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The Wild is Beautiful in the Forest...

Camp, Rajasthan, jeep, Duck bungalow, pintail hook, moonlight, Kushal Ram, villagers, Neel gai, Honju, domestic

That was the beginning of my camp life in the service career. The first camp life was initiated in a small hilly village in the remote area of Rajasthan. The name of the village was Makrora which was about fifteen kilometers away from the nearest divisional town Sirohi. We came from the Head Quarter at Jaipur by a jeep carrying fully loaded trailer with camp equipments. From Jaipur the distance of the place was around five hundred kilometers; we were quite fresh in the job as well as novice about the area. Kushal Ram was the efficient and experienced driver of the vehicle. In fact we were assured to depend on him in any arrangement for stay or other camp related odd jobs. He did not forget to take a distant relative of him for cooking and a helping hand from Jaipur before leaving for geological assignment. The cook’s name was Raju. It was a long journey. We should have started our journey early in the morning so as to reach the nearest place at Sirohi latest by the evening. But it did not happen so; we could not start in the scheduled time. When we left Jaipur it was already ten o’ clock. Physiographically and geographically the state of Rajasthan was completely different than the rest of the country. The state had beautiful hills and jungles; lakes and deserts; animals and plants; history and the culture. Adar and myself were from remote places in West Bengal and did not have any idea about such a travel by road that too in the areas not known to us at all.

Therefore we were delighted and cheerful to move ahead through the open ground or through the heart of small to big towns or through the wayside scenic beauties. We were making halts quite often for tea and snacks while crossing the market places and this way we moved past places like Kishengar, Dudu and many others. When we reached Ajmer it was almost three o’ clock in the afternoon, naturally the lunchtime was over. We had to be satisfied with heavy snacks and tea! We continued the journey there after with a desire to reach Sirohi latest by the night. We planned to put up in the rest house there.

It was in the month of December thus the winter was very severe! The cold wind was forceful yet we were not exhausted. We wore heavy pullover and other worm garments including a woolen monkey cap.
We were moving ahead through the open meadow and slowly the sun was set only to surrender to the grip of darkness all over! After a while the full moon sparkled the horizon and made the earth a dreamland! The babul trees were plenty on either side of the road and were looking like sentries in the moon lit light! We were moving past those trees one by one through the silence of the universe! The only sound of the running jeep and the trailer was engulfing my mind and soul! And then it happened; the terrible came with its ugly paw. The pintail hook of the trailer was broken and the vehicle was about to be toppled.

Somehow we were saved, with minor injuries we all were unhurt but were shocked with the sudden jerk and the loud sound of breaking the hook. The more shocks were to follow when we realized that the vehicle could not move any further with the trailer! Kushal Ram was horrified and was in turmoil situation. With great difficulty the broken trailer and the jeep were taken to one side of the road so as to allow the traffic. It was a national high way but was not so busy as we were near to the undeveloped districts of the state. Rarely some heavy vehicles were passing and were not giving any response to our call for the help! The area was completely solitary, no trace of any village nearby. We were standing in the open and Raju had gone in search of any teashop if noticed nearby!

The place where we were standing was a raised land in one side of the high way. All around were vividly visible in the moonlight. To my astonishment I noticed one herd of cattle was standing motionless just a few yards away from us! Why were they standing there? Had they lost their way? I was really puzzled and I drew attention of Adar also. His situation was also similar; he was also perplexed. We decided to go little near to them. It was really strange; some one among them had the branching horns! The moment we approached them, immediately the group ran away from us and vanished within no time from our eyesight!
Meanwhile Raju came back with no positive outcome, he could not provide any information about any shop or any village. Kushal Ram was restless, he proposed “ Sahib, there is no point to wait here till morning. It is better that I detach the trailer and drive you to any nearby Duck bungalow for your night halt! Dropping you I will come back here; Raju will stay back till I return!”

Adar said, “ Will Raju be able to guard all alone? Who knows what animals are around! Just now we saw a group of animals looking like cow but with branching horns in one or two of them! More over you don’t know when you will be able to come back after dropping us!”

---- “ No, Sahib, I think I will be able to come back early. I will try to bring one or two persons with me to help towing the trailer. You don’t worry Sahib. Perhaps you might have seen a group of Neel gai, the wild cow, as you know Sahib! This side in Pali and Sirohi districts they are quite often seen roaming in the jungle or in the hill!”

I said “ It is already nine O’ clock, we all have to eat something; First of all we have to locate one shop where we may get some eatables and you may collect something and come along as you planned”.
Kushal Ram agreed to the proposal but further added “ Sahib, ok, we will search out one shop first but then from there I will drop you to the rest house and then come back here again”

Fortunately, we got one rest house within ten kilometers of distance and got an accommodation of the Duck bungalow at Sumerpur. The caretaker could provide us chapatti, pickle and a curry of green chilly. We were hungry and enjoyed the food without judging the quality. Strangely enough, the bed was kept quite tidy and clean; we lied down under the warmth of the quilt and had a deep sleep till the morning.

Next day was a hectic day; a small repair shop was located where the broken pintail hook of the trailer was welded. After the repair and morning tea & snacks we again started our journey. Sirohi town was not far off. It was around one hundred fifty kilometers away and so we reached Duck bungalow around ten O’ clock. We made a night halt there and the next day morning Kushal Ram searched a camp site near Makrora, a village about fifteen kilometer south east of the Sirohi town.

Pitching of the tents and cleaning of the ground took long hours and in the afternoon only, we shifted to our camp. It was just in the out skirt of the village. The wayside villagers were excited and stood in queue to observe us. The camp was just in the hill slope towards east and the long terrain of granite outcrops formed a hummocky land and wide towards south. When we reached the camp it was the time of returning of herds of cows, camels and goats in the back yard of each house, which normally used to be fenced with bushes to protect the domestic from the other wild animals. Just near to our camp people were seen to work around a very big earthen oven over which similar such big pan was kept over the flame of the wooden fire. In another side two male cows was moving around a chewing machine to squeeze the sugar cane to pump in a big drum. The juice of the sugar cane was then transferred to the boiling pot over the oven. The juice was slowly converting to viscous jaggery the entire village and the surrounding was engulfed with the smell of the steaming juice! The lit petromax were hanged in a bamboo pole kept in a raised platform near to the oven. It was a festive mood all around!

Kushal Ram came out from his living tent with a smiling face and said “ Sahib, I am just coming from the village; Sahib, two field coolies will come tomorrow morning and will report to you; meanwhile I have brought two night watchmen to guard the camp through out the night.”

I appreciated his action and said “ Kushal Ram can you arrange some liquid juggary for us?” Kushal Ram happily nodded and added “ Sahib, yesterday you were asking about Neel gai, is it not?”

---- “ Yes, yes; I spotted a herd in fact but before I could approach near to them, they ran away from the place! But why are you asking?”

---- “ Sahib, a man Honju by name in this village captured two Neel gai and is keeping as domestic pet. He is trying to tame them and to utilize them in sloughing his agricultural lands!”

---- “ Is it? Is he getting any positive result?”

---- “ I don’t know Sahib, but the villagers are not happy with him as it is believed Neel gai is Godly and should be worshiped and be protected from any human exploitation.”

Honju came with a shovel and a basket and stood in front of the camp in the next day morning. He came with a hope to join as a field coolie.
I asked him “ What is your name?”

---- “Hokum (Your Majesty), people call me Honju, I am a mina by cast. Sahib, I know every inch of the hills here; please give me a job in your company”.

It was quite amusing, his way of talking; walking and addressing appeared quit funny. His eyes were innocent; his turban was quite clean and appeared healthy and styrengthy.

I asked him “ I heard you captured two Neel gai and have kept them under your control! Is it so?”

---- “ Hokum, I did not capture them but they came of their own along with my herd of cow and goat. What can I do Sahib when they want a shelter in my house?”

---- “ Is it so? They came of their own! Are you not taming them and giving training for sloughing your land?”

---- “ Hokum, you are right! Otherwise how can I feed them! After all I am not a rich man! But Sahib, villagers are not happy and are abusing me. They want me to release them!”

Honju was engaged as field coolie and we took him to different rock exposures for breaking the stones and taking the sample chips. We were deeply engrossed in our search and forgot the time to return. When the sun was about to set it struck me and found us in the high peak of the hill. It was late and so we started to climb down to reach our camp We came back and entered through the back side of the camp and found a crowd was waiting for us; Raju was nervous and excited and got relief to find us coming!

The crowd was restless and some one from them shouted and addressed “ Hokum, you can not keep Honju in your camp; He is unreligious, he has defied our repeated requests to release those Neel gai. He should immediately be removed from the job”.

We were surprised and were not at all prepared for that type of situation. At the top of it we heard some noise coming from the side of the village. A boy came running and reported some one had ignited fire in the hut of Honju. We raised our eyes and could see the flame of the fire in the horizon; the villagers were running aimlessly. We became alert for any possibility for spreading of splinter of fire although Honju’s house was not so near.

I told the crowd “ What are you doing here? Go and stop the fire immediately otherwise the whole village will be burnt. Disperse quickly and save your village; we will hear your grievances and will take suitable action”

The crowd did not leave the place; they were demanding immediate removal of Honju.

We did not hesitate either and agreed to their proposal. They all became happy and rushed to the spot to fetch water from the wells.
The camp was emptied; the hue and cry was still coming from the village side. Kushal Ram came near to us and said “ Sahib, villagers have released those two Neel gai and then set fire on Honju’s house…

I replied, “ Honju is a fool! Why he was so adamant when he knew that people will not spare him!”

Kushal Ram asked “ Should Honju continue as field coolie with us?”
I replied, “ He has already been fired, otherwise villagers would not allow him to work. I do admit one thing that keeping Neel gai as domestic may turn out to be misfortune. The wild is beautiful in the wild only as the child in the lap of the mother!”
Published: 2008-02-19
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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