“How much more time would it take, Bhaiya?” I asked impatiently for the third time as GPS refused to show the way in this desolated area.


“Madamji, I just told you, it would take only thirty minutes. You just relax,” assured the taxi driver.


The lonely, bumpy ride and the gigantic trees with branches hanging from everywhere had already created a lump in my throat. 


“Madamji, you will have to walk down from here as it’s not possible to drive on these rocks,” said the driver pointing towards the way ahead.


“But how would I know the way,” I snapped at him with fear dripping from my voice.


“It’s right there Madamji,” replied he, this time pointing towards the cabin behind the trees.


“Ah okay! So finally it’s here,” I heaved a sigh of relief.


The cabin wasn’t as grimy as I’d expected it to be. It sparkled with sunrays that filtered through leaves and the air felt refreshing, unlike the polluted city air. The bed was neatly made and the kitchen was stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables.


My apprehensions were soon replaced with a sense of excitement and pride. I clicked a few pictures to capture the moment. I checked my phone but there was no signal.


“Thank God the place isn’t that crappy, I just need to spend two nights to prove to the boys that girls are no less than them,” I thought to myself.


Oh! In my bewilderment, I forgot to introduce myself!


So, I am Aradhya, a final year undergraduate in Microbiology. I know you must be wondering what I’m doing here in a desolated cabin in the woods.


So, the fact is that I can’t stand anyone disgracing women and it so happened that my group of friends, four boys and myself, had an intense discussion on women’s rights. After two hours of argument, Anuj challenged me to spend two nights alone in the woods and guess what, in the heat of the situation, I accepted it!


Now I might be an advocate of women’s rights but I’m certainly no relative of Mowgli! I can fight for my stance with words but I’m not strong enough to see an animal in the eye.


And still, here I was, alone in the forest, to prove that boys aren’t stronger than girls. 


I realized that night takes over the forest earlier than it does the city. As the Sun headed to heal another part of the world, eeriness surrounded the cabin. Sounds of hissing and howling started to fill the room. Wasn’t I supposed to be alone? Then why did fauna want to accompany me!


Suddenly I heard a knock at the door. My heart raced faster than the flight that brought me here. I decided not to answer the door.


Just then, someone knocked again, “Madamji? Madamji are you there?”


I recognized the driver’s voice and questioned, “What do you want? What are you doing here?”


“Madamji you forgot your book and glasses in my car. I came here to return that,” he replied.


I opened the door reluctantly. 


‘Zen- The art of simple living.’ He stood there with my book and glasses. I felt as if the Universe wanted me to indulge in that book. I quickly took my things from him and asked him to leave.


“Are you comfortable here Madamji? Do you need anything else?” he asked.


“I am fine. Thank you Bhaiya. Now you please go,” replied I, slamming the door.


Realizing that distraction was my only escape from the night, I immersed myself into the book, with music to shroud the background noises. 


The aromatic, refreshing air turned hostile and cold in the middle of night, sending shivers. I cursed Anuj for throwing the challenge in my face. 


I failed to understand why animals had to make noises at night. I couldn’t comprehend what was louder- the rumbling of my stomach or the growling of the wolves. I kept chanting the Maha Mrityunjay verse taught to me by my grandmother. I loved her a lot but had no intention of a rendezvous with her in heaven yet.


I spent the night huddled in the blanket with eyes on the book and ears submerged in the music while mind had frozen.


I woke up to the chirping of birds and energy of Sun. The scary forest had transformed into an enchanted one. I opened the door to find the driver sleeping outside. I was appalled.


Bhaiya, what are you doing here?” I yelled at him.


“Madamji, my car broke down so I had to settle here,” explained the driver, rubbing his eyes.


I found it weird and commanded him to leave immediately.


I spent the day exploring the nature and clicking the pictures and bracing for the night ahead. When I came back to my cabin, I noticed the driver again.


“What is it now?” I asked him furiously.


“Nothing Madamji. I just brought some fresh vegetables from my orchard,” he replied warmly.


I felt a little ashamed at my conduct but being a Delhi girl, I found it difficult to trust men.


As the Sun went down the horizon, I positioned myself on the bed with my book, headphones and a bowl of vegetable soup; determined to stay put as it was a matter of few hours and I wasn’t ready to quit.


When the susurration, wailing and screeching, started like an orchestra, someone knocked the door. My heart skipped a beat.


The banging became louder and incessant. With closed eyes, I kept chanting the MahaMrityunjay. 


“Girls rock!” came a loud cheer from outside. I stood up perplexed and ran towards the door to find my gang laughing and whistling. The driver was standing beside them.


It took me no time to understand that they had asked the driver to check for my safety. After all, they were my friends.


What a blast we had for the next two days! 


©Vandana Bhasin


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