The wholesaler had warned about the jungle, but he liked the fruit and paid good price for it. To Sid it felt that they were onto a good thing, but Aron wasn’t sure. Aron had spent eight years moving fruit and grain between the town and cities and was more comfortable with movement on land that he knew best. It cost more time and money but fruit and grain had always been transported in this area on tractors and trucks and before that on bullock carts.
Most people never went to the northern jungle and avoided going even towards it. The stories of horror were multilayered. There was an active insurgency in the area and the jungles were hotbeds of the disgruntled who had taken up arms. Their targets were sometimes off-duty policemen but more commonly informants. They hated snitches and suspected any stranger near their hideout of being one.
There couldn’t have been many of the subversives but the political patronage for such people was strong. They became useful to carry out dirty jobs for the unscrupulous-ambitious. For a specific category of politicians a banner like this was an opportunity to collect the disgruntled around themselves.
The last person killed by a tiger in the area may have been a decade ago, but bullet riddled bodies had been discovered more recently. Powerful patronage meant that police action was taken only in response to specific incidents and not as a consistent policy to rid the region of the scourge.
They felt lucky that they were not accosted on the last trip. Sid wanted to continue their venture and Aron agreed one more time. First thing they would need was a suitable motor for their boat, to take them upstream and also to give them better control downstream. Aron knew somebody, who knew an old hand to guide them with choosing the right motor. The preparations were complete in a few days. Sid and Aron loaded the boat with grain to carry to the western big city.
As they were loading, a couple approached them. They looked like locals and spoke in the same manner. Each carried a heavy backpack which they put down near the boat. As soon as the couple arrived, there was a wonderful aroma in the air. They helped with the loading and the work was completed rather quickly. Sid and Aron thanked the man and the woman, who requested nicely to be dropped at the pier near the western big city.
The flow to the western big city was gentler and the boat went slowly as they kept the motor off to save on fuel. They were careful to see where they were going but there was no trouble this time.It was idyllic. A gentle breeze blew from the east and the woman was singing softly. Sid couldn’t make out everything but it was a song about the jungle in different seasons.
It took 5 hours to reach the pier near their destination. Though it was about half an hour more than it would have taken a truck to reach the same place if the road was clear, it was certainly more pleasant; and the truck would have cost more. Soon after they reached the pier, the couple, Dara and Maya wanted to leave. Before leaving Maya asked Sid when they planned to go back and could she and Dara possibly join them on the return trip. A date was fixed and then they had work to do.
When Sid came back on board, Aron showed him a flowering shoot he had picked up from the boat. It was about a foot long and bluish in color with a wonderful, uplifting smell or so it seemed to Sid.
To be continued..…