The Island

Kabir could hardly open his eyes. He let out a groan in pain. Every part of his body ached and throbbed and he could take it no more. He drifted back into complete darkness. Faint, unfamiliar sounds seemed to make some pattern somewhere in his mind. Did they sound like birds, or animals, or drums, humans? Nothing made any sense to him. He spoke out. Did he? Or only his lips moved and no sound came? Could he feel somethings crawling over him, here and there?Were they ants? Insects?He screamed. Why couldn’t he hear the scream? Will someone help? There seemed to be no one. He slipped into deep unconsciousness.

Kabir stirred. He could feel pins along his heels. His toes seemed to be bound together or rather stuck together?He couldn’t lift his feet. The pain seemed to have lessened a bit. He opened his eyes. He moved his tongue over his dried lips. He could sit up with great difficulty. Suddenly horror struck him. He was completely naked. Not an inch of cloth was there on his body. He looked around. No one was at sight. He was in a cave. He struggled to get up and somehow dragged himself at the mouth of the cave. It seemed to be a dense forest with a sea line far away. Where was he, he wondered.

Slowly his memory started coming back. He was on a ship on a cruise, when all of a sudden there was a horrifying storm in the sea. The waves seemed to engulf the huge ship. He remembered being thrown into the wild, crazy sea. He somehow found himself on a big wooden plank, being tossed up and down by the waves and then he remembered nothing. Actually it was a huge tsunami, that had hit the shores, washing away miles and miles of land that had come on it’s way. Insurmountable damage to life and property had shaken up the nation. No one from Kabir’s ship survived, except him. He was lashed on the shores of an unaccounted island amidst the ocean.

Kabir took a stock of his condition. Many tiny pins were stuck all along his heels. Some dried, caked mixture covered his toes and fingers, making them join together. The same mixture was embalmed all over his body. He had no idea that he was there unconscious for more than a week. He looked around for someone who had done all this to him. Surprisingly, he felt no hunger or thirst. He felt a bit weak and so slowly crept back inside the cave and lay down on the bed made of grass, twigs and leaves.To his surprise, the bed was pretty comfortable. He did not know when he fell asleep.

Strange voices woke him. He slowly opened his eyes. He was paralyzed with fear at the sight in front of him. The human looking figures were all naked. Each face had features marked with such bestiality and cruelty, that was enough to give the most courageous, a sleepless night.They would be about a dozen and they comprised men, women and a few children as well. They had something red and yellow smeared on their faces, forming some pattern. An elderly man , with a long beard came near Kabir with a knife in his hand. Kabir could do nothing. In fear, he closed his eyes. He felt the knife slice away the caked mixture from his feet. He opened his eyes and watched how with precision , the man sliced off the mixture from all over his body.Another man came forward and pulled out the pins from his heels. Then the old man checked the wounds and bruises and indicated again for the pins to be pricked and he himself, caked the whole body again with a fresh mixture that he had brought on a mud plate. Suddenly two of them, a man and a girl came to him, opened his mouth by force and put a wide pipe like thing, made of wood, into his mouth.Through this, the girl poured some thick liquid into Kabir’s mouth. Kabir resisted but in vain. They had held him firmly and the whole bamboo bowl, with the liquid was emptied into his mouth and it straight went into his stomach. After all this, those people left. Not a word was uttered by anyone. Kabir lay there, in shock, for a long time. Had he landed himself on some undiscovered island?

Kabir was awestruck by their medical care. He was improving by the day and he had not taken a single pill. Everyday the same routine would take place. Twice dressing and feeding , all in complete silence. What herbs, concoctions, mud cakes they were using on him, wondered Kabir. He had starting walking around a bit and had discovered that he was on a not so big island and nothing but the blue water around, could be seen till the horizon. There was no way to find out which part of the world was he in. Suddenly he remembered his waist belt that was secured tightly on him, before. That had a tiny compass in it, along with some other things of utility. He searched around, in the cave and his eyes gleamed to find it kept in a crevice, in a wall of the cave. He hurriedly opened up the belt . His things were all there, untouched. The waterproof belt had kept the things unaffected by water. He took out the compass and his watch with the GPS. It was working!He could not believe his eyes. GPS working on some God forsaken land. And what did it show? He was on one of the undiscovered islands in the Indian Ocean. So these people looking after him, belonged to some unknown tribe. He had read a lot about such tribes, living in different undiscovered islands and forests of the world. They had aggressively shunned any contact from civilization. Kabir felt the tinge of excitement filling him. He was amongst one of such tribes. He was seeing them in their habitat. No one so far, from the civilized world had found any access to them. Kabir couldn’t believe his luck.

It was almost six months that Kabir was on that island now. There was no way that he could leave from there, for there was no mode of transport that he could think of using. The island was far far away from any land. All through this time , Kabir was looked after well. All his wounds had healed completely long back. After he was well, they stopped the dressings and force feeding him. They would leave food for him in the cave. The food comprised meat of whatever animal they could lay their hands on, often turtle, wild vegetables, something like potatoes, various types of fruits and some form of red rice. Lack of option, made it easy for Kabir to accept all this to satisfy his hunger. He was still walking around naked all the time, now naturally. There was no verbal or for that matter any communication between him and anyone from the tribe, except the delivery of food, twice a day. By this time, Kabir had learnt many things. He could now somehow follow the time, by reading the sun movement, he could know the onset of monsoon, the arrival of a storm, etc etc. He, on a few occasions got a glimpse of their celebrations too. They would dance around a fire, making strange sounds, using instruments made of wood and strings. He was fascinated by all this. He felt he could follow the twitterings of birds too!Now he could understand what he had read about these tribals being so adept in reading the signs of Nature. No wonder that the Tsunami that had ravaged such a chunk of civilization, could do no harm to these, who could read it’s arrival and make necessary arrangements for their own safety. Remarkable indeed, wondered Kabir.

Kabir had been witnessing closely, the life of these handful tribals, who were so content with their lives here and resisted all human interventions from others.They were self sufficient in terms of almost everything. They grew their own food, tended to all medical needs with the help of herbs, roots, juices of leaves, trees and what not; lived in a community where they enjoyed being together celebrating life in it’s purest form.They were happy. Why did the outer world insist upon forcing them to join the others? In name of inclusiveness? Why were so many eyes and minds focused on ways to find an access to them?To intrude upon their lives? To expose them to disease they are unfamiliar to? In fact these innocent handful of people, who put all their knowledge to use for their own good, could become a set of role models for the world. Kabir shuddered to remember reading about a proposal to exterminate them, after unsuccessful attempts to encroach upon their habitats.

Visuals of Kabir’s life, just about half a year ago, flashed past in front of his eyes. Family, friends, parties, fights, jealousy,stress in all walks of life, disappointments, failures, success, work etc etc .. all seemed like scenes from some movie. Living in isolation for all this while, had been extremely difficult at times. He suffered from the pangs of home-sickness. He was completely cut off from them for about six months and he craved for human touch and companionship. At times he would be awfully frustrated at his helplessness. He would cry out for some response but to no avail. After these bouts of expressions, Kabir would again calm down. He could understand the thinking of these tribals so much better now and felt that they would be best left alone and the outer world had no right what so ever, to try and force themselves into their life, in the name of Humanity and inclusiveness. Why would help be thrust upon someone who has not even asked for it, for the simple reason that they do not need it.

Suddenly something hit him hard at the back of his head and he felt a searing pain. Everything was dark in front of his eyes. When he regained consciousness after God knows how long, he was shocked to find himself tied on a raft, bobbing up and down in the ocean. He tried looking around and all he could see was water. Far on one side he could see the island, probably the one that he had been marooned on, for such a long duration. He could not fathom why and how could he be in a situation like that. The raft kept on tossing on the ocean with him on it, for may be a few days. Kabir was completely blank in his mind. The sun, the moon, the stars were all that he saw above him. Suddenly he gave a jerk. Was he seeing right? Yes, it was a ship! A ship was seen at a distance sailing majestically on the deep blue waters. Then he understood. The tribals had spotted the ship from a great distance and they had tied him on to the raft and had left it on the water, to be spotted and rescued by the ship. As there was no communication between him and the tribals, they had got him unconscious to facilitate the send off. So they could understand Kabir’s craving to go back to his people, his life!

As planned and hoped by those innocent tribals, Kabir was rescued by the ship and he reached home in another month’s time. His people were overjoyed to see him. They had come to terms with the fact that he was wiped away like all the others on the ship, by tsunami. For Kabir, the miraculous return was still taking time to sink in. He felt lost in the sea of people and life, around him.

The island seemed to exist in some other world. It just did not fit into the world that Kabir belonged. A handful of people, thriving with the most basic emotions and needs, immersed and content in their own little though beautiful world, not affecting anyone negatively, can they not have the simple basic right to be left alone?

Kabir folded his hands , looking out into the sky, uttered a humble “thank you.” Would it ever reach them? He would never know.