Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Midnight Hunt ( Part-I )

The bus stopped in front of the NICM (National Institute of Co-operative Management) campus. Everybody seemed a bit in hurry to get off the bus, the boys were busy pushing others next to them in almost every direction with occasional comments and laughers that remained hardly within the boundaries of decency considering that it was not there hostel rooms, where even the most preposterous of comments fails to cause stir among the general charming mood of people. Everybody looked a bit thrilled and excited. The source of all which seemed to be some talks about something crazy being planned for tonight. Most of the people didn’t know for sure but everybody knew that something is going to happen in the Jungle.

This story is of a time when I was still a fresher man in the fresher college of ours. Two hundred and forty Six young people with unfathomable freedom for the first time in their life, ready to do anything and everything ever imagined. With a complete absence of seniors and any kind of authority when in hostels, the things were getting crazier as the days or rather nights passed. The ever resonating sounds of great debates, loud talks and demonic laughter ruled the thick air during the night. Come midnight and the daredevil sports gods of hostel assembled in the middle grounds surrounded by long running balcony of three floors and howls of people waiting for the madness to start. But maybe I would leave this “Madness La Grand” for some other time and for now get back to that day before hunt and introduce you to this Jungle of ours.

Our college is situated on the outskirts of this very young and lush green city, named Gandhinagar. Infact such is the nature of this greenery that one would hardly find anything of interest other than the beautiful tress and herds of sheep in about a mile radius from the college. And if you ask about the most interesting times we had as the first batch of our Alma Mater, the undisputed answer would be our first year at NICM hostels. It’s the place marked by some of the most memorable and dottiest moments we had in our lives. But it so happens that this NICM campus with our hostel inside it is a bit far from our college. The NICM stands right on the highway whereas the college is situated on the road parallel to it and separated by two access roads equally distanced at around half a mile from NICM and again around one mile in length. So to reach the college campus by road one has to travel a perfect half square of distance around 2 miles from hostels. Now just imagine the situation of a person getting up at around 8 O’clock to find out that despite his most fanatic efforts which could have put his name in Guiness Book of records for getting all geared up in shortest possible time, he could not make it to the 8:30 lecture cause the bus which was supposed to take him there has already left and with little athletic skills it doesn’t seem within his capabilities to cover that distance in anyway, within such a short time. But as some wise men have said “Necessity is the Mother of all Invention” ( and as Engineers we tend to be exceptionally skilled in that), and so some of the wise men among us found out a shortcut way to college keeping in mind such desperate times which on later mathematical scrutiny proved out to be the shortest path possible.

This shortcut is a narrow cattle track starting right from the highway along the right boundary walls of NICM campus and then all the way to the parallel road and right infront of the entrance of our college campus. The whole one square mile area surrounded by four mile-long roads was mostly covered by plantation and some wild vegetation with NICM and the newly developing IT park occupying small plots along the highway edge of the block. With straight long plantation trees and ground completely covered with dead leaves it had a haunting look during sunsets with long shadows of trees convolving with each other to form strange patters of light and shadow on the ground, come night and the crackling sound of dead leaves below your feet gives you the impression of being followed by someone. Quite often the passer-bys walking through the plantations rather then the cattle-track came across strange foot-tracks of unknown species, and if lucky one could even spot a couple of Nilgayes, Peacocks and camels other than the herds of cow, buffalo and sheep. So as you see, the Jungle happened to have a vibrant ecosystem with a variety of native as well as visiting species among which the latest and smartest addition were the enthusiastic and inquisitive homo-sapiens of DA-IICT. Things being so interesting how could the imaginations of so many smart people afford to miss the opportunity? Everyday somebody had some or the other story to tell, mostly made-up and few others results of superlative imaginations of people crossing the Jungle during night, griped with fear of unknown, fueled by ridicule stories of others meant to put them in exactly the same situation !!!
The effect of all this small and interesting stories that kept popping up during our year long stay there was that they created a mix of excitement and enthusiasm among the people, which reached its pinnacle during that night of “The Midnight Hunt”, the incidents of which I intend to describe here.

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