a wave of vibration traversed through her body and she fell on the ground…
She opened her groggy eyes when a cat, some nine pounds of wriggling flesh, climbed onto her belly. Squinting into the sunlight streaming in from the open window, she discovered that she was now the somnolent possessor of a hammering headache.
She felt a divine peace as she drowned into the large green eyes of the cat that shone like an emerald. She felt magical as all her pain whisked in a second. The screech of the bamboo door drew her attention. The silhouette of the man appeared. He was almost bare except for a few leaves which he wore around his waist. In his hand, he held a sword. He approached her and was all set to tear her apart.
In a flash, he fell on his knees and bowed down… Sejal was baffled. The tribesman muttered something in his native language and rushed away. A few minutes later, a group of tribal returned and all of them bowed, one of them could speak some broken words of English. He said, “My Name Mamba, Cat...our Goddess, You found it. Greetings…Thank You…!”
“Where is my husband?” Sejal inquired politely.
“He is dying, arrow hit…!” Mamba spoke with great difficulty.
“How can you?” She yelled.
They mumbled something. “Come with our Goddess.” He said. Mamba picked up the mystical cat and walked a few steps as they reached another hut where Harry laid unconscious, leaves tied around his chest, to stop the bleeding. He kept the mystical cat over Harry’s bruised chest.
“Wake up, my love!” She pleaded with folded hands.
The mystical cat brushed her fur against Harry’s chest for a few moments. Seconds later, Harry opened his eyes.
“Unbelievable!” She yelled as tears rolled down her eyes and fell on the mystical cat.
After a few hours, Harry had fully healed. Mamba appeared in the room and inquired, “When are you going back?”
“Tomorrow afternoon. May we borrow your Goddess-the mystical cat for a few days? My daughter has cancer. All doctors have given up hope. Perhaps its touch can save my daughter.” Sejal pleaded.
“No…! The cat can’t leave. It’s our healer!” Mamba replied. He continued,” Get your daughter here.”
“You very well know that this is a restricted area and Jarawa is a protected tribe. The government would never allow us to return. This isn’t a solution.”
Twenty four hours passed. Sejal was in no mood to let her daughter die after she knew the cat could save her daughter. She had to find a way out and fast…
“Harry, our only solution is to steal the cat and run away, somehow reach the road six kilometres from here, take a lift and run away.” Sejal smiled.
“What if we are caught?” Harry enquired.
“Now or Never !” She replied.
They waited for the darkness. The moment came and they fled with the cat safely wrapped up in their bag when the village was asleep. After a few minutes, a long sword intercepted their path.
“Friends, how dare you steal our Goddess?” Mamba appeared from the darkness suspecting the possibility of them stealing the cat.
“My daughter will die…!” Sejal pleaded as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Mamba decided to help them. After an hour of travelling, the road was intercepted. The Jarawa village lay in a bowl of land separated from civilization by a fragile wooden bridge which could take the weight of one person at a time. They waited till dawn. The hum of the engine broke the silence of the dawn.
“Bus coming. You go…! Promise to return our Goddess.”
“I promise!” Her heart ached as she knew she was lying. With slow and measured steps she crossed the bridge.
“Harry, come fast. The bus is visible!” She shouted. Harry took the first step towards the bridge.
A loud thumping overshadowed the noise of the bus. The tribes appeared probably after discovering their missing Goddess. She reached the center of the road and shouted for the bus to stop. The bus screeched to a halt. As she turned around, she saw that Mamba was fighting with his men. Harry had crossed through half of the bridge. An arrow hit Harry as he fell in the middle of the bridge. He gestured her to run away. Her mind froze. She had almost lost her love after a narrow escape a day before and today again history repeated itself. The driver shouted, “Board the bus or these Jarawas would kill all of us!” As the bus moved, she saw Mamba being slain by his fellow men. As she shifted her glance to Harry, she saw him waving with an expression of satisfaction on his face… probably one last time!
Sejal’s daughter had a miraculous recovery from leukaemia. The doctors were startled and so was the medical community. Sejal had become a renowned astrologist world healer and a millionaire too…! Her foible of believing in horoscopes had become even stronger. She had abandoned her challenging profession of skydiving. In the next two years or so, the cat’s fame spread across the world. A million likes on YouTube, people coming from all around for the one magical touch. But, the cat was getting weaker with every touch that healed. The psychic cat had lost almost two pounds and the whole world was concerned. On the other hand, the medical community wanted to clone the cat before she died.
Greed had blinded her eyes and she refused to hand over the golden cat to the government. It was decided by the government that this cat was a national asset and needed to be saved at any cost. Sejal knew in her heart that it’s the only chance of survival lay in return to the mystic land of Jarawas. She tried to convince the government, but the officials refused to budge.
21st of Jun 2019 was the last Saturday when the mystic beauty was allowed to be with Sejal. Her daughter was also sad and asked,” Mom, can’t you save this cat’s life which has healed me?”
These words bruised her heart as her mind travelled back in time to the land of Jarawas. She peeped into the once emerald eyes of the cat and decided to restore it in its original land-the Andaman’s. The only way to return to this land was to skydive again at the same point. She hadn’t done skydiving for a while and was hopelessly out of touch. She also didn’t know the location as all the data was gone with the crashed aeroplane.
Being a weekend, there would be no flying. She got in touch with one of her old friends who agreed for para dropping her over the Andaman Islands. She contacted the ATC and managed to get the last radar location of the aeroplane which had crashed two years back on a fateful day. She plotted the final position on the map after correlating the last radar position and the glide time of the aeroplane.
She looked at the feeble cat, strapped it to herself and boarded the aeroplane revising the much-forgotten drills of opening a parachute. As always, she flipped through the magazine and read her horoscope for the day before boarding the aeroplane which read, “Your chances of success are very feeble. Travelling will bestow great dangers.” She had to make a choice-
And she said, “Now or Never!”
It was almost dusk time when they got airborne in gusty weather, the aeroplane swing from side to side. After half an hour the evening submerged into the darkness with the moon not yet risen. Over the designated point, the pilot shouted,” Ten seconds for the drop, All the best…!
She jumped. After a few seconds, she pulled the parachute handle.
“Jammed, yet again!” She cried in despair.
She tried again but failed. The ground below stared at her with greed, pulling her down with all its force. As she rolled in the air, the mystic cat’s paw touched her belly.
“Standby Parachute!” She cried and pulled another mini handle. It worked. After a few seconds, she led tossed and tumbled over the canopy of the trees till her parachute got entangled. She had managed to survive the fall in the mystical land of the Jarawas. She looked at the cat- its eyes barely opened as it winked feebly. She was worried. She turned on the flashlight she had carried.
She kept on moving, praying that she reached the middle of the jungle where the Jarawa tribe lived. The howls of the night kept on increasing. The soil was damp with a smattering of moss making it slippery and wet. She continued walking for a long time until her flashlight started getting feeble. Nobody intercepted her and she couldn’t believe it.
It was almost dawn. The forest had thinned and finally, she had arrived at the Jarawa village. Finally, she saw one tribal. She hid for a few minutes trying to avoid the contact. But the man didn’t move. As she gathered courage and moved closer, the man had bruises all over the body and his bones were visible- the man was very sick. As she moved ahead, more and more Jarawas were lying on the ground half dead. Her heart was grief-struck.
A voice came from behind, “You have come very late. All the men, women and children all suffer in the absence of the mystic healer- the cat. The existence of the whole tribe is threatened.”
She looked back. It was Mamba, who spoke good English.
Sejal handed over the cat to Mamba, who applied a paste of herbs. The cat slowly opened its eyes as Sejal peeped; she saw the return of sparkle….
“Where is my husband?” Sejal asked.
Her heart leapt with joy as she saw a fair man almost naked with just a few leaves tied around his waist appearing from behind the bushes, muttering something in the local language.
She had finally found the meaning of life in one of the most primitive civilizations that survived in the world today.