“Come on, hurry up!” He shouted.
“Shh…Don’t you wake up the baby. She’s just fallen asleep, I need to wrap her, place her in the basket, pack her stuff, it takes time.” She retorted.
“Make it fast.” He sounded irritated.
A few minutes more and they had hit the road.
“It’s just four in the morning, still dark. Why couldn’t we wait till daybreak to drive through the jungle?” She lamented.
“We should cross Wayanad before dawn, or else traffic builds up near Kannur. It’s still a few hours to Calicut, I agreed to attend your cousin’s wedding, I’m the one driving, so please don’t question my decisions.” He snapped.
‘Elephant Crossing, Drive Slowly.’ She read the hoarding loud.
“Damn elephants.” He grumbled. “We could have reached last night, but a tusker is always on the loose, the jungle has to be closed and we have to halt for the night. Why don’t they capture these wild animals and make roads safer for us?”
She was about to say something, but knowing the futility of argument, she stopped herself. All she hoped for was the sun to rise soon, her husband to drive less recklessly and some kind of human presence to appear.
As if an answer to her prayers, she spotted a white van riding behind them.
“Thank God.” She smiled to herself. Some life at last, safety.
“It’s a van, definitely an early morning safari vehicle. I noticed this one parked near the hotel gate. Happy now? We aren’t the only ones.” He smiled.
The van gradually gathered speed and in a split of a second, overtook the car and stopped by the roadside. Two masked men rushed out, standing in the middle of the road, forcing her husband to brake. Her baby woke up and yelled. As they sat frozen, the burly men hurried to their car.
“Open up, come out!” The assailants banged at the window.
“Take whatever you want, please don’t hurt them.” The husband pleaded.
“Silence your baby, quick.” The goons shouted as they snatched the couple’s mobile phones.
She lifted her child and tried pacifying her.
“Out with your wallets, all your gold. Open the dickey.” The men commanded.
She was dismayed, all her jewellery for the wedding was in the luggage. The robbers would have waited near the hotel, till a small family, a vulnerable one like theirs with women and children had foolishly ventured out at wee hours.
Something rustled in the bushes, a loud rumble from close took them all by surprise. Tall, dark and majestic he stood, a lone tusker. He trumpeted, as the first rays of sun appeared. They stood rooted to the spot as he eyed them all and then the van. He walked up slowly to the vehicle, and in one sudden movement, toppled it in anger. The assailants screamed in despair and abandoned the family in their confusion to handle the elephant.
“Get in!” The husband gathered his family into the car and sped off, as the so-called notorious rogue elephant let them, keeping the thieves at bay.
‘Beware of Wild Animals.’ Another signboard read. They stared in disbelief.
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