Last Call from Kaziranga

“My story begins a year ago.” That’s how most stories begin, don’t they? With a touch of mystery that makes the audience sit and look expectantly at the raconteur. And what follows is usually a thrilling tale of the storyteller escaping from devious villains, defying all odds, to emerge a victorious hero.

Well, my story begins a year ago too. But from where I am, it doesn’t look or feel all that thrilling. It’s downright scary. And would be to you too, if you knew you were certain to die. If you knew that wishful thinking was not going to help.

Before I continue rambling, let me tell all you confused readers what I am. I am one of what are called the Great Indian Rhinos. Yes, one of the very species that is being hunted down and killed. Why we are called “great”, I have no idea.

I live in the dense forests that are not so dense anymore. I have been on the run for the past one year.

A year ago, I stumbled upon a dead rhino. I was shocked senseless! Not because I didn’t know that rhinos, like all other living things on this planet, die. Not even because I realised that one day I would die too. It was because I realised how I was going to die. Because what I saw was a dead rhino lying in a pit on the forest floor; its legs tied up to wooden posts by ropes, its head tied to another as if it was being choked; and a great big gaping hole where the horn should have been. A great big bloody gory gaping hole which dripped blood into a pool on to the floor of the pit. The sight was not just repulsive or horrifying. It was infinitely worse, with those white sightless eyes staring out, the expression of its sheer agony captured in them. It was bone-chilling.

I don’t know how long I stood and stared at it. All I know was that suddenly I was running. Running as fast as I could, getting away from there as the image of those white eyes haunted me, telling me to just get away before I met my end the same way.

I am still on the run today, not knowing how long I will survive before those goddamned humans find me and slaughter me.

*This article won first prize in a creative writing competition organised by the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune, and was published in the 2005 edition of Mosaic, the college magazine.

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