That day I told my missus we would have lunch in our mess as she had been longing for a bit of relief from the culinary chore. With a twinkle in her eyes and a pleasant smile on her lips she gave me a nod in the affirmative. We got ready to proceed to the mess in our Air Force station at a northeastern region. A quarter of an hour of ride on my motorbike took us to our mess. As ordered, the waiter placed before us a good spread of typical south Indian vegetarian repast. One of the dishes in the meal was quite toothsome, tempting us to enquire the waiter what was the vegetable that went into its preparation and how it was prepared.
Albeit a waiter alone, he offered us some hints on its recipe. Apt to get the hang of its preparation, my other half bade me to get jackfruit—the main ingredient of the dish—from somewhere as it was not an item of the vegetables up for grabs in the nearby market. The sight of a jungle, a little away from our quarters abound in trees bearing jackfruits, flashed through my mind double quick.
The very next Sunday, arming myself with a pig-sticker and shoving a duffel bag into the pannier of my bike I proceeded to that jungle. On the way Verma, my office colleague signalled me to halt. As I told him the intent of my movement to the woods close to our quarters, he got on the pillion tout de suite. At this, I queried him whether his wife would make dishes using jackfruit. He replied in the negative and added that he would ripen them in the haystack at the backyard of his house and consume their granules later.
Getting at the right location I parked my vehicle and picked my way through a stretch of lane amidst a thicket with Verma in tow. The path led us to a place in the jungle dense with huge trees canopying the area with their sprawling crown, besides turning it dark as against the outside.
A cluster of trees with jackfruits drew our quick attention. A hotshot in climbing trees, Verma ascended one and in a matter of minutes dropped a few fruits. Climbing another one close to it, I cut off some with my pig sticker and let them fall to the ground. A look at the number of pieces we had dropped prompted us to descend.
Collecting and shoving them in two twos, in our bag we moved off the spot and parked ourselves on one of the thick, robust roots spread around a big tree, resting our feet on another comparatively slenderer one and began nattering about the variety of reptiles generally inhabiting such jungles.
As we were discussing the possibility of pythons living in such wooded regions, our feet resting on the tree root in front began slanting aside. Shocked by the involuntary movement of our legs, we raised them in short order craning our necks and casting a lynx-eyed look along the length of the object that ended afar exposing the head of stout reptile.
“Forthwith the devil did appear, when named.” That was for sure a python indistinguishable in appearance from the tree root we had perched on. At once we scampered out, carrying our bag of jackfruits and mounted the bike.
Though my colleague and I were content with the success of our mission, the ghastly sight of the constrictor serving us as a footrest was a bitter lesson for us not to venture into any unfamiliar woods.