The temple town was dull with nothing that held our interest, the 'Siva' and 'lingam' were huge, but then I always failed to appreciate things by its size and so this was no different pious object. After having checked in at an inn, which only the temple towns in India offer, we felt bored having our dinner at 7:30. The entire ride after the octopus viewpoint, I have been talking with Rohit about the feasibility of spending the night at the viewpoint. He knew it was in my mind looking at the smile, when we made it there in day light. He didn't object to it till then but was not very sure as well. Now being forced to do nothing, it didn't take much time for him to tell me, "go buy your candles, lets go to that damn place you been wanting to."
We were going to make a visit again to the view point, this time not at the safety of daylight, but in the darkness of night. There are scores of laws in force, which prohibits even the presence of humans in Reserve Forest, and most of them non-bailable. Then the danger posed by the wild animals at night and to top it, the greatest danger was posed by the renegade Naxals who been resorting to abduction of late in that area, from what the internet tells me. We knew the dangers, but then the wanting to really do something truly wild, gave in the push required to set us of tearing down the roads back into the jungle, a good 30 kilometer back the same road we took.
The stretch was dark, but the markings on the road were highlighted in the moon-light. It was a summer night and the stars plenty. We found the sign board once again and stopped at the entrance of the beaten old trail, which leads to the view point. There was no light on the ground from the moon or the stars, the little trees made sure the underbush never saw anything of the moon. We were hesitant, I got down from the bike and slowly walked into the clearing in the head light and asked Rohit to follow me up close, so that the light would be the guide and we cover the 300 meters to the watch tower almost together.
Walking the path in the head light, I could feel the rate of my heart beat increase. I was not feeling alright, but yet I went walking forward, in pitch darkness till the view point. The sign of it was a welcome relief.
Struggling to light a candle in the strong warm wind from the valley, I told Rohit that my heart beat has increased and he told me that he is not going to switch of the light until I light the candle. I finally manage to fix a candle at the bottom of the stairs of the watch tower and lit the candle. Rohit switched the lights of and the darkness that came in was absolutely different. The candles light seemed bright, but not really re-assuring. With the lighted candle held in my hand and nothing else to defend against man or beast, we climbed the spiral stairs up, half expecting to see some wild animal come down from the tower.
The wind blew away the light and in the darkness, at an un-guarded watch tower in the core area of a tiger reserve, I felt afraid. If you ask me whether I was afraid of the beasts lurking nearby, I was not. I was afraid whether the light might have caught the attention of some rogue man, looking for an easy victim for ransom. But fighting the growing sense of un-easiness inside me, which I realized as fear, I lit the candle again and lit my cigarette from it. I was afraid, but I was not game to leave from there. The view of the basin in moon-light, with a million stars illuminated, with a sense of overwhelming danger lurking and the eerie sounds of night which coupled with silence, gave everything for me to stay the night there.
An hour goes by, nothing happens and we get used to the eeriness and from no where hear a sudden rustling of leaves and a cry from very close, as if from very near to the watch tower of an animal in pain, under attack. We listened silently not daring to make a sound. If we could climb the nice spiral stares of the watch-tower so could any animal, if it chose to. And, in case of men who wanted to harm innocent travelers, we were sitting ducks. Rohit, couldn't take it much longer and he said we will go back. I had to agree, for the fear have been growing inside me as well. The man inside me taunted me, made fun about the feeling of fear, but deep down inside, I knew I was scared and required a reason to go back.
Silently we climbed the stairs down and Rohit quickly started the bike and the head lights. I walked a meter up front, in the light, volunteering to be the one to move the shrub or looka round for any signs of movement. We heard twigs breaking and that brought in springs in my foot and I walked fast, grabbing a log and beating it on the ground with my every step. We finally made it back to the opening to the main-tarred road and of we went riding back, knowing fully well, it was not something that both will be sharing with parents.
Sitting on the bed at the place we rented after getting back from the ride a little past midnight, I knew it could have been a close call for all its worth. But the risk, worth taking for just the view and the awesome sounds that only a jungle can bring.