“Even I can catch a bull by the horns,” Sukhram blurted out, boasting his bravery and lazily putting the glass of rice-beer to lips. Ramu had been hearing all these high-flown talks, finally chuckled and said, “Well, after drink even a mouse promises to bell a cat,” both his hands raptly engaged in grinding and mixing tobacco. Others were relishing puffing beedis and enjoying the glasses of rice-beer. “I will show you when time come if God grants,” Sukhram responded, downing the shots of rice-beer.
All the souls were sitting under a shadow of the large tree of a tamarind, enjoying the glasses of rice-beer on a balmy noon of the winter. All the vivid, lively, rice-beer lover fellows were the natives of the village of Sindri. Most of them were small farmer or daily wage-earner. This village was cluttered with full of greenery and encircled by a jungle. Trees of tamarind, black-plum, custard-apple and jujube crammed the tracks of the hamlet and in animals, bears and foxes showed glimpses on some ominous occasions. However, always tried to get out of the man’s way, perhaps a tacit accord was present between the shack dwellers and these creatures; for not to fiddle with the soberness and solemnity of the hamlet or they didn’t have the courage to ingress human territory in sunbeam. However, they would feel free to invade the village as nightwalker along with spirits in dreary as some of the folklores says that all night dweller are leagued with ghosts. By the by all mates of Sukhram were enjoying their favorite time pass of sipping rice-beer. Sukhram was a thin, tall man and was about thirty-five years old, always wore lungi and vest and the gift of gabbiness and swagger were the part of his identity. He worked as a cattle grazer and occasionally helped landlord Mahendra in tilling.
“It seems that you have taken an overdose,” a voice came out of the group. “Tut, tut! A lion is a lion, drunk or not,” once again Sukhram roared with the distinct swagger, “just pour another glass of rice-beer,” and placed the empty glass aside.
“Ok, let the lion drink,” Ramu conceded and instantly poured out rice-beer by a jug into that glass after having placed the tobacco into his own mouth.
“Don’t be feckless, you don’t have the guts to beat even Sheru,” a voice rose among friends.
“Don’t talk nonsense, even you don’t have courage to kick that stupid dog, Sheru is Mahendra’s favorite,” Sukhram replied. While all were enjoying gossip, suddenly, in the midst of these happenings, a voice appeared and claimed, “Sukhram, Mahedra has called you.” Perhaps, Sukhram was waiting an excuse like that to come out of friends’ drubbing, but showed uneasiness overtly and blurted out, “I am fed up with orders; one can’t even enjoy drink,” and downed whole the drink in one shot put the glass aside and roamed toward Mahendra’s house. That was the end of the meeting.
That was daily routine of the villagers. All the shack dwellers were hard-working, innocent mortals. All worked in their field or the field of landlords. Every household was earning enough for their family and no concern or fear pestered them.
Everything was going as usual. The bright and cheerful faces would roam around the village and the jungle. Everyone was enjoying sunbeams and rice-beer in a day and peaceful slumber in a night. Nevertheless, peace is always a hollow dream, and it is certainty that someone will break it.
After some months, as summer started tapping at doors to come and spring was enjoying a farewell, a rumour was emerged that a crazed bear, of enormous size, had attacked everyone who confronted that creature. Later on this was affirmed by the bearers of the attacker’s signature. This nocturnal attacker had altered some beautiful faces into ugly and rough ones, some had lost their arms and some had forced to take help of a crutch for walk .That black beast was roaming from sunset to sunrise around houses and alleyways and attacked every passerby. Every morning the villagers would find the traces of that bear as the bear attempted to dig out ants in the night and in this process that beast made ditches on earth and some thick black fur would fall from its body into that ditches. These unmistakable marks created a fearful feeling among the villagers .
Now they were frighten to roam after nightfall, no one showed courage to step out and confront the bear. This stranger must be a new one to the jungle dwellers community or a rebel, who had no respect for peace accord. So the Panchayat had called up a meeting to find out the solution of this horrible trouble and after some discussion, they decided that we had to eliminate that insane bear and the Panchayat called out for volunteers to kill that bear .Because of the gabbiness or perhaps a bit of the swaggering Sukhram was first to erect hand. After other men had chosen, Sukhram was preferred as the leader, as he was the first to join the group. The Panchayat gave them time for preparedness.
As a leader Sukhram arranged meeting to impart the chalked out plan to kill the bear on the day of operation at the wee hours of the morning. After discussing the pros and cons of every tactical step for some time, Sukhram declared, “Everyone has to go with bow and arrow even with a spear if that is not available. We will have to encircle him,” while he was busy in folding and tiding his lungi. But as a rule every time they attended meeting, sipped rice-beer and indulged in a rant.
After drinking session, they roamed toward the jungle. As known by the men where the bear had taken shelter they encircled that part of the jungle, and as they approached nearer, the bear fidgeted by the clamour of the men and the heavy footfalls, appeared and attacked the men in no time and galloped toward Sukhram. Sukhram had already dumbfounded and horrified by sudden attack and just tried to conceal himself in the lungi by tucking it over his head, leaving his underpants exposed but the bear’s jaws struck Sukhram’s head and the bear’s sharp teeth wounded Sukhram’s head badly and blood started to flow incessantly. Looking at sense no one had shown guts to chase down the bear and the bear vanished in jungle again. An amusement turned out into a nightmare for the amateur hunters and for Sukhram an unforgettable nightmare. Sukhram took time to recover from the shock and horror and as he recovered, unable to bear pain, cried like child. This incident had long-lasting impact on Sukhram, not only physically but also mentally; now all shared and enjoyed jokes about him.
After some days, Sukhram recovered from injuries, and started to follow his daily routine and enjoying life. One night he was sleeping outside Mahandra’s house. The gloomy and dreary night wrapped everything into darkness and mystique. Only the grasshopper’s strident sound effectively breaking the tranquility of the moment and the vague howling of foxes only gratifying mystique, suddenly Sheru started barking in very loud manner and a scared voice rose, “Sukhram, look like the crazed bear has entered in our garden and eating plums.”
Sukhram was drunk, unconscious and in the deep slumber but the sharp and shrill bark was enough to bring back a man from the world of elves to the dull world of obligations and a man can’t do anything except cringe if the dog’s wobbling tail brings bright shine on the face of your master. Having absorbed voice of Mahendra, he rubbed his eyes and rose quickly, perhaps the thought of vengeance overtaken his prudence and in rush of blood vowed, “This time I am not going to escape you ,you have already mess up with me once; just start counting the fleeting moment of your life”, and holding a cudgel he leapt to garden ,which was behind Mahendra’s house .
As he approached the beast, a huge black image emerged. Suddenly, a fit of terror enveloped the whole body of Sukhram and the fear of the unknown terror soaked him from his head to his heel; his hands and legs gone static as paralysis makes whole body moribund, although cudgel was still in his right hand and he saw two sharp cone-shaped objects were leaning toward his paunch and screamed, “O, God! It’s not a bear but a burly black bull.” But it was too late, the bull’s horns had already poked in Sukhram’s paunch and that strike hurled him in the air for some moment and a profound unconsciousness sized him after a great shriek.
When he recovered from unconsciousness felt great pain in his paunch and found a doctor, Maherdra, Ramu and other mates of him were sitting beside of him on charpoy. Abruptly, in an effort to humour Sukhram and lighten the atmosphere, Ramu joked, “Even the lion couldn’t catch a bull by the horns.”
“N-n-no, darkness of the night has saved him; I promise to change my words into reality in next opportunity,” Sukhram smiled and murmured. However, the bear never shown any glimpses after that incident had happened.