The young lady sat down on the empty bench under the tree and hugged him closer, cuddling him... But the trip to the park had already excited him, and being imprisoned in her embrace wasn't something he was looking forward to. With a loud grunt he shoved against her, struggling, his tiny arms flailing as he tried to slide down, off her lap.
"OK, OK..." she cooed, "I'll put you down, but don't you dare pick up things and put them in your mouth!" she added, slowly setting him down.
He stood, unsteady on his feet for a moment, the tiny fingers gripping her dress at the knees for balance and then with tentative steps he moved away, slowly... stopping every few pace to look back at her, observing her... reassuring himself of her presence, before giving her a toothy smile and taking another step... excited, unsure, yet desirous to explore the great new world!
And each time she smiled back at him, encouraging him.
Ever since the past two weeks, ever since he had started to walk, Yash had become very independent, and with it, very determined, waddling around the whole house, upsetting anything that he could reach out and lay his hands on, protesting fiercely at the slightest hint of being stopped or restrained, growling and grunting as he struggled to be left alone, on his own. And once his mother started to bring him to the park, every evening, he had gradually developed enough confidence to finally get off her lap and walk around. And the past three days, he had refused to sit, walking around the bench, stopping to investigate every moving blade of grass or the rustling dry leaves as it scraped across the walk, captivated...
She looked at the other children at the park... the older boys and girls, screaming and running around as they played their various games... Children on the swings and the seesaws... playing catch or just rolling in the grass... And the much older boys, further away, playing football, yelling, pushing and shoving as they ran after the ball. But every few moment, her eyes were back on Yash, watching the toddler waddle around, pausing to look intently at whatever caught his fancy, and then move on... He wasn't looking back at her as often now as he wandered around, barely a few metres away from her.
A scuffle had broken out amongst the footballers, and as she sat watching the fight unfold, she heard Yash's excited scream, and quickly turning to watch him, saw another boy, about his age and size, sitting on the ground, looking up at Yash. And before she could react she saw a young lady rush to the fallen child and pick him up...
"Did you push him, Yash?" his mother called out in a stern voice as she got up and went over, catching him by his dungarees' straps.
"Oh, no," said the lady with a smile as she dusted her child's clothes, "Ratish just lost his balance and fell over. They were making friends I guess," she added standing up, "maybe wanting to play football, watching the older boys," she laughed.
"Oh, that's a lovely name..." she replied, kneeling down by Yash's side as he struggled to get away, complaining vociferously, with growls and screams, "and what does it mean?"
"Cupid..." the mother replied.
Yash's mother smiled, "Why, he does look like a perfect, cherubic little Cupid for sure..." she said as the two ladies returned to the bench she was sitting on, "Oh, I'm Anuradha," she added, introducing herself.
"Sunita," the lady smiled, sitting down.
And soon the two young mothers were talking, eyes shining with pride, sharing anecdotes, laughing...
"So, they seem to have become good friends!" exclaimed Sunita, watching the two boys sitting together, curious, investigating each other, tiny hands reaching out to touch... jab... or tug at shoe laces and straps... gurgling happily.
"As thick as thieves..." smiled Anuradha.
"Mama, please..." pleaded Yash, looking up at her.
"You can't even take care of yourself, or your things, just look at your room..." she answered, not bothering to look at him as she continued chopping the vegetables.
"Mama, I'm sixteen..." he said and almost immediately added, "Besides, I'm not asking for the money, I have enough saved!"
"And what about you," she asked, turning to the other boy, "Sunita gave you her permission?"
He squirmed uncomfortably in his chair, casting a sly glance at his friend, before mumbling, "Um, ah... I haven't asked her... yet..."
"Maaa...." Yash cried out.
"Oh, so it's me first, the softer target, and once I say 'yes', then it becomes easy to convince your father," she said, and then turning back to Ratish, added, "and your parents too, huh?"
"Mama, the offer's amazing, and the place is incredible," he was saying, not bothering to answer her question, "please let us, we have a whole week of holiday, and it's just for four days!"
"What's the plan?" she asked, turning back to her work.
Yash felt a shiver pass down his spine, he could smell victory... she would relent. "Well, I spoke to uncle Kapoor and he's giving us an unimaginable deal!"
"You were already at Kapoor's?"
"Uh, well... yes, wanted to find out the details before I asked you, huh..." he said with his most flattering smile.
"And it's for four days?"
He nodded vigorously, kicking Ratish under the table, who soon joined in, nodding. "Uh, yes, four days there, and the two nights for travel..."
"Where you plan to go?"
"Oh, Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary," he grinned widely, telling her about the place and the details...
"Well, if it's okay with Anuradha, then I guess, it's okay with us," said Sunita in her soft voice, looking towards her husband.
He smiled, nodding his accent.
"Well, thanks, Ma..." Ratish said, hugging her and then took his father's hand, "thanks, dad!" And together the boys walked out of the house, already talking, animated and excited.
Though they had enough money saved for the trip, especially with the deal that Ranbir Kapoor, owner of a travel agency and a close family friend, had offered them, both parent ultimately paid for the trip and also handed them some extra cash... and it was two very excited sixteen year olds that boarded the overnight train at the railway station.
"Just imagine..." Yash thrilled, his voice already high pitched with excitement, "out there, in the wild... wow, hiking and trekking in the deep jungles."
"Hah, I can manage, but what about you," observed Ratish, grinning at his friend, "you never even went for those school trips, huh? Always travelling luxury class, star hotels..."
"That's half the fun, dude," Yash cut in, settling back into the seat, "all my vacations have been with them, fly in and fly out, drive around and luxury hotels. Now, this is the real thing, a real backpacking adventure, roughing it out!"
Ratish nodded, the joy and excitement clearly visible on his face too. And they went on talking, going over the brochures and literature again and again, meticulously planning out each of the four days and the things to do...
"I really hope that the resort is good, you know, decent rooms or tents or whatever they have, and clean, proper bathrooms..." Yash suddenly said.
"Ah, there you go..." laughed out Ratish, doubling up, "I knew it!" And then rolling his eyes, staring into the distant added, "And the boy wants to rough-it-out, hah!"
"Shut up..." Yash growled, punching his friend's arm.
And it was back to discussing the things they had read about the jungle and the trails... the wildlife, and the adventure sports...
It was much later, as the gentle swaying of the train made them sleepy that they finally stretched out, gradually dozing off... with images of roaring tigers, and snapping crocodiles filling their dreams.
The morning air was crisp and clean... and as the train came to a grinding halt at the small-town station, the two boys hopped out, slinging their knapsacks over their shoulders.
The car was there, as uncle Kapoor had assured them, and after an hour and a half of pleasant drive, they reached the outskirts of Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, an amazing nature reserve that was still unspoilt and pristine... An undulating mass of lush green forest, the landscape was hilly, with rugged ravines, deep gorges, rolling valleys and rushing rivers; home to numerous animals, birds and a profusion of butterflies... elephants, leopards and panthers... deer and bears... wolves and jackals... the rivers teaming with crocodiles... it was a formidable jungle, a thrilling adventure, a place also famous for its many nature trails!
Following a narrow lane, along the swift flowing Kali River, the car meandered its way through virgin forest land till it came to a huge gateway, entering into a dream world... a world of tamed nature, where man had moulded and fashioned the wild... They had reached the resort!
Situated on the banks of the scenic Kali River, close to the Sanctuary, the resort was a beautiful, quiet paradise, like a shining jewel, set in the surrounding emerald landscape. And as the two boys got off the car and walked into the reception cottage, they knew that they would be having an amazing vacation!
"Welcome, Sir..." said the smiling young man behind the counter, greeting them.
"Uh, is Mr. Ashok there..." asked Yash.
"Oh, you must be Yash and Ratish," he smiled at them, picking up the intercom, "Sir, they are here," he spoke into the instrument before turning back to them. "He'll be here in a moment," he told them.
Un-slinging the backpack, Yash let it drop to the floor and as he turned around, admiring the surrounding greenery through the large bay windows, he saw an elderly person walk towards them.
"You must be Yash... welcome," the man greeted them with a large, happy smile, hand extended, which the two boys took in turn, returning the smile. "Ranbir has ordered me that you two shall have the best room and the best service while here!" he added, referring to Ranbir Kapoor, patting Yash on his back.
"Well, uncle Kapoor said this was the best place..." Yash replied, already feeling happy, and comfortable.
"Ah, he's a good, old friend of mine, and yes, this is the best resort out here," he said before turning towards the man behind the counter and adding, "Srinivas, you got that tree house ready for our very special guests here?"
"Yes, Sir, the room is ready..."
"Well, take them to the room and send up some breakfast," he instructed before turning back to Yash, adding, "and once you've eaten and freshened up, come down to my office and we'll work out an itinerary for your stay here," he smiled.
"Thank you, Mr... um, thank you, uncle Ashok..." Yash replied, as Ratish too smiled his thanks.
"Wow, can you imagine... a tree house!" exclaimed Yash as the two boys were led down a gravel path towards the edge of the resort, away from the rows of cottages set in the sprawling lawns.
Ratish giggled in response, excited at the prospect.
"This is our best tree house..." said Srinivas as they approached a clump of huge trees.
"Wow," they both exclaimed in unison, looking up... seeing the sturdy wooden steps leading up into the thick foliage.
Nestled high up in the trees, it was a beautiful wood and glass structure, a perfect secluded cabin, hidden from the outside world behind the thick green cover.
"A tree house, a free house, a secret you and me house," suddenly Ratish broke out, reciting aloud, "a high up in the leafy branches, cosy as can be house..."
"Let's go live in a tree house," Yash completed it for him, skipping lines and jumping to the end.
"Wow, what was that?" laughed Srinivas, seeing the excitement, the joy of the two boys.
"It's a poem," Yash replied, as they walked up the steps, "Tree House, by Shel Silverstein."
"How many more tree houses you have?" asked Ratish, following right behind Yash.
"Two more," Srinivas replied, "but those are smaller, single room affair. This is larger and has separate living and bed rooms, and of course two bathrooms and two decks, one at the entry level and the other leading out of the master bedroom. And there is a rope ladder going down from that one," he added, leading the way up.
"Cool..." Yash said following him, and soon they were standing on the quaint little lower deck, nearly thirty feet off the ground... looking down below through the shifting foliage.
Opening the door Srinivas led the two boys inside and they were in a plush, luxurious room, tastefully furnished with all the modern comforts of home... low couches with numerous cushions... a writing table, chairs and low, corner cabinets, with a TV set... large windows on all sides... and a small alcove that served as the dining space.
"This is your tree top home for the next four days..." announced Srinivas with a grand gesture, turning to smile at the boys.
"Thanks..." they both said, looking around the room in awe.
"That's the bedroom," Srinivas said pointing towards the half open door to the left, "and the bathroom is there," he added pointing to the closed door at the back. "The other bedroom is on the upper level, with its own attached bath and the upper deck, it overlooks the river."
"Thanks..." Yash repeated, "we'll love it here!"
Srinivas nodded and turned to leave, "I'll send your breakfast up," he said as he walked out, "then freshen up and come down to the office," he added, shutting the door after him.
"Ra... Ra... Ratish," Yash screamed with joy, clapping his hands, running into the bedroom and then peeking inside the bathroom, before returning to flop down on the couch, feeling the tree house sway gently with their running and jumping, "this is magnificent!"
"Let's check the upper floor..." said Ratish, dropping down beside Yash, "and then I hope they send up the food fast, I'm famished!"
"OK, let's go..." Yash replied, getting up and heading for the flight of steps that went up.
It led up into a small, circular, glass-panelled foyer, which in turn opened into the master bedroom, larger and luxurious. The bathroom stood against the far wall and to their left they saw another door. Heading for it Yash opened it and together they walked out onto the upper deck, overlooking the Kali River.
"Wow, this is amazing..." he said in a hushed voice as they stood, hidden behind the branches and leaves, watching the swift flowing river surge far below... feeling the light, fragrant breeze wash over their face... the air filled with the cheery call of the birds.
"I love this place..." said Ratish, checking out the spacious deck, which included a swing, a table and a couple of chairs. And as he sat down on the swing, he spotted the rolled up rope ladder attached securely to the wooden beam that ran the length of the deck.
Getting back inside, they both pulled out their things from the two backpacks that had already been carried up and placed on the rack near the wall closet and put the clothing and other items inside, flopping down on the soft, inviting bed...
Just then they heard the door bell ring, a loud, shrill bird call...
Together they ran down, and opening the door saw a young teen, not much older than them, standing there with a heavy, covered tray.
"Your breakfast, Sir," the boy said with a smile.
"Come in..." Ratish said, "Put it on the table, please."
"Ah..." Mr. Ashok greeted them as they entered his office, "hope the food was good, huh?"
"Yes, it was very nice, thank you," Yash answered as the two boys sat down.
"Good," Mr. Ashok said with a satisfied smile, "now, you're here for four days, right? Well, there is a lot to do and you can either do it on your own or take one of the guided tours. If you choose to do it independently, I'd suggest that you allow me to send one of our best men along with you, it is better that way, since you are new here."
"Yes, sure..." replied Yash, "whatever you suggest."
"OK, you can go out for a short hike into the forest this morning and then later, after lunch, take the jeep safari deeper into the jungle. Tomorrow you could go for either kayaking or rafting, whatever you prefer, and later in the afternoon go for another hike into the forest and visit the magnificent Syntheri Rock. And the day after, you can do some more water sport and trekking... or maybe take another safari into the jungle, on elephant back!"
"Wow..." Yash exclaimed, eyes wide with excitement.
"That sounds real interesting... well, we'll do it as you have planned," Ratish spoke, his mind racing ahead, already trying to picture all the things that had just been mentioned.
"Good, and of course there's the bonfire and barbeque dinner at night, each night," Ashok added with a smile, "though different menus, and at different spots around here."
"Cool, we'll do it!" Yash finally said.
"Send Ravi in..." Ashok spoke into the intercom, and then turning to the boys asked them about home and their school. "Ah, Ravi," he said as a young man entered the room, "This is Yash and Ratish," he introduced, "and they are in your charge. Make sure that they thoroughly enjoy their stay here and experiences Dandeli to the fullest."
"Sure..." the man said, shaking the boys' hands. "So, let's go and get wild!" he said with a broad smile, leading them out of the office.
"So, where to first?" he asked as they walked out into the open.
"Um, you will have to tell us..." said Yash, "Mr. Ashok has already made some plans, um, you know of those, right?"
"Yes, fine, we go for a short hike into the jungle, explore some trails, and then back for lunch," he replied before adding, "better carry your swimming trunks, if you've got them, or just an extra pair of shorts, and your camera and stuff."
"And meet me in ten minutes in front of the office," he called out, as they headed towards their tree house.
The winding path through the moist deciduous and semi-evergreen forest looked dark and mysterious... secretive, as they walked on silently, going deep and deeper, a journey into another world, a world of huge trees and thick shrubberies, a world of wild outdoor, of animals, butterflies and birds... Listening to the soulful whispers of the bamboo grooves and the wail of the wind as it rushed through the branches and leaves... punctuated by the loud and shrill calls of the diverse denizens of the wild, birds and animals... Skipping a heart beat as they heard a rustle here and a crackle there... the constant gurgle of flowing water never far away and soon they were upon its bank... the Kali flowing furiously over rocks and gravel bed. Following the river upstream for nearly another kilometre they came to a spot where the river suddenly seemed to have gone quiet, flowing placidly, almost sluggish.
"Wow..." Yash whispered in a hushed voice, walking to the edge of the water.
"Yes, that's the speciality of Kali," Ravi spoke, joining him. "It is a river with two faces... there are those rapid stretches, hurtling away at a maddening pace and then suddenly going calm as it flows peacefully, before suddenly changing pace and rushing on again."
"Come," he said, leading them further upstream, along the water's edge, into thicker undergrowth... now alive and colourful with a profusion of butterflies and birds - kingfishers and woodpeckers. And suddenly the undergrowth stopped, retreating into the background as the placid flow of the mighty river formed a large pool... encircled by a rocky ledge.
"A natural swimming pool..." Ravi announced, "and there are many such pools along the river, and totally safe!"
Soon they were tugging their clothes off and diving in, frolicking in the cool waters, splashing each other, swimming around or just lazing, floating on the surface... watching the birds and the multitude of colourful butterflies...
Post lunch, they went out again, into the jungle, but deeper this time, first over a narrow road and then down bumpy mud tracks... And though on the morning trip they hadn't seen any animals, now they did spot small herds of sambars and spotted deer, and a couple of wild boars and even a pangolin, trudging on slowly, along the side of the road. The trip was exciting, exhilarating... and then parking the jeep they took short walks down narrow trails, thick with heavy undergrowth, dark under the canopy of the tall trees... Around whispering bamboo grooves and across gurgling streams... unspoilt nature... watching the birds flutter away at they drew near, troops of monkeys chattering boisterously, clambering higher, vociferous in their protest at being disturbed by the alien humans... a lone fox, scurrying away at their approach... And as they rounded a large thicket of tall, thorny bush, they stopped, mesmerised... In the clearing before them was a large flock of peacocks... running around, pecking under the rocks and fallen leaves... the long, colourful tail dragging after them...
It was just around dusk, as the western sky exploded in a kaleidoscope of brilliant colours that they finally returned to the resort... tired but delighted.
"Freshen up and get some rest, and be at the office by eight," Ravi told them as they hopped off the jeep, "we'll go for a bonfire dinner by the river bank."
The body was weary, but the heart refused to call quits, the soul soaring high... but after the barbeque dinner by the campfire on the river bank, the two boys could hardly keep their eyes open, and climbing up to their tree house, they threw away their clothes and crawled in, falling asleep as soon as they lay down... the rushing water below their tree top home, the distant call of the wild hardly piercing their deep slumber.
"So, what will it be today, what do you want to do, go rafting, canoeing or kayaking," Ravi had asked them as they walked out after a hearty breakfast.
"Um... rafting I guess..." Yash replied, unsure, looking at Ratish for confirmation, who just nodded, equally unsure.
"Oh, well, fine..." Ravi had said, leading them to the waiting jeep.
And as they stood on the river bank, about four kilometres upstream from their resort, watching Ravi help the men who had accompanied them in another jeep, unload the gears and set up the rafts, they felt a surge of excitement course through them...
Armed with oars, helmet and life-jacket, they climbed into the raft along with Ravi... two other men following them in a second raft... pushing off into the river... into the current... and almost immediately they were pulled in, carried away with the flow... gathering speed rapidly. And as they, under the expert guidance of Ravi, vigorously battled the swift current, feeling the fury of the cascading waters... they experienced the incredible thrill of white water rafting. Tossing and turning in the swirling waters... constantly sprayed by the raging foams, they hurtled down the river... faster... dropping down the mini falls... lurching over the rapids... thoroughly enjoying the exhilarating ride... And as they gained in confidences, the nervous silence was soon replaced by loud screams and excited shouts... And as Ravi had explained the previous day, the river soon revealed the calm patches... placid... and once the struggle to keep the dingy afloat ended, they could admire the pristine surroundings... enjoy the sights and the sounds... before suddenly, the river raged... stomach rolling as the raft plunged down... hurtling into oblivion... sucking them into the vortex of raging surf... and the battle commenced anew, negotiating rapids and waterfalls, being tossed and turned... clinging onto the lifeline running around the raft... the young hearts slamming against the rib cage!
It was over an hour later that the men in the other raft threw in a line and Ravi guided them to the bank. They were now over twenty kilometres away from where they had started... and as they tottered back on dry land, their hearts still beating rapidly, the adventure gradually settled in, making them realise what they had just experienced.
"Well, now we head for the Syntheri Rock," announced Ravi as they dried themselves and climbed into the two waiting jeeps. "We'll have a picnic lunch there and explore the area before going mountain biking, and then return to camp, taking a different route."
"Hope, that's okay with you guys, huh?" he added after a brief pause, as the driver started the jeep.
"Yep, sure..." they both said in unison, hanging on tight as the jeep bumped along the uneven track.
"What about them," asked Ratish as he saw the second jeep take a different turn and head away from them, "won't they be coming with us?"
"Nope," Ravi replied, "they are headed back to the resort. A different person will meet us at the rocks, with our lunch and the bikes."
"Oh..." he nodded, admiring the passing vista... lush and green as far as the eye could see.
After about a forty minute drive, deep inside the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, they got out of the jeep and then trekked downhill for another two kilometres, an exhilarating walk through verdant forest, before they saw the Rock... a 300-feet tall granite monolith, sculpted by nature and the gushing waters of the Kaneri River, a tributary of the Kali, incredibly beautiful!
Going closer they saw the amazing effect of erosion that nature had wrought on the rock face, creating innumerable fissures, caverns and grottos, all around, where thousands of pigeons now nested, in every nook and cranny... and the huge hives of rock bees, hanging precariously from ledges, buzzing with activity... the splendour of the rock enhanced by the small waterfall that gushed down a deep, rocky ravine, and the emerald surroundings.
They explored the area, walking over the rocks and shallow pools, climbing over large boulders... and when the pangs of hunger made further exploration impossible, they sat down to lunch under a large rock outcrop, in the green valley a little away.
And later, they rode down the mud tracks, bumping their way through the deep jungle on sturdy mountain bikes, enjoying the sights and the sounds, spotting some more animals and catching a rare glimpse of a black panther, skulking high up on a branch, almost hidden in the lush foliage, but spotted by the sharp eyes of one of the men accompanying them. They stopped and watched as the disturbed animal bared its fangs, growling and hissing, trying to scare away the intruders, before gracefully limbering away, deeper...
"Coracle?" asked Ratish as Ravi led them to the jeep the next morning, "what's that?"
"Oh, it's an ancient mode of transport in these parts of the country. It is a small, saucer-shaped vessel made of bamboo and tanned buffalo hide and used for travel by water, very sturdy and especially built to navigate the turbulent rapids in this area. And being round they are safe and don't topple easily," he explained.
"Oh..." Yash exclaimed, trying to imagine floating down the ferocious Kali in one of those tiny boats.
They felt their heart skip a few beats as they were tossed along the gurgling river... going round and round as they rushed on with the flow, feeling a frisson of excitement run down their tingling spine as they hurtled along... clinging precariously to the sides of the seemingly rickety contraption.
But soon they hit a wide, shallow patch and the going got smooth, the coracle gathering speed and cruising along smoothly... They could see the thick jungle on either bank, dark and green... resonating with birdcalls and various other sounds of the wild... watching the egrets and cormorants on the banks and tiny islets... seeing the kingfishers swoop down...
And as they started to enjoy the landscape, they heard a loud splash, Ravi quickly drawing their attention to the spot and pointing out, "Look, crocodiles..." he whispered.
With hearts slamming once more, they peered, straining their eyes... but just caught the quick swish of a tail before the water went calm.
"Don't worry," Ravi said, "there are many in these waters and a little ahead you will find a whole den of them..."
And sure enough, as they floated downstream, they saw the numerous islets and small outcrops... and on many of those were crocodile... lying lazily, basking in the sun, jaws open wide.
With shivers running down their spine, they stared, wondering what was going on in those reptilian minds... would they be interested in making a snack of the people on board the coracles... And suddenly the ride was over! And though it had been over an hour, it now seemed just a few minutes as the two boys reluctantly climbed out of the `saucers', suddenly wanting more...
"Now on to the Kavla Caves," announced Ravi, telling them about the place deep in the forest, a chain of stunning, naturally formed limestone caves, filled with gigantic stalactite and stalagmite formations, an awe inspiring display of nature's marvel... with traces of prehistoric human habitation!
Following a route that took them over rough terrain, deeper into the dense evergreen forest, they finally reached the vicinity of the cave formations, and trekking down a series of seemingly unending steps they descended into the very bowels of Mother Earth, the cool forest air soon becoming unbearably warm as they got lower... Reaching the bottom and crawling through narrow, winding tunnels they went on to investigate the limestone caves, musty with the stench of bat droppings and stagnant air, Ravi asking them to keep a sharp eye for snakes that infested the area.
After an hour of exploring, they finally decided to return... and though the hike down had seemed tiresome, the climb back was gruelling, and they were soon gasping for breath... the top seeming so distant, so far away!
Once back, they had another exciting picnic lunch, relaxing under the shade of a huge banyan, resting their tired limbs while enjoying the magnificent view of the Kali flow down below...
"Ready for more, or want to call it quits?" asked Ravi after about an hour of rest.
"Quits?" asked Yash, "Uh, what's that?"
"OK, buddy," responded Ravi with a grin, "now on to the Sykes Point, and another magnificent view of the Kalinadi valley and River Kali!"
"Let's go then!" Yash exclaimed, already up on his feet.
It was their last evening there... and the next afternoon they would be leaving... drive down to the station and then the train back home... And after dinner, as they stood on the upper deck of their magnificent tree house, hidden from the outside world by the thick foliage that surrounded them, listening to the rushing water below, and the serenade of the nocturnal creatures... watching the moonlight play hide-and-seek from beyond the fluttering leaves, casting dancing shadows over them, and the darkened deck, transporting them to another, almost magical realm, far removed from their own normal world... they also experienced a sense of sorrow, a sadness at having to go back... leave this wonderful land.
These three days had been an amazing journey, a thrilling adventure... tiring at times, but nonetheless, exhilarating, a mind-boggling experience... And that last evening, as they stood out on that deck, a host of emotions running through their young minds, they remained surprisingly silent, so unlike them... Maybe reflecting on the experiences, maybe reliving them... Or maybe, discovering a new meaning to their friendship...
And as they stood, side by side, hands on the wooden railing... fingers touched... a hesitant palm reaching out, timid... covering the hand... fingers intertwining... Both turned, facing each other, eyes locking...
Suddenly leaning forward, Ratish brushed his lips against Yash's... making the boy gasp at the suddenness... And before he could react, Ratish grabbed his face, holding him as he ground his open mouth to his friend's parted lips... kissing him with a ferocity that left Yash breathless.
Eyes closing, Yash felt his heart slam against his rib cage... beating wildly, audibly, as Ratish's tongue licked his lips... slowly snaking into his mouth, unsure at first, tentative... but not shy... wiggling around as it reached deeper... exploring the dark cavern, the hidden recesses... making him moan involuntarily at this new sensation, this new experience. It felt amazing... and with his knees wobbly, Yash reached up, grabbing his friend's head, the fingers wrapping in the thick, curly locks... returning the kiss... sucking on the inserted tongue... wiggling his own into his friend's mouth... tasting... exploring...
Pulling back, Ratish released his face, and as Yash looked on, still gasping, he saw the hands reached out... touch his chest and then slowly move lower... the fingers fluttering over his crotch...
Reaching down, Yash gathered his cotton tee, sliding it up, over his belly... holding it in a tight fist, as he watched Ratish undo the single button of his jeans before tugging down the zipper... parting the front...
Both hearts slammed with some unknown excitement as Ratish reached in... extracting the semi erect teen penis, gasping as it came into view... running his hand along the tender length of the smooth shaft before taking it in his palm... admiring the cock in the moonlight... wrapping his shaking fingers around the girth... squeezing the fast hardening column...
It felt devilishly divine... and within seconds Yash felt his cock go rigid, flexing crazily ... the silky skin tingling as the warm fingers caressed the thickened length...
Almost simultaneously, both boys looked up, at each other, into the eyes... their gaze locking... and then Yash, grabbing his childhood friend's hair, pulled him close, kissing him passionately, both teens moaning as the mouth worked...
"Let's go inside..." Yash whispered softly, pulling back to catch his breath.
And the two boys went in, closing the door behind them, shutting out the world.
It was nearly noon when Mr. Ashok walked out of his office and spotted Ravi.
"Ah, Ravi," he called out, "haven't seen the two boys since morning, where are they?" he asked.
"Oh, must be in their room, didn't see them today..." he replied.
"Everything's fine, uh?"
"Oh, everything's fine, Sir," Ravi answered, "I had called them this morning and they asked me to send their breakfast up to the tree house, said they wouldn't be going out today," he smiled, before adding, "They have been out everyday, from early morning to dusk, hiking, trekking, rafting, and biking. I mean, they only came back to sleep at night. Guess they are just exhausted, and must be sleeping... recovering from all the excitement and exertion."
"Well, whatever," Mr. Ashok said, "make sure that they are up by lunch time, and are ready for the trip to the station by four, else they will miss the train back home."
"Don't worry, Sir, I'll wake them up for lunch and make sure that they are dropped at the station for the train."
"Good..." said Mr. Ashok with a smile as he walked back into his office, leaving Ravi to stand there, looking up at the distant tree house, barely visible behind the thick foliage, seeming to sway... maybe from the breeze...
and so it began...