Somebody called out Mustuphā’s name. I woke up and saw that it was eleven o’clock. I went out into the courtyard wondering who he could be asking for Mustuphā so late. The voice, it seems is a familiar one but difficult to recognize. Moving towards the khadki, I asked, ‘Who is it?”
By the time Mustuphā opened the door, switched the lights on and said, “It is Gopālbhāi. Open the door.”
Gopāl said, “It’s me, Gopāl. Mustuphā, you recognized me from my voice.”
When I opened the Khadki before Gopāl, Ravibhā stepped in and said, “Would you have recognized me from my voice or you have maintained relationship with only Gopālbhāi?”
“It’s not so. Everyone that visits the Gayr has to be kept track of. Otherwise how could the Gayr survive?” Mustuphā said.
Ravibhā said, “Can you recognize all those who frequently visit the Gir? If it is so, it is very good.”
Mustuphā said, “Yes, it’s good. Come inside and I will talk to you. If it is possible, by nine o’clock in the morning tomorrow I will show you something. What do you take us, the people of the forest department for?”
Ravibhā laughed and said, “Oh fine! You have become extremely brave!”
I am gradually getting used to their way of talking in an ironical tone. But at present it was not clear as to what the matter was and what Mustuphā was going to show. Perhaps it was about the killers of the lions.
As if to clear my doubt, Ravibhā said to Mustuphā, “Have you apprised your neighbour about your act of bravery? Both he and Sā̃sāi have shown great interest in this matter.”
“I was to tell him but he was with that Bharathari. How could I disclose the matter in his presence? So I didn’t tell him anything and then it was late.”
Before taking the conversation further, Mustuphā called out Ābedā to prepare tea and asked Gopāl, “What about your meals?”
“We have already taken our meals. It will do if you don’t bother for tea so late at night. Why wake up Ābedā so late?”
“Don’t talk of waking her up. She must be already up and she must have started preparing tea even without my asking her. If you don’t believe me, go there and see. Of course, it is night but not midnight.”
As if Mustuphā’s statement was being answered, Ābedā said, “Jinat ke Abbā, Chāy le janā.”( Jinat’s Papa, take this tea kettle.)
Gopāl said to Mustuphā, “What a surprise! Ābedā has switched over to new code. Normally she speaks Gujarati. But today it is something new!”
Mustuphā while going inside to bring tea, said, “She uses the dialect while talking to the members of the family but with others she would not”.
While sipping tea, the matter was discussed that the killer of lions has been arrested along with the equipment. All details were discussed as to how the information came to light, what and how things were done and how the whole operation was successfully carried out.”
At last Mustuphā asked, “Why so late; Any problem?”
Gopāl and Ravibhā looked at each other and smiled. Then Gopāl said, “Problem could have occurred but luckily it did not.”
‘What happened?” I asked.
Ravibhā said, “Nothing has happened to us. It happened to the bike. It has slipped into a pit. We will have to send someone to pull it out”.
“Where? In which pit?’ Mustuphā asked.
Ravibhā replied, “By the culvert that lies between Jānvadlā and Sirvān. We left Sirvān at about eight. We had hardly reached the culvert when Gopālbhāi realised that a leopard had climbed down.”
“Then?” I worriedly asked.
As though taking lightly the whole situation, Ravibhā said with a smile, “Nothing. Gopālbhāi made me search for the leopard and I searched for the cause way. By that time the leopard must have taken its path and our vehicle was in the river.”
“I hope you are not seriously injured,” I said.
“No, no,” Ravibhā said.
Before he could talk in detail Mustuphā as if he was displeased, said, “Why did you take that road?”
Ravibhā explained the things in detail. He said that under the University Exchange Programme students of Bhopāl and Jabalpur had come to Saurāshtra and some students from Saurāshtra had gone to Madhya pradesh.
The university had decided to send the guest students to the Gir for two days. This decision was conveyed to the forest department. The authority had declared that a camp should be held at Batheshwar camp sight.
Concluding his talk Ravibhā said, “We are extremely elated if there is a mention of Batheshwar. Because we would be there as resource persons we had gone out to see the sight. Before the people from Madhya Pradesh reach there, the things should be in order.”
Mustuphā was not interested in this clarification. He expressed his concern saying, “Gopālbhāi, for numerous times I have asked Ravibhā that he should drive his vehicle along the road itself rather than move away to the sides. He allows himself to enter the troubled zone.”
“Then we will be your guests,” Ravibhā said and smiled.
Mustuphā was still displeased. He said, “You are always welcome as a guest but not in such a condition. You may sustain injury and then the problem for us is where to take you.”
“Even if something untoward happens things can be managed. See by now we should have reached Keshod. But now we cannot for tomorrow those people are coming. We should go back to Batheshwar from here only.”
Gopāl said, “No, I am going to Madhupur tomorrow. I will hand over my charge to someone there and will reach Batheshwar by tomorrow evening. The office keys are with me.”
Ravibhā said, “This is not fair, Gopālbhāi. Should I go all alone to Batheshwar?”
I was worried about both of them. I said, “Better go to bed now or your bodies will not support you tomorrow. Over and above you have had that accident.”
Both of them slept in my room. Early in the morning Gopāl waked me up and said softly, “Bye, I am leaving.”
“But…” Before I could say anything, Gopāl indicated to me to keep quiet.” Once again before leaving he said,” When Ravibāpu wakes up; tell him that Gopāl would reach Batheshwar by late evening.”
I said, “Don’t worry. You leave, I will accompany Ravibhā.”
Even at seven thirty Ravibhā did not wake up. Ābedā said to me, “The arrival time of the bus is nearing. Wake him up or reaching Batheshwar would be difficult.”
I woke up Ravibhā and we set out together. We got into the bus for Jāmwālā. Just then I saw Sā̃sāi coming towards the bus. She also sighted us, and got into the bus and asked Ravibhā, “How is it that you are here? You were at Batheshwar, weren’t you?”
“I am in front of you,” Ravibhā said
Sā̃sāi laughed and said, “I can also see that. But then why did Dhāniya made me rush?”
Ravibhā replied, “How would I know why he made you run? Only Dhānu can say that.”
As if annoyed Sā̃sāi said, ” Ābedā puts in a word at Dhānu’s place at night that Sā̃sāi should reach Bhateshwar for Ravibhā is alone there. Do you know what a long distance I have covered? Is Kathitad nearby?”
“What a trouble!” Ravibhā said, “Since you are here, join us. We are two and Gopālbhāi will come in the evening.”
“since you have called me from such a distance, I should go with you” saying so, putting her bag in the self above Sā̃sāi seated herself at the next seat.
Ravibhā asked Sā̃sāi, “Why had you gone to Kathnitad?”
Peering out of the window, Sā̃sāi said, “To get the ghee tins packed to be sent to Mumbai. But things were not alright.”
“Why? Did you not get the ghee or was it not properly refined?” Ravibhā said.
“Ghee was alright but do you remember Lājo’s Girvān?” Sā̃sāi said as if recalling some human being.
“Which Girvān?” Ravibhā trying to recall asked.
Bending her neck to one side Sā̃sāi said, “Lājo’s cow, that red once, which she had brought with her from her parent’s house.”
Ravibhā laughed and said,” A good name for a cow! At the most, I can recognize human beings. I cannot recognize cows and buffaloes.”
Sā̃sāi said, “If you don’t know let me tell you. Girvān was very dear to Lājo and she had been taken away by lionesses.”
I said, “This is bound to happen here if one is inattentive.”
Sā̃sāi did not allow me to speak any further. She said, “Everyone is aware about all these things. Cattle have been a part of the Gayr and from the times immemorial, as the trees are. They have developed the art of living.”
Ravibhā trying to divert the topic asked,” Where was the cow killed?”
At Kamleshar rivulet which has its source behind Kāthitad. Bhalo and Manu were grazing the buffaloes together. The cow was lifted up from there.”
“How could this happen when two cowboys were there together with buffaloes? Ravibhā expressed his surprise.
Sā̃sāi turned towards us to tell the things in detail. She said “Despite all this, it happened. For two days Manu was alone at grazing. While Bhaliyo was busy with me collecting ghee and packing it in tins. A day more was utilized in sealing the tins. The lionesses must have observed the small boy grazing all alone and thought it would be convenient for them to attack.”
Ravibhā as if agreed with Sā̃sāi, supported her view. I asked “Can lionesses make such planning?”
Ravibhā said, “Yes, not only they can but they also do.”
As though supporting what Ravibhā was trying to say, Sā̃sāi said firmly, “Right from centipedes to people like you and me- everyone makes plans according to their capacity.”
The way Sā̃sāi linked the matter with what had foregone I felt I could see everything before my eyes. She went ahead in such a great detail that my mind automatically captured the sketches. Perhaps Ravibhā must also have felt so.
This is how the things happened. After the ghee tins were loaded into the vehicle people had a sigh of relief and they had some time to spare. After having taken their meal, Bhalo and Manu set out with their herd of buffaloes. Along with them was Lājo’s cow. After completing the chores, Lājo said to Sā̃sāi, “Since you are here let us make some dung cakes.”
What do we do with the dung? Make dung cakes or use it as manure? I am not interested in making cakes. I have come to collect ghee and my work is over.”
Lājo again said,” Why are you so indifferent, Sā̃si? The monsoon is round the corner and I will be facing the shortage of fuel.”
Sā̃sāi was ready and said, “Come on, I am positive now. Where do we go?”
“On the rocks of the rivulet,” Lājo pointed out at the spot and added, “Manu and your brother must be grazing there.”
Giving a meaningful smile Sā̃sāi said, “Why don’t you say that you want to take butter milk for Bhalo? It is scorching heat and it is natural that you are worried about your husband.”
Lājo blushed a little. She said, “Whatever you take it to be. Don’t be childish. Let us go. Let’s take buttermilk with us. We shall offer it to both of them for it is very hot today.”
Taking with them troughs filled with dung and pots full of buttermilk, they moved towards the rivulet, where the bank facing the nes is open and stony. Chhipar is for them flat surface of stony riverbed. Both of them were making dung cakes on the Chhipar. Intoning of duhās by Bhalo was audible from behind the green bushes on the opposite bank.
After they completed their work Sā̃sāi called out Bhalo. So they drove their cattle on the opposite bank, closer to us. Leaving his cattle on the slope Bhalo said,” Why are you shouting?”
“Nobody is shouting. It is your Lājo who has brought buttermilk for you. Come and take it.” Sā̃sāi said.
When Bhalo started climbing down the slope, Lājo called out and said, “You need not come. I will come and give it to you.”
This was the only fault. Hearing Lājo’s voice, her favourite cow came out from the cover of the buffaloes and climbed up the slope. She stood there looking at this bank.
While Bhalo was taking the pot of buttermilk, the cow was climbing down to cross the rivulet. This was the best opportunity for the lionesses. They had been looking for such an opportunity for the last three days.
Suddenly emerging from behind the bush two lionesses leapt over the cow. At the first attempt they could not seize the neck of the cow. Girvān, though wounded, made frantic efforts to get away from the attack and rushed towards Lājo.
The lionesses estimated the distance. They must have thought that Bhalo was still away. Both of them once again attacked the wounded cow, from behind.
On hearing the growling of the lionesses and the fearful bellowings of the cow Bhalo lifted his staff and was about to rush towards the lionesses to drive them away, Just then Lājo prevented him by holding his hand. “Now don’t go. The wounded cow will not survive. She will have a painful death. Leave her to her fate.”
Then wiping her eyes she said, “Don’t try to save her from the clutches of the lionesses now. They must have attacked her out of their dire hunger. Take it that I have offered Girvān to the lionesses.”
Keeping a watch if Bhalo rushes into their direction, the lionesses fell the cow down. The dying cow was sure that if not Bhalo, Lājo would definitely rush to save her. She continued her bellowing.
Lājo neither rushed nor let Bhalo do that. The dying cow as if her trust was broken kept lying on the ground without making any efforts to save herself.
Lājo knelt down with spreading the loose end of her sari before her said, “Mother, please forgive me. I had reasons for not saving you. Had I even saved you, you were not likely to survive and I would not have been able to put up with the suffering that you were likely to undergo.
Lājo stood motionless till the lionesses pulled away Girvan into the bushes. Before moving towards her home, with folded hands she said, “Girvān, my mother, may your soul rest in peace! I will observe fast on five Ekādashis.(eleventh day of moon)”
Lājo got up and as if talking to the lionesses who were taking away the cow said, “I have donated you the cow that was like a daughter to me. May the hunger of your cubs and yours be gratified! What else can I say to you? How can I scold you? ”
Concluding her talk Sā̃sāi said, “Lājo took it to her heart that Girvān had continued to look at her with a hope that Lājo would rush and try to save her. But as she did not she felt so bad. That’s why I stayed back at her place.”
I could not speak anything. Ravibhā too sat silent, listening to the whole account.
While getting down at the bus stand at Jāmwālā, Sā̃sāi assigned me a duty, “As soon as you reach Sāsan go to the forest office and get Girvān’s donation registered so that nobody else applies for the compensation.”
“Ok,” I said. I failed to understand how I should feel while getting the donation registered- joy or sorrow?
– ધ્રુવ ભટ્ટ (To Buy the book from amazon, Click Here )
શ્રી ધ્રુવ ભટ્ટની ગીરની સંસ્કૃતિ અને લોકજીવનનો, એ સુંદર અને પ્રકૃતિના આશિર્વાદોથી લચી પડેલા પ્રદેશની વિશેષતાઓનો અને વન્યસૃષ્ટિ સાથેના માનવના સહજીવનનો, માન્યતાઓનો પરિચય કરાવતી સુંદર નવલકથા અકૂપાર માંથી આ પહેલા પણ અક્ષરનાદ પર પ્રસ્તુતિ થઈ છે. અકૂપારનો હાલમાં જ અંગ્રેજીમાં અનુવાદ પ્રો. પિયુષ જોશી અને ડૉ. સુરેશ ગઢવીએ કર્યો છે. અકૂપારના આ અંગ્રેજી સંસ્કરણમાંથી થોડો ભાગ આજે અક્ષરનાદના વાચકો માટે ધૃવભાઈની પરવાનગી સાથે ઉપલબ્ધ કરાવ્યો છે. આ પહેલા સમુદ્રાન્તિકેનો પણ અંગ્રેજી અનુવાદ રજૂ થયેલો છે. અકૂપારના અંગ્રેજી સંસ્કરણ માટે ધ્રુવભાઈને અભિનંદન સહ શુભકામનાઓ.