Horror on a picnic

“Uncle, I’m going to Agra by car. I’ll take you to the Taj and an interesting place you’ve never been before. Why don’t you and aunty join me for a flash picnic?” asked Kartick, my octogenarian uncle’s young bachelor friend who dropped by at uncle’s house in New Delhi.

Uncle, a retired telecom official, and aunt had lived in Delhi for over 50 years prior to shifting their base a few years ago to Chennai. Just before their vacating Delhi for good, they had a longing to get a glimpse of the Taj. So they grabbed Kartick’s offer. Still, leaving nothing to chance, aunt took an undertaking from Kartick that the trip would be purely for mental relaxation and official work, if any, should not mess up the programme. Kartick nodded his head, hardly foreseeing the shock that he would give to his lovable guests.

Uncle and aunt packed their bags with childlike enthusiasm. With the dynamic, well-built and pony-tailed Kartick at the wheels, uncle by his side and aunt at the back seat, the car cruised its way along the Delhi-Agra highway and seamlessly glided into Mathura. It was time for lunch and they stopped by at a vegetarian restaurant.

After finishing his lunch, Kartick answered a call on his mobile and went out advising uncle and aunt to stay put in the restaurant for a short while. He reappeared after half an hour and the trio restored their journey to Agra.

Reentering the highway, Kartick pulled over his car, called someone on his mobile and hurriedly gave instructions, “Guys. She’s in real danger. She’s dehydrated and needs emergency help. Prepare saline. I want the doc over there… I’ll be there shortly.”

Deeply disturbed by Kartick’s conversation, aunt asked him, “What’s wrong, Kartick? Who is sick?” “A snake,” replied Kartick coolly, “a python to be precise.” Uncle and aunt were shell-shocked. “Where’s the python?” uncle quizzed and pat came his reply. “Right here in the car, below the seat, in a snake bag.”

Aunt screamed and would have opened the car door and jumped out but for Kartick’s intervention and reassurance. He explained, “While we had lunch, I got a call that a snake was tortured and used in a public show by a snake charmer. I had to rush there and retrieve it from him. He has stitched the poor snake’s mouth and starved it.”

Now, aunt could empathise with Kartick Satyanarayan, the animal lover and activist who spends his life devoted to rescuing elephants, sloth bears, reptiles and other animals in distress and rehabilitating them in designated centres, creating awareness and working in tandem with the forest department through an NGO which he has co-founded. When you live with, and live for nature, where’s the question of dividing between official and personal work?

With adulations from uncle and aunt, Kartick steered the car to the rescue centre near Agra. With his crack team of volunteers, he revived the python and later released it into the forest, giving the slithering animal its cherished freedom.

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Horror on a picnic

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