Sundarpur was a small village. It was surrounded by mountains and thick forests. There were a few small houses and many small huts. Life in the village was quiet and calm.
Most of the people of the village were farm labourers, cowherds and shepherds. A few people were also employed as workers in a bridge construction. The bridge was being built across a small river which flowed by the village.
Somu and Rukku worked in the bridge construction as labourers. They lived in a small hut. They had two little children. A son named Rahul and a daughter Anu. Every day, they would send Rahul and Anu to school before they left for their work at the bridge. “Don’t go into the forest, children. It is dangerous with all the wild animals”, they always told their children as they prepared them for school. The forest was indeed a dangerous place with many dangerous animals and poisonous snakes.
It was a pleasant sunny day and it was a holiday. Rahul and Anu were in the house. Their parents were away at work. They were playing in front of their house chasing each other. A short distance away they saw a beautiful butterfly. They wanted to catch it. So they were running after it and it went into the forest. There they saw many butterflies. A short distance away, they saw some beautiful small flowers. They had never come into the forest before and they were excited. They walked in to collect the flowers.
While they were collecting the flowers, they found a big ripe jackfruit on the ground that had fallen from the tree. They were delighted. Anu always liked jackfruit so they cut the fruit open with a sharp stone they found nearby and started eating the fruit. After they finished eating, they started to go home. But by then the light had gone and darkness had started setting in. They walked fast but they could not find the way as there was not much light. They ran here and there in fear but could not find their way out as there were plants and bushes all over the place. As they were standing confused in fear, they heard a peculiar barking. They turned to see a big wolf standing there.
Rahul held Anu’s hand and started running. The wolf chased them for some time. When it saw a rabbit in a bush, it began to chase it. Rahul and Anu now heard the roar of a tiger at a distance. They looked for a hiding place. They slowly walked in the dim moonlight towards a rock. Luckily for them, there was a small cave. They went there and sat down.
Suddenly, they heard the howling of a group of wolves. Fear gripped them. They sat motionless in terror. Staying quiet for a while, they fell asleep. When they opened their eyes, the day had dawned and to their surprise they found a little deer lying near them. It had come into the cave seeking shelter. They patted it gently and it jumped and ran away.
Rahul and Anu came out of the cave, tired and hungry. As they were walking, they saw a guava tree. A few guava fruits were lying beside the tree. They ate them eagerly. They felt stronger. But they had to find water now. They were very thirsty.
They walked a few meters away and found a small pond. But they did not know how to draw the water. Rahul cupped his hands, took the water from the pond and drank it. But Anu would not come near the pond. She was afraid of the tadpoles. No amount of explanation by Rahul would convince her that tadpoles were harmless. Rahul found a big leaf in a nearby plant which he made into a cup. He then carried water in the cup to his sister. Anu drank the water eagerly. She was very thirsty.
They were very afraid when they thought how lonely and lost they were in this huge forest. Will they every find their way home? Anu started crying too as she thought of their situation.
Rahul was afraid too. But he did not show it. “ We should have listened to our parents”, Anu said with tears,” Had we listened to them, we would never be in a situation like this”. Rahul consoled her and said that they will soon be home. They started walking aimlessly in the forest. Before long, they were tired. They sat down to rest under a tree and were soon asleep.
A few hours later, Gopi a wood cutter was passing through the forest. He saw two little children. In an instant, he recognized that they were the children everyone in the village was searching for. He carried the two little children in his shoulders back to the village.
When Rahul and Anu woke up, they found themselves in their home. Their relieved parents were kneeling over them and splashing water on their faces. They were surprised to see their neighbours around them. For a minute, Rahul and Anu were confused. Their parents embraced them and kissed them. They felt sorry for their parents and apologized for wandering into the forest. Somu and Rukku were delighted to see their children back. They gave a cash prize to Gopi, the carpenter for his help. But Gopi refused. He was happy enough to see a family reunited with their children.