THE TEMPLE IN THE JUNGLE
Hello dear Readers and Listeners! This story is about a man who gets separated from his team due to a jungle storm. With all kinds of ailments plaguing him, there's little chance of his survival. But then an unexpected force raises hopes in him! Read on and listen to know what happened, take care.
Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello, and welcome to OBSCURUS. I am Biswajit Banerjee, your host for this show. In today’s story, we find the protagonist dealing with a terrible crisis in his life. And the most unexpected force comes to his rescue. Well, we will get to know about all that soon.
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And now, let’s plunge into the story. A man gets separated from his team because of a forest storm. The conditions are severe. High fever, injuries, blood-soaked body, bad congestion, and temporary blindness make his position hopeless. Will he survive the ordeal? Let’s find out.
THE TEMPLE IN THE JUNGLE 00:02:29
Written and Performed by Biswajit Banerjee
My vision was failing me. Severe headache and fever plagued my senses. Where was I? It was the middle of the forests I had gotten lost in. The team members — the fellow adventure seekers and filmmakers, were nowhere in sight. And then it started drizzling again. With blood, pus, and sweat all over my body, I had little idea where to go. The storm and heavy rains that destroyed our shooting schedule — disintegrating the team and throwing us in total hopeless positions wasn't over. The drizzle was an indication that the gale was set to return.
I walked over the patchy and slippery land, trying not to trip over. The vision got worse, and soon I did not know where I was walking. The highlands filled this part of the jungle. And some of them were steep and meant immediate death if you slipped. With little hope, I walked forward, trying to put as much force as I could on my steps. Firm steps offered the only hope of saving my life. Of course, I couldn't be sure if the steps were firm enough. But under the circumstances, I simply went by my weakened senses.
The light got duller. Dusk descended. Soon enough, it would be dark. Death ... yes, there appeared to be no escape from death. Night time in these parts of the forests was dangerous. The wildest of animals come out, and they wouldn't spare a human, would they? Did I have a gun with me? Well, I had kept one in my pocket when the filmmaking team started out. I felt my pockets. No, there was no gun! I found myself completely defenseless!
Oh, soon the rains got fiercer. Everything got damp and swampy! Now, it was challenging to step firmly on the ground! Within minutes the ground got very slippery. What should I do? Stand for a while! Wait for the rains to abate! No, that would be foolhardy! You couldn't tell when the rains would stop! They had just picked up. It wouldn't be less than a couple of hours before the rains abated! By that time, I would pick up dozens of other infections. Already, I had a bad cold! The probability I would pick up pneumonia was high!
Any possible escape for me? No, things appeared hopeless!
"Rishabh! Aakash! Neetu! Adwaita!" I called out to my colleagues. Well, all I heard in response were the whistles of the storm. Oh, the cold soon got unbearable! Maybe I should die now! Dying appeared better than this suffering! My mind reached out to my family — my two young sons, wife, and sisters! Would I meet them again?
The vision got still worse! Rainwaters seemed to be dark. Muddy and dense! The murky downpour made me near-blind! I collected some water in my palms and splashed my eyes. This didn't help! All I saw was ash-colored floaters moving over a field of darkness with some occasional bright spots. These bright spots, I concluded, marked the points of my vision that still worked.
"Rishabh, Aakash, Neetu, Adwaita!" I shouted the names of my team members.
Well, moving forward might generate some heat — standing in the same position might aggravate my cold, I reasoned. But moving forward was fraught with risks! What if I fell from a highland? That risk I had to live through. Although I had lost most of my senses, I stepped forward with as much attentiveness as I managed to command. The soggy ground gave my feet a poor grip!
What should I do? Walk forward? Well, walking forward would certainly keep the body warmer but slipping to my death would be one possibility hanging over my head all the time! To stand would be of little use. In fact, it would mean death. And in any case, I couldn't stand still in a position for long. The rate at which the ground turned swampier held no guarantee that I would be safe if I chose to stand in a place.
The lessons of disaster management I learned as a management student came to my mind! Yes, I understood the survival chances were really bleak! But should I give up? No, by no means! What were the best options available? My brain failed to gather the power to work! But as one of the principles of disaster management suggests — you got to exercise your brain no matter how difficult your position is! A situation might be hopeless, but you got to fight on! Giving up would do no good anyway! Yes, indeed, I had to sum up courage and fight on!
Again, I asked myself the questions — what constituted the best chances of my survival? My brain struggled to answer the question — but it did answer. I had to take refuge in a sturdy tree. By being close to a tree, I would not only be able to give myself some protection from the cold rain, but I would generate some amount of safety from the wild animals! Well, then it occurred to me the idea of getting protection from the wild animals by being close to a tree was misconceived! In fact, the trees were often themselves full of wild animals! In these parts of the forests, trees were known to be infested with snakes! Could my decision to take the support of a tree backfire? I braved through the height of uncertainty! But the best part about being close to a tree was to get some semblance of protection from the cold storm! If my luck supported me, I would live to see another day!
So, I strained my eyes in search of a nearby tree. Yes, there stood a few at some distance. With my vision getting still blurred, I couldn't correctly fathom how far these trees were! But they were not very close — I could sense that much! All I had to do now was to saunter towards those trees. But things got worse! With the storm assuming more intensity, I lost my sense of direction. Soon enough, I didn't know if I was walking towards the trees.
My brain kept saying that I had to place firm steps ... at least I should try not to fall to my death! My body, however, got too feeble to carry out the brain's instructions! Not for long could I place firm steps! One wrong step, and that's what mattered! I slipped and went down by dozens of feet, I guess. My lower back got shattered! Oh, what excruciating pain! Why did death not come to me immediately? Being alive held little charm — God, you are so cruel — I whispered.
And it didn't take me long to make out that my plans of being close to a sturdy tree hadn't worked out. In fact, I now lay far away from the trees. I cupped some water and splashed my eyes again. Though I couldn't see much, I at least knew the trees to be far away! No, now I didn't entertain even an iota of a hope!
There was nothing else to do now — I closed my eyes, waiting for my death! The sooner it came, the better. Death didn't happen! What happened instead was a benign presence.
"Get up, son, this is no place to lie down," a lady spoke. The voice sounded musical — it appeared as though someone said from a heavenly dimension.
"Who? Who's this?"
"Never mind, get up and walk with me."
"Wherever I am taking you, Son. Don't worry, you are in safe hands now."
The lady had a magical touch. With her support, I stood up. The pain was terrible, but she pressed my lower back at a point that gave me comfort and the strength to walk forward.
"Who are you, Mother?" Mother — I called her Mother — I don't know why.
"Well, son, I am a sadhika."
"Sadhika! What does that mean, Mother?"
"Sadhika means a saint. Perhaps, we can do the rest of the talking later. First, let's walk up to the temple."
"I am in horrible pain, Mother."
"Yes, Son, I know. But don't worry, I will apply pressure at crucial points of your body. Soon, the pain will be less."
We walked through some distance, and I sensed walking into a concrete building — a temple. Mother helped me lie on the floor of the temple.
"Don't worry, Son, I will be back with some medication."
I lay on the floor, waiting for Mother. After she returned, she applied what felt like leaf juices to my eyes. The vision immediately got better. Now, I had a clear look at Mother. A young woman! Well, she might be in her late twenties or early thirties! Beautiful! Divine! Mother appeared more like the Greek angels carved by the classical sculptors!
"Is your vision better now, Son?"
We continued to address each other as Mother and Son though she looked to be at least fifteen years younger than I, if not more.
"Yes, mother, I can see with some clarity now."
"Now, I will apply medication to your body. It might hurt a little, but you will soon feel better."
"No, problem, Mother."
Mother crushed some leaves on a stone pot and put what looked like thick honey to the paste. Then, with a lot of care, she applied the medication to my body. Soon enough, I could sense my body heal.
"Are you feeling better, Son?"
"Yes, Mother, I am doing much better now. These medicines seem to carry magical properties."
"Look at me, Son, I will put some more herb juices into your eyes. And then your vision would be even clearer."
The juices worked wonders again! Clarity returned to my vision. Now, I could spot Mother's face clearly! Yet again, I described her in my mind— beautiful! Divine! The most blissful expression of Godhood!
My eyes also fell on the prominent idol of Goddess Kali — the destroyer of the evil. The Goddess happens to be one of the chief Tantric Goddesses. Unlike the common perception of the Goddess carrying an angry expression, the deity had a sweet appearance — an embodiment of love and compassion. A lampstand with at least a dozen flames illuminated the idol. The Goddess appeared real — as though all ready to talk.
"This is the idol of Goddess Kali," I said.
"Yes, Son, Kali she is — the essence of love and care."
"Do you worship her, Mother?"
"Yes, she is the one I worship."
"Usually, sculptors tend to give the Goddess a very stern look. This idol, in total contrast to all other images I have seen, appears to be nothing other than love ... love in its most pristine form!"
"Goddess Kali is all love, my Son. People who are not wise to spot that love tend to be afraid of her. The Goddess is all about care and compassion ... she is my life force.
"Do you follow the Tantra system, Mother?"
"Yes, I do, but do you understand what is Tantra?"
"Tantra is supposed to be one of the most shadowy spiritual traditions of India."
"That's a wrong way of putting things, my Son. On the contrary, Tantra is one of the sweetest and most humane forms of connecting with the Divine. Tantra is often misunderstood because the commoners rather shirk away from studying and learning about it, but that doesn't reduce its beauty, richness, and effectiveness.
"But Mother, some of my friends say Tantra is about dead bodies and ghastly mantras."
"Ignorance, my Son, most of the people are ignorant about Tantra. I repeat — it is the essence of love and service."
"The love and care you have given me surely prove your point, Mother."
"Son, I am just the medium of conveying the divine blessings. This is all happening because of the deity — thank Goddess Kali for all the kindness. Unfortunately, for many ages, the enemies of Hinduism slung mud on many Hindu traditions, including the Tantra. So, many do not understand the sweetness of Tantra. The best of sadhakas and sadhikas have been practitioners of Tantra and upheld the values of care and compassion."
"Mother, do you live here alone?"
"No, Goddess Kali lives with me here."
"Only you and Goddess Kali."
"Not quite, Son. In Hinduism, we often see singularity and multiplicity as the same. What appears as one is actually many, and what appears as many are, in reality, one. So, in the presence of Kali — there will be Shiva, Parvati, Krishna, Ram, and all the Gods, Goddesses, demigods, and demi goddesses of the Hindu pantheon."
"So, you are not afraid living here alone, Mother?"
"Why should I be afraid, my Son? All the divine consciousnesses are with me."
Tears welled up in my eyes.
"Why are you crying, Son?"
"I had no hopes of survival, Mother. If you had not come to my rescue, I would be finished by now."
"Son, I have already explained I am the agent of the beautiful Goddess. I only did what the Goddess wanted me to do."
"Mother, can I ask you how you survive all by yourself in the woods?"
"Well, Son, I don't need to think about myself. The Goddess takes care of me."
"Indeed, Mother, I can already feel a strong connect with Goddess Kali."
"Your consciousness is part and parcel of the Goddess's consciousness. So, you are no different from the Goddess."
"Your words are sweet, Mother. I can keep listening to you all my life."
"Well, your heart is sweet, Son."
"But Mother ..."
"What about my friends? Will they survive?"
"It's not within my powers to answer that question, Son. I hope the Goddess does everything for the welfare of your friends."
"My cold is getting worse... it could be pneumonia."
"No, you will develop no such problem. I applied the paste to your chest and gave you the medication. All you need now is to eat well. Wait, I will get you some dinner."
After some time, the Mother brought me some khichdi — a preparation of rice and pulses. The Mother helped me sit and eat dinner. Oh, what strength the dinner gave me! Within minutes of eating it, I felt strong and energetic.
"Mother, this is magic!"
"Now, it's time for you to take rest, my Son. After you wake up from your sleep in the morning, you will be fine."
The Mother's magical care restored my health. I had a great sleep. In the morning, some voices woke me up.
"Amit, are you okay?" Neetu's voice flowed in.
"Get up, Amit. We are here." I could sense Adwaita shaking my body up.
Sunlight poured in on my eyes through the foliage above, and I woke up to find my team members standing around me.
"How are you doing, Amit?" Rishabh said.
"Yes, I am okay, but ..."
"We looked for you all night ... thankfully, we have found you," Aakash said.
The other members of the filmmaking team, including the technical and creative crew members, stood surrounding me.
"Oh, Amit, we lost all hopes. Thank goodness, you are fine," Neetu said.
"But where's the temple?" I said.
"Temple! Which temple?" Aakash asked.
"A temple must be here somewhere ... the one in which I took shelter," I said.
"This is the middle of the forest. There can be no temple over here, Amit," Rishabh responded, "you must have had a dream!"
"No," I protested, "I got shelter in a temple. And there was this sadhika who took care of me. Her medication cured my ailments."
"Please understand, Amit," Neetu said, "these were visions. The body sometimes generates such visions as a part of its defensive mechanism. Your brain wanted to reassure you that everything was fine."
"Oh please, you people must stop giving me such stupid ideas. Trust me, the Mother saved my life."
"The saint, you mean?" Adwaita asked.
"Yes, the saint, the sadhika. All her medicinal preparations worked for me. And the khichdi she prepared for dinner — that had the ultimate therapeutic effect.
A doctor from the team moved over to me.
"Can I check you, Amit?"
After the preliminary check-up, the doctor said, "Well, you are fine. The trouble didn't have any impact on you, it seems."
"The trouble couldn't have had any impact on me, Doctor — Mother was here to help me."
"Okay, can we leave now?" Rishabh said.
"But where's the temple?" I asked, looking around for a hint of the place where I spent the night.
"Sorry, we can't answer that question, Amit," Neetu replied.
As we walked toward the production vehicle, I looked around the place. There was no trace of the temple! And the Mother, it seemed, left no hints behind! The images of last evening crossed my mind — my attempts to place firm steps on the ground, my straining through the vision to look for trees, the cold rain intensifying and causing tremendous discomfort to my body, the pus, blood, and sweat all over my body — all the struggle. And then, my tripping over and falling through dozens of feet. Then, the advent of Mother, her care, the giant image of Goddess Kali, the medication, the dinner — no! All that couldn't have been an illusion!
Mother, where are you? I whispered to myself.
"You are not happy, Amit," Adwaita said.
"Well, only if I could see her once more."
"You mean the Mother?"
"Yes, the Mother, the one who saved my life."
I got into the vehicle with my eyes still where the temple was! Mother, I love Goddess Kali, I love you," I said.
As the vehicle started moving, I imagined Mother standing close to where the temple should have been! Her words ran through my psyche — "Your consciousness is part and parcel of the Goddess's consciousness. So, you are no different from the Goddess."
And then there was a slight movement close to the massive tree where the temple was located — yes, it was unmistakably a movement I was acquainted with. After all, a child can sense its Mother's movement!
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!