Legend of Manna Chenchu

Foreword: This story was originally written in 2003, sitting in a forest guest house near Ooty and published in my Old Blog. Some of you may have heard the narration around a campfire sometime! Hope you like the full version in Print! Do comment below! 🙂

DISCLAIMER: This story is completely Fictional.
(Except for the parts that are completely f***ing True!)

Maaya was running late! It was already past 7pm and she had a flight to catch at 10! She had rushed through the last of the code-review meetings but still had to brief the boss before she could leave for Pune airport which was over an hour away! It was at this moment that Poonam called! Maaya couldn’t take the call now! She had a flight to catch! So She put the phone on silent and rushed into her Boss’s cabin. The meeting with the boss stretched on far too long and Maaya fidgeted nervously as she kept looking at the racing clock. Finishing the meeting, she grabbed her bags which she had kept with the security that morning and rushed down to the Taxi.

Finally! She was on her way to the airport! Maaya was really looking forward to this trip. She was headed to the Forests after over a year. The last year had been particularly brutal at work with 16 hour work days plus deployments on the Weekends! She had been working non-stop for over 4 months! Plus she had learned earlier that month about an upcoming work trip to Paris, which meant she would miss this year’s Tiger Census- an activity that she always looked forward to! Fortunately, an opening came up! The person who normally does the pre-Census recce and data-collection planning was taking some time off for his marriage and honeymoon and the Forest Department was looking for someone to handle that important responsibility. Maaya volunteered for this without even being asked! She had a selfish motive! She could go to the Forest after all and spend some time with her beloved Jungle friends!

The Recce is a very important activity for the Census. We scan through the forests and understand the “traffic patterns” – movement of all the animals, especially our primary focus the Tigers, and map out the actual routes that each of our volunteers would walk a month later. Planning is important and Maaya was grateful to be doing this task. Plus she was looking forward to some alone time in the jungle to recuperate!

Checking her phone, she saw that she had 16 missed calls from Poonam! Wow! This must be important! When she called back, Poonam told her that 2 Forensic Scientists from the Lab would be joining her for the recce. Could Maaya wait till their flight arrived and take them along with her?

Maaya was pissed! Volunteers like her trolled the jungles to collect the data and Volunteer Scientist Geeks at the Lab processed the Data after work – that was how this deal worked! Why did they have to come down now? Poonam said that some of the scientists wanted to see how we guys collected the data. Plus one of the 2 guys coming was a senior who was tipped to be the next director of the Lab! We have to kiss some arse in the long term interest of keeping the project going!

Maaya was pissed about having to babysit these 2 scientist-geeks! She liked the Lab guys! It was not like that! She had met some of the others before on previous Census projects when these guys came visiting for a couple of days each. We told the nerds about Jungle Stuff, about how we collected the data and clarified their Jungle/Wildlife questions! Most of these geeks got their jungle knowledge from Jim Corbett/Kenneth Anderson books so some clarification was necessary! The scientist nerds told the Census Volunteers about how the Data we collected was actually processed at their Lab and We pretended to understand all that! Scintillating campfire conversations!🙄 She didn’t mind normally! But the next 13 days were supposed to be HER time alone! Why was Poonam piling these annoying little nerds on her head now? “Must pound on her later” Maaya sighed, resigning herself to her fate!

2 scientists got off the plane coming from XXX. The senior guy Reddy looked like one of those retired uncles going to meet his grand-kids. The younger fella Shrikant was kinda-sorta cute though. With those dimpled cheeks, he kind of looked like a nerd version of Kannada actor Diganth – if Diganth wore one inch thick nerd glasses and constantly quoted Sciencey stuff at the speed of light! Collecting her Gypsy which was left parked at the FD office in the city, the trio finally got ready to leave for the Forest which was over 6 hours away. Shrikant began to ask Maaya about the Forest they were going to and the plan for the week ahead. Reddy uncle cut him off and said we must first find and stock up on enough “Old Monk” rum for the week ahead! Maaya smiled! Perhaps there was some hope for these nerds after all! 😏

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