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BENTONITE

geology, bentonite,clay mineral, pock marks, shallow seismic.

Asim was in Edinborough during 1986. He went there for training in exploration in Marine geology in different institutions in United Kingdom. There in Edinborough he had been associated in British Geological Survey. Edinborough is in Scotland and the place appeared to him a wonderful merry land. It was summer and thus the cold was not severe. The first day when he arrived there by the British Rail from Waterloo station, he was simply overwhelmed with the greeneries all around. The beautiful transport system, clean roads, shopping centers charmed him. As such this place is famous for medical institutions. Students from different parts of the globe come here for higher studies. Asim had put up in a Guest House arranged by the sponsoring agency. Every day after having his breakfast Asim used to walk down the street to reach the laboratory of British Geological Survey. It was not far off, hardly one kilometer or so. The cherry and the willow trees were in queue on either side of the road. Beautiful nightingale used to peep through the branch of the trees and used to sing songs!
Peter in the Institute used to tell, “ Have you not visited the harbor here? You must be knowing that your research vessel has been rebuilt here only!”
Asim replied “No, not yet! If you don’t take me there, how can I visit?”
Peter smiled and told, “Is it so? Are you interested to go? O.K. then, we all will visit tomorrow, myself, you, Sheila and Lolo will go.”
Next day they all went to the nearby port. Peter was driving the Institutes car; it was quite cozy and comfortable. Within an hour they reached the port. Wonderful sight in deed! Albatross were flying over the blue coloured water mass of the Atlantic. Series of small to big sized ships were anchored in the outer shelf; some of them were in motion too. In another corner a quite good number of yacht were moving fast each other.
Peter said “ Asim, look there! The offshore platform of British Gas! Do you see? Of course, you also have started offshore drilling in the Bombay High! Is not it?”
Asim replied, “ Yes, there in Bombay High, Oil and Natural Gas Commission is engaged in exploring the oil. Mr. Peter, you had shown me many ‘pock marks’ (domal shaped gas charged sediment) picked up in the shallow seismic analogue. I guess, those ‘pock marks’ are from this part of the area! Am I correct Mr. Peter?”
To this Sheila responded immediately, she said, “ Yes, you are right. It is the same place around which we conducted the seismic survey of the sea bed”. She continued further “…. We sold the seismic analogue to the British Gas and now they are exploring and exploiting…”. Peter interrupted “ By the by, do you know Nimai Chand & Co? It’s proprietor Mr.Nimai Chand is very much here. He has come here for some business deal with the British Gas. It is quite funny that he can not write or speak English and so he has brought his chief Secretary one, Mr.Keshri….”.
The name Nimai Chand was very familiar to Asim but immediately he could not place him. However Keshri’s name reminded him every thing. He had heard that Nimai Chand had set up a big company dealing with the mineral matters particularly minerals for lubricating fillers in the deep drilling purpose. Asim thought whether Peter was referring him only! Meanwhile some more people had joined Mr.Peter , he got engaged in talking and discussing with them. Asim silently left them and a little distance away he stood near a vessel and started recollecting the event of his old younger days.
Around ten years before Asim came on leave from his service center at Jaipur in Rajasthan to his hometown in West Bengal. He and his old friends had a meeting place in Jamal’s clock shop. All the friends, now placed in different parts of India, generally come on long leave from their service center to this home town and assemble in this shop during the festival time. One day, Jamal showed Asim a piece of earthen material wrapped in a piece of old news paper and told “ Asim this material has been handed over by one Mr.Keshri for you for identification. Yester day he came and waited for you for quite a long time and ultimately left hope and went away. He told however, that he will again come to meet you may be to day in the evening”.
Asim saw the material curiously. It was soft, soapstone like, lumpy and greasy material. No doubt it was a clay mineral but how it is so significant that a man takes all the trouble to come repeatedly for him! Anyhow he had not to wait any further; Mr.Keshri with his broad smiling face just arrived! Without any formal introduction he told “Babu (Sir), I am Keshri, have you examined the sample? Babu, by selling this material, Nimai Chand has accumulated a huge amount of wealth. He has become a rich man! These materials are dug from his nearby land and are stacked in one place. People come and collect those materials and leaves with truckload. Even a railway track is also under construction for transport up to the nearest station at Teen Pahari”.
Asim asked “Where from this material is? And what you want?”
Keshri replied, “Babu, this material is from Teen Pahari area (Three hills) in Bihar. Babu I want to take you there with me, if possible by tomorrow only. Please don’t say no; I have similar such land nearby. I want you to survey and examine the area…” He was talking ceaselessly; Asim did not give much importance to the later part. He was thinking what the material could be!
Returning home, Asim consulted Dana’s book of Mineralogy and tested streak, hardness and other physical characters of the mineral. He compared the characters and found its refractive index was same with that of water. Thus the mineral when put in a glass of water, immediately it becomes invisible and dissolves quickly. Yes, the mineral came out to be bentonite, an altered clay mineral very much useful as lubricating material for drilling.
Asim, thus got interested and the next day he accompanied Mr.Keshri and surveyed the area. Range of hillocks of Deccan Traps was all around. Plenty of patches of bentonite clay were found above the basaltic traps. A little distance away, a lot of people were seen engaged in mining bentonites.
Mr.Keshri said, “ Those are of Nimachand’s mines! What a fortunate man! A few years back he had nothing; he was living the life of a beggar! Do you know, he used to maintain his livelihood by selling tamarind from his few trees! Now you see, how rich he is! He has constructed a big Manson here!”
Asim enquired, “How it happened? Has he trade license as per mineral act? It is a remote place! Three or four tribal families are living here! No school, no hospital, no amenities for civilized life. How it happened really?”
Keshri replied, “ You will be surprised to know Babu that he is illiterate! He is a local man here and has a few acres of land mostly unsuitable for agriculture! But that is a boon for him! I heard a big mineral company doing business nearby located this mineral and finally entered business with Nimai Chand also. They could not avoid him because he is a tribal man and tribe’s land can not be sold or purchased, as you know!”
Both of them were engrossed and did not know when three persons with long bamboo sticks came near to them and watched them silently. Finally one of them said with serious tone in Hindi “What are you doing here? It is better that you leave the place immediately! It is the order of Nimai Chand Babu! And no more arguments!” Asim and Keshri could understand the situation and without any further word left the place and returned home by the next train. Asim understood that Nimai Chand would not tolerate any body’s intervention in his present business.
Peter called Asim and asked “ What happened Asim, I was calling you for a long time! You are absent minded, What are you thinking of? Are you interested to meet Mr. Nimai Chand? Yes, he is available now in that Research vessel.” The white coloured ‘Polaris’ research vessel was seen anchored in the inner self zone.
Published: 2007-11-05
Author: Asimendu Bandopadhyay

About the author or the publisher
About the author :
The author, Mr. Asimendu Bandopadhyay, uses his free time in writing. He has developed a writing style revealing the bondage of nature and the life. He wants to share & communicate those events of his own with the readers for their valuable feelings and interactions. The author was working as a Director in Geological Survey of India in the last phase of his service career. In his younger days worked in various field of geology with background of foreign training in United Kingdom under United Nations Development Programme Scheme in Marine Exploration. He gathered vast experience both in land and Ocean. Active participation as Chief Scientist in as many as 15 different geological cruises in the Bay of Bengal is in his credit. He took part in search of Fe-Mn nodules cruising 45 days at a stretch in sea in the Indian Ocean in Skandy Surveyor, a Norwegian Research Vessel. Published scientific papers in national and international journals. Besides scientific milieu, came across many human-inhuman experiences. Vast field of Rajasthan, the place of desert and his initial placement in the job ended in the deep sea through majestic happenings covering human feelings and scientific search.

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