In the night

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She sat in Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with a blue silk scarf. And the look in her eyes suggested she was living that night again in her head. I just sat there waiting for her to tell me why was she so different since that incident in Jharkhand? And then she spoke,

I need to share this with someone because if don't I won't be able to sleep properly. I know no one else who is can listen to something without an unbiased opinion other than you. I was moving from one village to other trying to get the right pictures for my next exhibition. The people of the village warned me to stop there for the night as the next village is across the forest and it was almost nightfall and I may get lost. But I decided to make a move and complete this assignment as soon as I can. I was an educated independent woman who had moved around the world. I have also stayed in some of the most dangerous environments just to get the right pictures at the right time. As I entered the jungle I followed the route the villagers had told me. I expected to clear most of it by the time sun went down but once I entered the forest I realized the trees were so dense there was hardly any sunlight there. It was way darker than I had anticipated. I used my torch to keep on my path but it wasn't long that I realized I had lost my way. It dawned on me when I did not get the big Banyan tree where the villagers had told me it would be.

I was in the dilemma of staying put or moving forward because both of them had their own set of difficulties. I had no supplies or equipment to camp and if I moved ahead there were chances that I get lost deeper in the jungle. I chose to try my luck and move ahead and try to get to the nearest village. I would have moved about 15-20 steps when I heard rustling of the nearby shrubs. I got alert since the villagers had informed me about wild animals in the jungle. The only thing I had at the time for my safety was a swiss knife and I held it firmly in front of me. A big 6'1" figure emerged from the shrubs and moved towards me. Fearing it would be a bear I started shouting and slashing the knife. I was surprised when the animal caught my hand and turned me around and placed his hand on my mouth.

"Shut up! You will attract animals." He whispered

I dipped my eyes to look at the hand that covered my mouth and it was of a man. I wanted to scream but couldn't. I started moving my head to let go of the grip but it was useless. The man was well built and I could feel his muscles flex when I tried to move.

"Relax! I am not going to hurt you. Now I am going to leave you and please don't shout."

I shook my head in approval but all my planned was to slash and run as soon as I got out of his grip. I wasn't gonna trust someone I met snooping in the jungle at night. He slowly let go and I turned and slashed hard he moved back to avoid it. Before I could make a run he grabbed my hand and twisted it that I drop the knife.

"Look you won't survive this jungle. I am just trying to help you."

"And why should I trust you. As far as I know you can be a bandit, rapist or a Maoist giving the area I am in."

It was dark but I could swear I saw his expression change a bit. He let go of my hand and started moving towards right where we were standing. Before disappearing he turned around and looked at me.

"I am a Maoist that does not mean I want to rape or kill you. If you want to get out follow me else it's your wish." I had to make a decision quick and the only sensible option was to follow him. I always had an option to run if I felt in danger. So I followed him. The first 15 min of the journey was rather quiet and which started making me really uncomfortable. I kept telling myself I'll be out of here in no time. He turned and looked at me like he had read my thoughts and said "You drifted way long in the jungle and the only way out is to move along the periphery to the highway where you can get a lift.

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