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wolframite, sheelite,aplite, Sirohi temple, mineralite, mount Abu, granitic rocks

It was just over, the pitching of the tent was complete and the petromax was lit. The sun was set yet the dim light of the day did not leave the small valley. The area was surrounded with high hill ranges. The camp was set up in the outskirt of the village. They call it Rampura Ki Bhagli. In the local language ‘bhagli’ means hilly jungle. In fact, there was another village in the adjacent plain, about 30 km away from there, known by Rampura. The plain village was a large one and people from all sects of religion and casts settled there. Rampura ki Bhagli was an annexed one in the hill with tribal people. One had to reach that ‘bhagli’ by zigzag hilly road either by jeep or by camel cart. Otherwise, there was another normal route known as ‘pak dandi’(foot track). The nearest town was Sirohi. That town was quite old and was fortified by wall around, with a very big entrance gate made up of heavy wood in iron frame. In olden days that gate used to remain closed during most of the time excepting when the king and his men would go out or at the time of welcoming other kings from different kingdoms. The other kings were either from Jalore or Barmer-Jaisalmer or sometimes from Udaipur also. Yes all those places were actually in Rajasthan in India. Now a days the same gate remains always open, perhaps it was not in use since long! The societal system was changed yet the antiquity in the market, people around and the old houses still retained the smell of the past. Sirohi town was about 70 km away from the present campsite.

The old and the young, male and the female from the small village gathered around the camp and were eagerly watching the activities. All male personnel even the small kid was using red colored turban around their head and full sleep breast open shirts of thick coarse cloth were their usual dress. The ladies were wearing ‘ghagra’ (long skirt) and ‘choli’ (waist top) They were whispering among them and were not brave enough to come near.

A girl, at last, with a strong courage came nearby and asked in their language “ What will you do here? Will you stay here?
Adar replied in broken Hindi “ Yes, we are your guests! We will be here to search the valuables in the stones of the hills, all around”.
The girl giggled and said “Gold or silver?”

“…. Yes, gold, silver, diamond and what not? Why, do you have any specific place in your knowledge for all these valuables?”
The crowd burst out into laughter. Somehow they got relief and felt at ease. They slowly entered the premises of the tent and sat there with curiosity. It was wintertime; the cold was slowly becoming severe with the fall of the night. Smaller kids started shivering, yet they did not leave the place. The attraction for the camp and the camp people was so intense for them.

Adar repeated his question “Yes, you tell, why tight lipped? I asked you, do you have any specific place in your knowledge for those valuables stones?”

Some one from the crowd answered “. Hukkum (by your majesty) hui .. That side, one black hill is there… the rolled out broken stones in its slope glitters…. Hokum, you will surely get something there.”
Adar cautioned him “ Hey, I am not asking you, I am asking that girl. Let her answer.”

The crowd was silent, a little while after one among them replied “… Hokum, her name is Lalki…”
By that time the sound of burning stove was coming from the ‘s’ tent. Arjun Singh was recruited as a tahsil peon from the District magistrate’s office at Sirohi. With two jugs of coffee, Arjun Singh and told in their language “… why you are making crowd here? Please go away… it is the time for sahabjis to rest … please disperse.”
Without any word, they all dispersed one by one. Adar took up one jug and meanwhile Asim came from the other tent and joined the coffee session.

Asim asked, “What Lalki was telling?”

Adar laughed and said, “ What she could talk! Our Arjun Singh has spoiled the thing… they all got frightened and left the place as he asked them to disperse…”

--- “ Unfair! Indeed very unfair! Never mind, they will definitely come again, tomorrow again! It may be that they may be sitting all day around with the hope that the circus may start any time!”
Rampura ki Bhagli was a remote village. All the houses were of stoned wall with the roof covered by straw & grass. Every house had long courtyard in the front, which used to be partitioned by thick thorny bushes. Within the walled boundary, pet goat and lamb would settle in one corner and in another part three to four pet camels would live. They, all, would be released in the early morning every day and would be taken to the distance jungle by the owner along with a few dogs to guard them through out. The people living there were called ‘rubbary’, normally they maintain cattle farming and for which in the summer, all most all the male members would leave the village with the cattle herd in far off places for grazing the green grass and the leaf of the trees. As a result the skin of the male people was mostly burnt because of the scorching sun and the hot summer while the females were beautifully fair with their blue colored equally beautiful eyes. In the dark of the night their beauty was hidden, it was revealed only in the daylight!

In the next day in the early morning Asim got up from the bed on hearing some noises. He peeped through the window of the tent and found a small crowd of ladies assembled in front of Adar’s tent! Their whisper and mild pushing by each other with their elbows were being watched and enjoyed by Adar. He already got up and was sitting in his caned chair bought from Ajmer while coming from Jaipur. Most of the ladies were holding small pot of brass and were standing outside the cheek (of bamboo skin to fence the front side of the tent). They were exchanging words with Adar who was sitting inside the cheek and was smoking with a cup of tea. They were looking like angels. The sun was just spreading it’s soft, sweet and orange colored rays on their faces. By that time Arjun Singh entered with a cup of tea in Asim’s tent.

--- “ Who are they Arjun? What they want?”
----- “ Sahib (Sir), Lalki and her neighbor have come with milk & chhas”.
------ “ Chhas? What it is?”
Arjun replied “ Sahib, it is butter milk, it is a custom here to offer it for any guest”. Adar from the other side with his raised voice and asked loudly “ Have you got up from the bed or still asleep?”
---- “ How can I still sleep? Particularly when a group of angels are in front of your door step!”

Adar laughed and jokingly said “ Listen carefully, Lalki has brought camel’s milk for us! They are saying that this milk is highly energetic, even if you roam through out the day, you will never feel tired! You will feel immense pleasure if you drink them!”

Asim once more looked at them from inside his cheek and after finishing tea, he got up to prepare himself for field trip.
Adar loudly spoke further “ Asim, we can utilize the vehicle today because Hari Singh will take away it tomorrow. In such case do we take a joint traverse around Sirohi temple? Because the area is quite far off from here, not less than eighty kilometers or so!”
It was a thrilling proposal for Asim. In his childhood days he used to love to read the historical episode of Rana Pratap, who was a Rajput king and never surrendered to Badshah (king of kings) Akbar, the ruler of the then India. There used to be guerilla war between him and Man Singh, the General of Akbar. History says, that Rana Pratap and his other three brothers were worshiping Sirohi temple. Ultimately, the temple and its surroundings became one of the major hide out of Rana Pratap during guerilla warfare.

Asim immediately accepted the proposal and took no time to be ready to start for the fieldwork. The temple was situated in the deep jungle at the top of a high hill, the road was jeep able up to the foothills and there after a narrow foot track was to be followed. The jeep able road ran parallel to the trend of the main hill range and on either side the exposed rocks were granite gneiss with patches of schistose-metamorphosed rocks. They had to stop every now and then to examine and record the rock types and the constituent minerals. Black colored long slender crystals of tourmaline or hornblende or some such similar minerals were found in plenty and were embedded within the schistose rock particularly near the contacts with the fine-grained aplitic veins! They took samples for proper identification. Adar would examine with the help of the Mineralite when they would return the camp.
They reached the foothill and left the vehicle to climb the hill. After intensive survey work along the traverse finally they reached the top where the temple was situated. In fact the temple looked very old, inside of which a deity of black colored stone was laid. The walls of the temple were of thick slabs of granites while the pillars were of black basic rocks like dolerite. From the hilltop the surroundings were clearly visible. To the west the hill ranges of Jasawantapura and Dorra were distinct, to the south the famous Mount Abu batholiths and to the east lied the peneplains of granitoid hillocks! East west trending, only metal road in this area was also visible. The road connected Abu Road Railway Station towards east and Sirohi town towards west. They had their packed lunch in the stairs of the temple and by that time it was around three thirty p.m. The sun was not bright enough and the cold wave started blowing. Without wasting any time they started their return journey to reach the foothill where the jeep was waiting for them. When they reached the camp it was already evening. Hot water was ready for their wash and bath! Both of them appreciated the intelligence of Arjun Singh who could manage by applying his common sense! The moment he heard the sound of approaching jeep from a long distance he immediately took action and prepared hot water for them. They appreciated his loyalty and sincerity! After being refreshed, Adar took out the sample of the mineral and observed under UV light of the Mineralite. A deep blue fluorescent color was emitting!

Meanwhile Arjun came and asked whether to arrange for dinner. After day’s hectic work, both of them were feeling hungry and were tired too. They finished the dinner in no time and finally took shelter under the warmth of the quilt in their respective bed. Lying down in the bed Adar got engaged on hearing the transistor and Asim in his newly bought tape recorder. Those days, tape recorder was unique and used to be a great wonder! Asim recorded the voices of his entire family members settled in West Bengal in India and also voices of his many friends around. He was listening to them one by one in the recorded cassette and finally gave up to close his eyelids with a desire for a deep sleep! The outside was completely dark, the night watchman was making round with a long bamboo stick, and the lit petromaxes were being kept outside the cheek of the tents and thousands and thousands of poisonous scorpions were assembling around the light. The watchman was killing them one after another with his stick and was jumping all the time for fear and excitement. Perhaps the whole night would see the dreaded war with him!

Next day morning Adar & Asim got up late. That was a Sunday and decided to remain in the camp for plotting of collected data and other official jobs. Both were surprised to observe the break fast plates brought by Arjun Singh. The plates were with full sized ‘bajra ka roti’ (hand made bread out of bajra- a type of pulse). Arjun was smiling and was waiting for reply.

Asim exclaimed, “Who has prepared it! And who will take this much!”
Adar by that time took out a piece out of it and dipping the same in the juice of tamarind and dal he just galloped and exclaimed “ What a nice food! Perhaps it would lead us upto the dinner time!”
Arjun Singh immediately added, “ Hokum, this is prepared by Lalki. She and her mother are standing there, behind the ‘s’ tent”.
Adar said, “ Is it? You call her then”. Lalki and her mother were ready for this moment. They rushed to them and with smiling face told “ It is our food. How you like it?”
In fact, Adar was very happy and thanked them a lot. Lalki was laughing ceaselessly, and was getting fun and pleasure. Now she looked at Asim and said “ Sahib will you show us your talking machine?”
--- “Yes, yes…then you do one thing, you may call them and can watch together”.

She did not agree to this proposal, she wanted to watch with her mother first! She would feel proud of being first visitor and an opportunity to surpass others in the village! Her voice was recorded and was being played. It was a wonderful event; Lalki was giggling and was dancing with joy and excitement!

Days went by, the survey work around that ‘Rampura ki bhagli’ came to an end. They were to shift their camp to another place at Ishara. Day before their shifting they got a terrible news. Lalki was missing! Every well, spring, the jungles & the bushes and the hills were searched thoroughly but she could not be traced anywhere! How could it be! How an innocent girl like Lalki would vanish in such a manner without any body’s notice! After a long search it occurred in Adar’s mind. For quite a long time Arjun was also not seen! He too was also missing! The whole village was weeping! Adar and Asim tried to solace them and promised that they would inform the police to search them out!

In the subsequent years Adar did not leave his search. He continued his geochemical investigations in the adjacent areas. He used to travel a lot even in the night with the Mineralite in his hand. Yes, the mineral, which he collected doubting as tourmaline or hornblende, came out to be wolframite! Ultimately he could trace and discover the deposits of cassiterite (tin ore) and scheelite (Tungsten ore) within fine-grained aplitic vein intruding the metamorphic rocks!
Published: 2007-11-27
Author: Asimendu Bandopadhyay

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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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