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Myth, Omen and Faith

Rana Pratap,Akbar,Sirohi,Old Temple,Tawari,Transistor,Babu,cook,crying,burning ghat,rituals,soul,Ratta,black mineral,die,dawri,gadolinite

Ramachandran and Asim formed a team and left for field survey in Sirohi and Jalor district in Rajasthan. They left Jaipur in one morning in the month of December to carry out the left out survey in the preceding years. Adar would stay in Sirohi with a separate investigation and was not in the team. Ramachandran and Asim had to work in the western part of the Sirohi district. They thought to camp at Jasawantapura in Jalor district in the beginning. Jalor was the adjacent district of Sirohi. Jasawantapura was in Jalor district and was about 70 km west of Sirohi. Before camping at Jasawantapura they, however had to put up in a dukbugalow (rest house) at Kalandri, which was in the midway.

They had to wait for camp equipments to come by rail. Those days’ interactions with the railways were much easier. Things would arrive in time without any loss or damage. Things would arrive without much delay, of course; perhaps the rail would take special care for Government articles.

Thus, collecting the tents, stationary boxes and kitchen boxes from the nearest Railway station at Swarupganj, they arranged their first camp life for that year at Jasawantapura. The camp was set up in the out skirt of the village and not far off from the police station. Later many events took place during their stay at Jasawantapura but that were separate stories. The work around that area came to an end and it was time for shifting the camp to some other convenient place from where the rest of the job could be continued! When the objective of the work was in the grip by conducting joint traverses, the Head Quarter people advised them to stay and work independently. Another separate vehicle with a trailer was sent from Jaipur for the same purpose. They decided that Asim would camp some where around Kalandri and Ramachandran would camp at Mundwara not far from that of Asim.

Shifting of camp was not an easy task; rather it used to be a hell of a job. Unpitching the tents and then loading in the trailer and moving to a new place for again pitching would take the whole day of time. Thus Asim planned to make halt at Kalandri rest house and from there he started his operation the next day. The place was selected near a village named Tawari. The site was about one kilometer away from the village. The place was a barren land surrounded by green trees of mango, banyan and date on either side of a dried meandering rivulet.

The whole day was spent to clean the entire premises and properly establish the camp. Meanwhile all the handy materials were brought from Kalandri rest house and were properly arranged. Finally a kingdom of his own was set up when the evening crawled replacing the daylight. Lanterns and the petromax were lit and the cook became very busy in servant’s tent for the night meal! The driver and the watchmen were in the other servant’s tent and they too were busy for their night meals. The sound of burning stoves was making the place dynamic and life full. Asim was relaxing in his camp chair after the hectic work through out the day. He was listening music in his transistor kept over the camp table. The light from inside the tent was flickering through the cheek of the tent. Babu, his cook, silently came near to him, stood in front, and was trying to tell something. Asim quickly switched off the transistor and asked him “ What happened Babu? Are you frightened or what? Speak out! What happened?”

Babu was young and innocent. He looked terribly upset and was trying to point out towards the well surrounded by bush and trees. Asim looked back and saw a group of people was dam busy unloading wooden stalks from their head and shoulder! Dim lights from the lanterns kept on the ground made long shadows of them. They appeared sobbing and crying and changed the entire atmosphere with grief and sorrow! The site was not far from the camp yet in the darkness the moving shadows were deceiving the proper visuality!

Asim took his torch and told Babu “ Let us go there and find out the reason of their gathering here”.

Babu was shocked to hear the proposal and with great panicky somehow managed to tell “ No! No! Sahib, you also don’t please!” He did not give any further scope for any pursuance; hurriedly he left the place and entered the tent of the driver and the watchmen! Asim thought for a while and got up from the chair to go to the gathering. It did not take much time to reach the spot. Asim saw, one dead body covered with white cloth was lying on the ground! A group of women who were sitting behind the bush were crying at the top of their voice. Male people were staking the wooden pieces in one corner of the dried bed of the meandering rivulet; some one was lifting water from within the well with the help of a rope and a bucket.

Asim checked the time in his wristwatch, it was eight o’ clock in the night. All around it was complete dark, up above the sky thousands and thousands of stars were twinkling and the sound of barking of dogs from the distant village Tawari were giving a constant sympathetic support to the loud human cry! Tawari village was at the small hilltop. The dark profile of the village with one or two dim light from the lanterns was distinct from here. By that time a man came near to Asim and told with folded hand “ Hokum (your highness), after prolonged illness dada succumbed to death! He was eighty-three and was suffering from calf and cold. No doctor could cure him. Oh, it was unbearable hokum, it was most painful to see him vomiting blood at times!”

Asim responded to the reaction of the man and said, “ Is it so! Then he has been relieved from the pain and the suffering! More over, he has lived a long life too! But then are you going to burn him here?”
---- “ Hokum, sahib, this is our burning ghat (cemetery)! It is meant for Brahmins only!”
---- “ Is it so? Then, others, where do they go?”
---- They have separate centers for each and every cast. Hui, there… behind the shiva (one among many God) temple, at village Phallowdi, Rajputs perform their rituals. Other low cast people have their respective burning centers in the further upstream!”

In fact, in Sirohi, Jalor and Barmer districts of Rajasthan, perennial rivers were scarce. Phalowdi stream was an exception that too it did not flow through out its whole course during the whole season. In the rainy season, however, for a few days, it used to flow coming down from the small hill ranges to a shorter distance in the plain ground! People had rarely seen the complete flow, even in the rainy season, up to this Tawari rivulet! Yes, that burning center was in the down stream of the Phalowdi one. May be long years back, that river had it’s full course for which burning center of that place was in common use. Asim thought the system of burning the dead around that area was unique, in deed!

The low cast people performed their rituals in the upstream and the high casts in the down stream. All the souls ultimately reach and mingled with that of Brahmins in the down stream! The worldly cast system fuses to one and become only one soul in the Universe! Hindus normally, perform the last rituals in the banks of holy rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, kosi and others! The poor people could not afford to take the dead of their own to those holy places; and they do it in the nearest unknown river banks but take the ashes afterwards to immerse in the holy river!

Asim turned back and slowly walked down towards the camp. All others were stunned; they were sitting in the driver’s tent and were waiting for Asim to come. When he came near, his cook immediately told, “ Sahib, we don’t stay here. Let us go to some other place. We, all are frightened!”

Asim retorted “ Why not to stay here? Why you are frightened? You will also die one day or the other. The death is inevitable for every body! Every one of us will die, then whom to fear?”
---- “ No. no, sahib, we cannot stay here! Please leave this place”>
The driver and the watchman Ratta by name were keeping quite. Their silence, however, was indicating their consent for Babu’s proposal.
Asim continued “ What are you telling? Do you know, what is the time now? How it is possible to leave this place now? And why don’t you understand that dead is a good symbol, it is very good for seeing a dead in the burning ghat! Have faith in your life! Have you not heard the stories of Puran! I guarantee you, good fortune for us will start from today!”

The driver was not able to give his own comment directly; he was instigating the others to leave the place. The cook, because of his nearness to Asim, was constantly stressing for some other place to shift. The driver, however, could no longer remain silent over the issue. He hesitantly told, “ Sahib, in my mind, a lot of turmoil are playing. This started, when in the first set of shifting a black cat crossed the vehicle from the left side to the right side of the road! Of course, I stopped the vehicle, made a round turning towards left, and completed the shifting! That was a very bad omen ‘sahib’! Since then, I was apprehending some thing bad would happen. We have to be ready for the worse if we stay back here.”

Asim became irritated and ordered authoritatively “ Alright! I have heard you all. Now listen! We have to stay back here only, at least today’s night. It is simply not possible to leave this place now! Tomorrow morning I will think over. Now, Babu, go and finish you’re cooking, complete it quickly. I am hungry and I want to go to bed early! If you are so frightened then tonight you may sleep in the back room adjacent to mine in my tent. Now I am going there. Don’t worry! Nothing will happen!”

Asim came back to his tent and changed his dress to have a relaxed mood. It was wintertime; severe cold wave was blowing. Asim peeped through the net window of the tent to observe the activity of the people in the burning ghat. Their voices were not distinctly audible and more over they were talking in their own Rajasthani language. The pyre was just lit. Burning woods were making noises with yellow fire and dusty smokes. Three to four men were standing very near to the pyre with bamboo stick; they were alert and ready to hit the dead, if it stretched and got erect! The women were still there and were crying and beating their breast to express their grief over the death!

In the mean time Babu came with the dinner plate; some bread, curry and boiled egg were in the menu. He grabbed and finished eating within no time. He advised Babu to finish his own and go to bed. It seemed, the cook, somehow got over the trauma and was able to settle himself in normalcy. Quite often, the praying in chorus by the people to God for the dead man for his mokhyo (salvation) were loud and announced the truth of the life! They were engaged in adding the wooden pieces and at times oil and butter in the fire of the pyre.

The silent birds over the treetop were changing their places from branch to branch due to often raising height of the fire; dogs were barking with long shrilled sound and foxes were joining at times. The whole night passed away, Asim lied down in the bed without a continuous deep sleep. The crackling sound of bones in the fire, faint foul smell and sobs and the whispers reigned the whole night. Their dominance overshadowed the solitude and the life full beauty of the nature! But then there are lights behind darkness! Upon the footsteps of the morning sun, the people in the burning ghat left after pouring water in the pyre and the residents of the camp got back the fun fare of the life! Babu came with a hot cup of tea, greeted Asim, and told “Sahib Your tea”.

Asim smiled and told, “ Are you alright?”
He felt shy and answered “ Yes. Sahib but Ratta is still frightened. He is horrified and apprehends some one unknown and unseen will enter in him if he stays back here!”
Asim laughed and said, “ He is fool of the first Order! You tell him, from today good fortune will prevail for all of us. Nothing bad will happen with him!”

Babu nodded and left for arranging break fast. A strange feeling was playing in the deep of Asim’s mind. Since morning, feeling of good fortune was making him determined, pessimistic, and bold. He felt, series of hill ranges of granites, gneiss, pegmatite and aplites were inviting him to explore! Rock exposures were lying right in front of his camp and were continuing towards south uninterruptedly.
Black hills and hillocks of basic to ultra basic rocks were visible from here. Those were near Mundwara village, which was otherwise known as Mundwara complex.

Asim got up and dressed up to star for fieldwork in the near by area. Meanwhile, surpunch (village head) of the village with two other fellows came and were waiting to meet him. He, after routine queries, recruited those two persons as field worker for his support hand. Normally, Asim used to start for the fieldwork very early in the morning excepting the following day of camp shift. Yesterday’s incidence was, however completely different. He did not have proper and good deep sleep. However, he overcame all such odds and went out after his quick break fast to the wide-open hill ranges in search of unknowns and so long hidden mineral wealth!

He went on recording various data that were imprinted in the age-old rocks. He was directing to hit and break those hard rocks with sledgehammer and was examining them with lenses and other tools. Some selected samples were chosen and were being kept in the hover sack for further studies. Asim was fascinated to observe one jet black colored mineral lump within a pegmatitic zone! He broke the mineral and took a lump to examine in his camp. The whole day was spent in carrying out his survey work. When he returned, it was afternoon.

His cook was eagerly waiting. Somehow he grabbed the lunch and sat on the camp chair with the black mineral. He further studied and then brought the Scintillating machine or the Geiger counter. The counter responded with high deflection in the pointer. Yes, it was strongly radioactive! Asim was excited, thrilled and tested the sample again and again. He started counting the bits with the help of the earphones. Yes the mineral was active, it was dynamic to release energy in pulses since long years, may be more than 1000 m. years or so!

A shrilled outcry was reaching to him every now and then and was deviating his concentration. He was ignoring the outcry. It was almost in the evening, when his cook with a cup of tea came and reported “ Sahib, Ratta is not well. It seems, bhut( ghost ) has rested on him! Please come and see!”

Asim, without delay taking his torch approached the servant’s tent and found Ratta was sitting on the ground with his head down and his two hands resting on the floor! He was shivering and his head was rotating back and forth! He was simultaneously enchanting some folk beliefs with a shrill musical voice and apparently was confessing his past wrongful acts and was repenting for the same! Behind him, the driver was seen reluctant and was busy with his cooking! His face was pale, frightened and hanging with helplessness! Babu followed the footsteps of Asim and stood behind him. Asim called Ratta and asked him “ What happened to you? Ratta, stop such nuisance”.

Ratta raised his head with wide opened eyes, which were red in color, and tears were rolling down his cheek! Asim again warned him “ Hey Ratta, will you stop such drama? Bhut will rest on you and not on others? Why? Why such fascination yam! Bhut or petni (female ghost)?”
He replied with a distorted voice in half Hindi and in half Rajasthani “ Why it will enter you? Have you tortured any body? Has any body died because of you? No! No! No! Then why it will not enter me?”
It was simply intolerable, Asim lost his patience and he grabbed his hair, shook him thoroughly giving a strong thud, and pushed his head behind. Ratta immediately got his senses back. He stopped weeping and with a pause he said, “ I will die, if I stay here Sahib! Please let me go back to my village. I no longer bear the tremendous shock! Sahib, please show kindness to this poor fellow!”
Asim told “ Alright, you leave this place tomorrow morning but don’t ever try to make the night hell! Ok?”

Ratta became very happy. He nodded like good boy and got up for preparation. Meanwhile lanterns and petromax were lit. Asim came back to his tent and took over the black colored mineral lump. Just then, a jeep halted in front of his tent. Mr. Sharma and Mr. Navanittam of Atomic Mineral Division appeared before him with cheerful greetings. Asim had interactions with them in the last year. They were in search of atomic minerals in that area. They were camping at Mundwara village and now were returning from Sirohi. It was a pleasant surprise for Asim, chairs and tables were taken out and they all sat together. Babu became very busy for preparing tea and snacks.

Navanittam told “ We have brought meat, very fresh mutton from Sirohi. If we seat longer, that will be spoiled. Either you come along with us or else tell your cook to prepare. We will go back to our camp after taking dinner in that case”. Asim immediately agreed to the later suggestion. It was decided that mutton and the chapatti (bread) would be cooked and no other menu!

In the light of the petromax, the black coloured mineral was shown to them and detection of radioactive nature was further more confirmed by them. They congratulated Asim for such finding. However the place of occurrence of the mineral was kept secret to them. Of course they did not press him to know the place either. Asim thought that for precise identification the sample would have to be sent to some Mineral Physics Laboratory either to Calcutta or to Bangalore. Sharma and Navanittam stayed for a long time and enjoyed the dinner together and both left for their camp at Mundwara.

Early morning, when Asim got up, Ratta was all ready to leave for his own village at Makroda about seventy kilometers from the present campsite! Babu came with a cup of tea and informed that the driver was ready and Ratta was waiting out side for his up to date payment. He was called in and was shown the details of his payment the balance of which was cleared to him.
Asim asked him “ Are you now happy? Is bhut or petni chasing you any more?”
Ratta was embarrassed and answered “ No Sahib, now I feel estranged. What I will do in my village? I will not have any job there. I will have to seek the help from the surpunch for some earnings. Sahib, please come that side, I will join you again”.

Ratta left. He left with his small baggage of cloth and wrapper. Perhaps he would go back his home on foot; at least he could save the bus fare! Might be, he would reach his village in the evening when his fellow villagers either would be delighted or would turn their faces from him! Who knew the real story behind him!

Babu, once reported that Ratta, by look, would appear innocent but it was not so. A killer instinct would dowel in him! He told, his own villagers informed secretly that Ratta had killed her wife conspiring with his parents for not fulfilling the dowry as demanded. Perhaps the matter was not that simple; it might have a deep root—deep in the intricate social system! The surpunch of the village narrated a little different story. Ratta belonged to ‘rubbery’ community.

That community was surviving on cattle farming. They used to move with their herds from one place to other for proper grazing field of the cattle. Ratta’s family, however, were cut off from their original ancestor long back and settled in that village. Ratta, in a village fair met a tribal girl of other sect and eloped her later. They took shelter in Udaipur city for a long period. Ratta and the wedded girl when returned to Makroda, the panchayat did not accept them as such. They were asked for a heavy penalty to arrange a grand occasion for the whole village! It was not possible to meet such huge expenditure. As a result they were beaten up and chased away from the village. Ratta’s wife could not bear such humiliation and torture any more. She burnt herself and died!

Asim had to stay at Tawari for a few more days. He shifted his camp to a new place and ultimately completed his investigation for that year. Later the black mineral was identified as a rare radioactive mineral named gadolinite. It was the second reported occurrence in India! The finding opened a new vista so far hidden from the people!
Published: 2008-05-19
Author: The author, Mr. Asimendu Bandopadhyay, uses his free time in writing. He has developed a writing sty

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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