“Yippeee!!! Er…what is it, Raji?
“Over there! Can you see them? The sacred stones!”
“The sacred stones!!! Where?”
“There. Rohit is sitting on them.”
“Oh, YESSS!!! OMG! Yippeee!!! Lovely, alle? See, Shalu. Those dark ones. Grainy, but shining. Can you see them?”
“Ohhh….Yyesss! I can see them. On the stream! Has Seetha Devi really cooked rice on them?”
“Yes, Shalu. That is what the legend says. But I don’t understand why Rohit is sitting on them. I don’t like it. I mean, it is sacrilege!”
“May be he doesn’t know he is sitting on the very rocks we have been searching all this time. Isn’t that funny?”
“Funny!!! It is sacrilegious to sit on those sacred rocks! Let us tell him.”
“Rohit….ROHIT…,” The girls shouted; Rohit turned his head, and asked what.
“Rohit…you are sitting on the sacred stones.”
Rohit jumped to his feet, startled, and turned around to see.
What followed were loud shrieks and yells that shook the very forest we were in.
Dawn and I were exploring down the river when we heard the deafening cries. We dashed upstream. It could be a snake. A tiger may be. We ran as fast as we could.
I had never seen a tiger eating a colleague.
*** *** ***
What you would first mark in a boy like Rohit is his primness and obsession for good manners. We worked in a team to bring out the first English tabloid from Trivandrum.
One day, he pulled me aside:
“Sir, don’t get me wrong. But please put all your buttons when you are at the office.”
“But Rohit, this comes at the collar. How can I button it!”
“You must, because girls are in the office.”
Now you have a picture of Rohit.
So obsessed was the boy that every five minutes he would commission his hands to smoothen back those tufts of hair on his head. Every ten minutes they would fumble towards his back to see whether something was stuck on his bums, the other side of his corpulent planet. And every fifteen minutes he found some excuse to slip into the toilet, bent down like a yoga master to see whether the zipper on his pants hadn’t tripped even a rung down from the roof. The obsession soon reaped results.
His TAM ratings among girls soared to dizzying heights.
They trusted Rohit more than they trusted their parents. “Oh! Such a decent guy!” They cooed.
One day we had to do a story about a hillock on the outskirts of the city. Someone briefed us about a local legend that Seetha Devi had cooked rice for Lord Rama and Lakshmana during their 14-year stint in the mountain. A couple of sacred stones were still there.
“We will go only if Rohit accompanies us,” the girl colleagues declared. “We are ready to miss our daughters even for a month, if Rohit is with them,” the Father’s Guild also stated.
Off we went – three happy girls, one happy boy, and Dawn and I, completely pissed off.
We were desperate to see the sacred stones. Leaving Rohit with the girls to investigate the hilltop and the river, Dawn and I went downstream to explore.
It was then we heard the deafening cries.
“What happened?” Nobody stopped to give us a picture. We ran uphill holding our breath.
There they were – the girls squatting on the river bank, their heads buried deep into their palms and crying. “What happened?” We fell down on our knees near them, panting heavily. One pointed her shivering finger towards the river.
“What is the matter?” We asked Rohit, still spindling on the river, like a fan with a broken belt.
“Sir, they told me I was sitting on the sacred stones. But I haven’t seen them. The screaming part, I don’t know.”
Suddenly Dawn and I spotted the sacred stones – the stones Rohit was sitting on all the while. A shudder went through our spines.