Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Haunting in the Sunderbans

Three friends Rohan, Ratul and Pabindra broke all the rules of the jungle while travelling deep inside the Sunderbans, one of the most dangerous forests in the world, which also has its fair share of horror stories. So, did they live to tell their tale?

Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, is not only known for its majestic Bengal tiger but also has its fair share of paranormal activity tucked deep inside the jungles, especially the core area.

The forests are almost 60 per cent inside Bangladesh and the remaining 40 per cent is in West Bengal (India).

Grapevine has it that if you want to return home from an adventure in the Sunderbans, dubbed one of the most dangerous forests in the world, you will have to seek the blessings of Bon Bibi, the deity of the forest.

Both Hindus and Muslims fervently believe that only Bon Bibi can protect you from the perils of the Sunderbans.  

But three friends Rohan, Pabindra and Ratul, were unruly youths from Kolkata who had come to this dangerous forest but weren’t ready to follow its norms. Instead, they wanted to make their own rules.

The had come on a motorboat with a travel agent, who had a scheduled day tour lined up for tourists. They were to first go on a road trip and then it would be water all the way.

After a three-hour journey from Kolkata, they got into a motorised boat and, along with 40 other tourists, who were part of the tour, headed for Sajnekhali in the Sunderbans. 

It took a few hours and the boat anchored at Sajnekhali village. 

There Rohan, Pabindra and Ratul got down and booked a tourist bungalow, discontinuing their boat journey. They apparently had a grandiose plan for themselves.

In the Sajnekhali tourist bungalow, they booked for two nights and also got hold of a local, Chinmoy, to take them on a stretch — seldom visited by anyone — around midnight. 

This is a 5 km road that leads to the forest and there is a Dak bungalow, where a serial killer of a nearby village used to kidnap people and kill them in a gruesome manner. 

This is a 50-year-old story, that is, the incident took place around 1970. Since then, this is a forbidden place and the locals don’t enter this road even during the day, unless in groups.

They would take a detour to reach their destination rather than cross this stretch. 

But the three friends were determined to walk along this road at night and even wanted to get a feel of the forest during the day. 

It was Rohan’s friend in Kolkata, Piku, who told him about this stretch.   

They walked into the forest, and a few minutes inside, Rohan, Pabindra and Ratul already started getting an eerie sensation. 

Inside the forest, it was so dark even during a bright day that it almost felt like night. But they carried on for a while. Suddenly, Pabindra turned frigid.  

It seemed that he saw a tiger peep from a nearby tree and disappear. In fact, Pabindra thought he saw it clearly and warned the others. 

He asked himself, “How come this tiger just ran away without harming us? It could have easily caused harm to us.” 

Also, Pabindra was getting an unusual sensation the grass and the creepers in the forest were trying to wriggle around his legs, giving the impression that a spider was crawling on his feet. 

Yes, this wasn’t something he was imagining, it was for real.

Pabindra was wondering what was going on, saying to himself, “This is going on during the day. What is in store at night?” He shuddered to think what would happen in the dark.  

Ratul, on the other hand, was bewildered by the aggression of the animals along the stretch. The monkeys, birds and even the humble deer looked as if they were baying for his blood. 

He had walked across myriad forests in India and abroad but never witnessed anything like this. 

Rohan was the only one, who, despite getting a feeling that he was being followed – and that someone had touched him – remained dauntless and decided not to budge from his decision. 

He shouted at Pabindra and Ratul. “What on earth are you guys up to? You are running away now, so do you expect to go deeper inside at night? Why don’t we abandon the plan? 

Pabindra and Ratul thought it was a good idea but said nothing. 

Evening came and there was high tea awaiting them in the lodge – samosas, pastries and cutlets. “What a surprise,” Rohan said, while munching the samosas. 

Even the tea was a top grade TGFOP Darjeeling variety, whose flavour the trio savoured.

“Thank you manager,” said Rohan, while tipping him generously.

Night came and Chinmoy, the so-called local guide, arrived. He had said yes to the night trek, lured by the Rs 10,000 being offered to him, but he seemed uncomfortable. 

He was well aware of this stretch and also knew that he may not live to tell his tale. 

So, he made a pact with Rohan. “If I don’t come back, hand over the money to my family,” Chinmoy told Rohan, to which he nodded.

The clock struck 12 and it was time to leave. Ratul, Pabindra and even Rohan were nervous, even as they tried to smile at each other. Along with Chinmoy, they left for the forest.  

The night had made the forest even more menacing. And, Ratul, Pabindra and Rohan along with Chinmoy had realised this by just entering it where it seemed to them that the plants were creeping towards them, welcoming them to the impending danger. 

But they put up a brave front, flashing their torches in the pitch dark and hitting the plants with their bamboo rods. As they walked along, it seemed they were being followed by not one but thousands of disgruntled souls.

They realised that this was an extraordinary night for them. As they walked deeper inside, they saw the tiger again. 

Fearing for their lives, they walked together, keeping their bamboo rods ready in case the carnivore attacked.

But it again disappeared into the forest. They were baffled as the tiger did not attack them even this time.

As they walked along, Pabindra was moving in a different direction, as an invisible force was pulling him along. He veered off from his team and walked along a different route.

Rohan, Ratul and Chinmoy frantically started looking for him and after a 10-minute search, he was found in a trance lying down somewhere in the forest.

After some water was sprinkled on his face, he regained consciousness. Then, the four walked along but Pabindra’s behaviour was somewhat strange.

They reached the dreaded house at last and when they walked inside they heard a strange noise, as if a woman was being strangled to death by many, followed by a guffaw.

It was a big two-floor house with around 15 rooms. Here, Ratul was terrified even as Rohan and Chinmoy tried to comfort him.

“Let us… let’s go back,” Ratul said, to which Rohan replied, “Don’t worry, we’re all together. Nothing will happen to us.”

They walked along inside, and after a while, Ratul suddenly disappeared. Rohan and Chinmoy were taken aback, and added to this, it was Pabindra’s strange behaviour that was also troubling them.

Chinmoy decided to look for Ratul. He searched the entire ground floor, and then, went up to the first floor. Someone was definitely behind him. He looked behind, saw no one, and ran upstairs.

In one of the rooms upstairs, Ratul was seen squatting and gave a strange and skewed look when Chinmoy called him.

He told Chinmoy, “Go away, if you want to live.” His voice was not his anymore.

But Chinmoy held him tightly by the arm and forcibly took him down even as Ratul lay cold.

Rohan held Pabindra and the four left for their forest bungalow. On their way, they came face to face with the same tiger again.

This time, Rohan was sure that time was up for him. As the tiger headed towards him, it jumped. Rohan shut his eyes but to his surprise, nothing even touched him.

Chinmoy saw that the tiger, which jumped on Rohan, wasn’t real. There was a big shadow in front of Rohan, and then, it just disappeared.

“This must be the man eater, which the nearby villagers hunted down last year,” Chinmoy told Rohan as they grappled to move along with the other two.

After a 20-minute walk inside the forest, amid the strange noises, they managed to reach their bungalow.

As Pabindra and Ratul were not their usual self, Rohan told Chinmoy, “Stay here tonight. You can go home tomorrow.” To this, Chinmoy agreed.

Next morning, as Rohan got up to open the window, he was in for his biggest shock. There was no sign of Pabindra and Ratul.

He immediately woke up Chinmoy, who called the locals and informed the police.

An hour later, a search team arrived and along with Chinmoy and Rohan, went deep into the forest.

At the spot where Pabindra veered off, they located his body. And, upon reaching the Dak bungalow, they also found Ratul — lying dead on the first floor.

Rohan was flabbergasted while Chinmoy asked himself, “Who did we take back yesterday, then?”

As he narrated last night’s incident to the police, the officer in-charge said, “You two will have to stay inside a prison cell for a few days until our investigation is over.”

As Rohan and Chinmoy walked along with the police, they spotted the tiger’s tail near a peepal tree. 

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