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Lizard

Sirohi,Jasawantapura,Rajasthan,Jalore, Lizard,Tent, granite,dykes,foot hills,hill, Mt Abu,Jaipur, Barmer, border,Quilt.

Jasawantapura was a village about seventy kilometers west of Sirohi town in Rajasthan. There was a huge mountain behind the village. Near the bus stop there was one small State duck bungalow. Primary health center, Block development office, police station and a Higher Secondary school were all in one cluster and very near to the duck bungalow. We used to visit that village almost every year in connection with geological investigation and we used to put up in that rest house only.

In fact, that place was located in the center of our working activity. Those days there was no electricity in the village or in the rest house. Otherwise it was quite cozy and comfortable excepting frequent visit of a very big lizard of monitor variety. Every now and then it used to enter the house through the open door in the back yard or sometimes even crossing over the wall boundary. Of course it used not to harm any body, the caretaker of the rest house used to provide it with food and was affectionate to it! The lizard was quite big and looked like a big crocodile. However, it did never entered in our living room. Its movement was restricted within the back yard and occasionally within the toilet. Our several visits and stay in that rest house made me known to the people there and friendship was developed with the B.D.O, doctor, officer in charge of the police station and other panchayat people.

Once, Muralidharan and myself were camping in that rest house and were taking geological traverses towards Swarupganj or towards Abu Road. Mount Abu was about seventy kilometers south of Jasawantapura. The high hill ranges together with the sand dunes in between would create an atmosphere of alien land, a completely different set up from the rest of the country!

It was in the wintertime; in one evening, one jeep with trailer fully loaded with camp equipments arrived in the rest house. It was a pleasant surprise to see two other colleague friends in the jeep. Mr. Ramachandran and Arun Kalra came to shift the camp from Swarupganj in connection with the related geological search. We stayed in the rest house for a few more days and ultimately established our camp in the outskirt of the village. The place was chosen to erect our living tents with ‘s’ and ‘n’ tents. The ‘s’ tent was comparatively small one and was used by the watchmen or as kitchen while ‘n’ tent was still smaller and used as necessary or toilet and bathroom. It was a big campus fenced with naturally grown thorny bushes. To set up the camps it became almost evening; the petromax and the lanterns were lit. It was a great amusement for the villagers to observe our activities; in fact it was a break in their monotonous routine life. They would stand in queue and would wait for any unknown to happen! Some one among them would come forward and with all hesitations and politeness would ask, “ Hokum (your highness), how long you will stay here? Sahib, what for you have come here?”

We would answer, “ We have come here in search of valuable stones and rocks! We will stay here for quite a long time!”
Getting the answer some one would feel encouraged and would come forward with suggestion “ There are plenty of black rocks towards Dorra, you may find gold there!”

We would laugh, amuse and would pursue further for the local know how of ‘pak dandi’ (foot track) or any new well or any horse or camel to hire. From among them I would pick up one or two persons for field guide or watchmen. During our stay in such areas they would bring some fish or hunted rabbit from the places they knew! The villagers in Rajasthan were mostly vegetarian; only the Rajputs were non-vegetarian but were not particular for fishes! Therefore the down streams in the hills would provide a lot of fishes, big and small! At times with the help of a fishing net we would catch plenty and would invite other fellow colleagues, camping nearby to come and celebrate! Ramachandran was a vegetarian. However, he would not mind to dine with us.
The area around Jasawantapura was fascinating. It was unique in nature, all around; there were hillocks with intervening sand dunes. Rarely there were agricultural lands only along some streams coming down from the hilltops. Wheat, maize was grown in those lands. The owner of the lands would survive with those corps together with the collected woods from the jungles. Basically they were very poor and many of them would have one meal in a day!

The country rock was mainly granite of different ages. Lot of long dykes of feldspar porphyry or rhyolites was seen to cut across the main granitic mass. The granites forming the hilltops were undeformed and were comparatively younger and granites in the plane were mostly deformed and were much older. During our geological traverses we used to come across some wild animals. Nilgai, wolf or the rabbit would run away from us like a flash! Their sudden appearance would give a great relief and entertainment from the routine survey!

Once we thought of climbing the Jasawantapura hill to examine the rock types along the route. It was a high hill range very similar to that of Mount Abu! There was a very old horse-cart track. We were walking up following the same route. The road was, however, totally damaged. In olden days, the king of that area built that road to reach their summer capital atop the hill. The palace at such height was simply magnificent! The road, the gateway and the palace were all abandoned. Keeping in mind the long distance, we started early in the morning and reached at about thirty minutes past one in the afternoon. The palace had a very strong structure of around three hundred years old. It was completely abandoned and was being used as picnic spot by some adventure minded youths! In the unglazed walls, the visitors had inscribed their names. The top hill was a plateau like! The central part, like that of Mount Abu had a small pond. There were mango, Babul and tamarind trees around the pond. A herd of cows were grazing the grass there. Their little masters, the cowboys, were observing us with an astound eyes.

Ramachandran told “ You see, the hill is made up of undeformed granite, may be of Malani igneous suit at least younger than seven hundred million years or so. But, what is interesting is, this top hill is likely to be of older country rock may be schistose or phyllitic in nature, although no good insitu exposures are seen around. May be after erosion, the entire area was weathered and has been converted to soft clayey sediment mass which formed a capping cover for reservoir for this water pool!” We agreed to his opinion and I said, “ This place is quite an unique place. With proper development the place can be converted to a tourist spot”.

Arun said “ True! But for development, lot of money will be required. For example, from northern part to the southern tip a rope way could be built! It’s distance is near about one kilometer in length”.
Muralidharan added “ That may not be a great problem. The real problem will be while reconstructing the road. The present abandoned one should be broadened at least for two lanes! Kiosks or restaurants should also be constructed at places in the long roadway”.

Ramachandran laughed and said “ Quite true, but what about the residences then? Lot of houses is also to be built up. Besides there are many other problems like food supply, medical shops, doctors-hospitals and similar such necessities”.

The top of the Jasawantapura hill would give a feeling of another planet! Above was the blue sky; both sunset and the sunrise would be visible from eastern and western edge of the plateau! From the northern edge the Dorra hill would be visible distinctly. The planes adjacent to the Dorra hill would be covered with wavy sand dunes.

When we got down the hill and reached the camp it was almost dark. The night would fall with its dark paw and from the distance the sound of peacock would glorify the desert night in Rajasthan! Winter was severe, and a group of camels would assemble just outside the fence of the camp for last meal of the day from the babul trees around. The Jasawantapura hill, the village and the camp mates would all go to sleep in the silence of the night! We also would slowly retire to our bed after finishing our dinner. Arun, however, used to read novels mostly of Harold Robins till late in the night!

The sun would rise again, all the people would again get up and like every day they would start their activities, the peacock and the other birds would fly from one tree to the other, the camels and the cows would go to the grazing ground and the bells around their necks would bang with musical sound!

The next morning, was, however, not the same as the other mornings! It was pandemonium! I got up from the bed on hearing shouts and noises in the out side. Ramachandran was shouting at the top of his voice, the watchman was standing with folded hand and head down.

I asked “ What has happened Ramachandran?”
---- “ Oh, what a dangerous act you know? Two of the ‘n’ tents are not in the place! Those have been uprooted and stolen! This man is not able to say any thing, he must have slept in the night!”
---- “ Oh! Really! But why such thing should happen; Hay, Ratta, do you know, all those are Government properties! Better you try to know who did it! And get those back!”
Ratta, the watchman was frightened. He was pleading of his innocence and ignorance of the event! He broke down to knees!
Ramachandran told “ Asim, this has to be reported to the police and a FIR to be lodged. This is needed for our record, because those are returnable articles to the stores.”
I immediately agreed to his suggestion and said “ OK, let us then get ready to go to the police station to report”.
He said “ Wait, I will send one person to report and call the officer in charge to come here”.
By that time Arun and Murlidharan got up from their beds and came to know about the theft! Initially the officer did not give much importance excepting the FIR lodge and assurance of further safety of the camp. With lot of persuasion the officer under stood the seriousness of the situation and came to know that our activities were known to the higher ups in the State departments and were expected to extend all possible back up support for such type of survey work. Ultimately, it was assured that the articles would definitely be traced out and would be recovered by them. Later I heard the district authority in connection with those lost tents set up one enquiry committee.

Ramachandran, meanwhile, had to shift his camp to the Jasawantapura duck bungalow till the alternative arrangement could be sought. We all went back to our respective jobs and lost all hopes for getting those tents back.

Every afternoon, after a short rest from the tedious fieldwork we used to walk down to the duck bungalow and would discuss geology or some office matter with Ramachandran. One day he told “ Do you know I am planning to tame that lizard! It is responding well!”
I was astonished and asked “ Taming! What are you saying! It may be dangerous also!”
---- “ No! No! It is simply not harmful! The helpless one comes every day in search of food. It is vegetarian and I am giving him green vegetables and baked bread also. It is quite enjoyable to see him eating!”
I was not convinced and said “ I don’t understand really. How can you tame it? And what will you do when you go back to Jaipur?”
Ramachandran answered “ Why are you surprised? Man like Chatrapati Sivaji had a pet lizard? It was known as ‘ghorpod’ in Marathi language; He named the ghorpod as ‘Yaswanti’ and was used in combating war against Udai Bhan to recapture the Sinhagad fort”.
I said, “ Yes I heard the story; it seems the gripping strength in it’s paws is tremendous and can climb the steep hills with one or two soldier in the tied rope!”

Ramachandran was pleased to hear from me and after a while started calling the lizard like that of the watchman. We all went to the backyard and found the lizard coming through the open door with dwindling tail! His eyes were wide open with frequent movement of it’s bifurcated tongue. It was making some shrilled sound too. The watchman was standing on a raised cemented platform with some green vegetables in his hand. He slowly started giving the vegetables near to it’s mouth and started patting it’s tail with care and affection! Rarest of the rarest scene, it was! Ramachandran bent down and slowly approached the lizard with baked bread in his hand. He threw them from a little distance; the lizard slowly galloped all the vegetables and when found no more left, it went back through the same door in the dark of the jungle behind!

Days went by, the intensity of the cold was reduced. People around were in joyous mood. They were waiting eagerly for the ensuing Holy festival. Our working speed was enhanced so as to finish the survey before the summer. I used to leave the camp very early in the morning and used to come back very late in the afternoon! In one such afternoon when I was returning I saw the Officer of the Jasawantapura Police station sitting on the back of the camel. A group of people was standing before him with folded hands. He was asking them with loud voice. I stopped the jeep and greeted him and asked with smiles “ Hello, Bare Sahib, how are you? What are you doing here?”
---- “ What else I can do sahib! I am here for your service only! The Committee recommended house-to-house search for the stolen tents and I am in that job! I have sent the sentries to search in all these huts in this small village to start with.”
---- “ Oh my God! Are you still in that job! Could you get any clue?”
The officer came down from the camel’s back and answered “ Yes, Yes, I could manage some clue! It is very interesting case, you know? Do you know Kori village?”
To this I replied “ Yes, it seems I know the village. ‘Kori’ is about sixty kilometers west from here; it is a border village between Barmer and Jalor districts. I hope, I am correct, what do you say officer?”
---- “ Exactly! Right you are! One of our linkmen informed me that there is a tailor in this village. He is expert in making shirts of quilt, which is the normal dress code of male Rajasthani, this side.”
---- “ Correct, that’s what I also observed! People are accustomed in wearing this dress with turban around their head of different colors for different sect and cast as earmarked by the society”.
---- “ Yes Sahib, you are right! But here the story is different. The linkman took me to that trailer’s shop I interrogated him in all possible way and he finally admitted that he had made four shirts out of two unstitched pieces of cloth for a person of this village. I am in the look out of that person here”
---- “ Why so crazy about it? Why are you searching him?”
---- “ Otherwise, how do I know the real mystery behind? The trailer did not tell me whether those cloths were of a tent or not. Do you understand now?”

Every thing was clear to me now. I did not understand how to react to the episode! What a finding by a thief! At the same time the sorrow stage of the people was also revealed! I did not want to continue any further; moreover the evening was nearing and did not want to wait any longer. I offered the officer to come to the jeep to return to Jasawantapura. He did not however agree and said that he would reach earlier following a short cut through the sand dunes by his camel. He wanted some more time to interrogate those persons and if needed they would be taken into custody.

I left the place and hurriedly changing my dress in the camp I left for the rest house to convey the most exciting news.

Ramachandran was not found in the front room. I was shouting for him and went to the backyard. I found him feeding the lizard with his sincere effort. The watchman was standing with a smile and holding a lantern in his hand. No body was talking. I excitedly told him “ Ramachandran, do you know that the culprits are finally caught! The persons who had stolen our tents are finally traced! They have made the winter dresses out of the cloth of the tents!”

Ramachandran waved his hand and said “ Please do not shout otherwise it will be frightened. Asim, I am thinking to send this lizard to Jaipur zoo! I can not simply allow it to starve!”
Published: 2008-05-30
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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