Forgotten Three Days(Part-Ii) (Beginning Of An Endless Night)
Forgotten Three Days(Part-Ii) (Beginning Of An Endless Night)
[Prologue: On 14th January 1993, while pursuing 3rd year of engineering at UCE Burla along with 5 friends left for a jungle expedition into Debrigarh Forest, on a day’s trip into the nature. To shorten the course, we took short cut, climbing a mountain, after confirming the direction to Bhatli Fort with help of Pulu’s wrist watch with magnetic needle. At the middle of a big valley, atop hill, Pulu purrs about the malfunctioning of the magnetic needle, stuck to the glass of the watch. The endlessly stretched valley with high rise trees around, at distance obstructed the view of the sun. None had a clue about the direction … ]
9:50PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): Prabhu ... Mane padi gala re ...(God ... yes, now I could recall...)
We scolded him like anything ...
9:54PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Everybody stopped and tried to do some experiment of their own but in no time we came to an agreement that the watch, depending on which we drifted our way from the footpath and the road meant for the Forest Department jeep scaled few hills, was mal-functioning. We were stranded at some part of the forest with a valley stretched endlessly in all the four directions after walking for a good number of hours.
9:56PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Everybody, except Pulu, were annoyed of this but as the darkness was fast approaching, without any further discussion on how, why, who etc. etc. being the group comprising an adventurist of Bhegnath’s repute, leadership that Shashikant represents, intelligence that Banaj possess and coolness that Niranjan epitomizes made me not to shout a further word, after I vomited every slang, I knew, at the pampered show off brat with imported gizmos.
10:02PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Bhegnath led from the front through that valley. During that march someone heard a faint sound of wood cutting by axe. The group decided, Bhegnath to shout in Sambalpuri for help. People of Sambalpur abhor Cuttacki people and their accent and our calling for help, in the middle of an endlessly stretched valley was uncalled for.
Bhegnath’s "Boba ... Ye Boba ... Kene acha go … (Uncle … Hey, Uncle … Where are you …)" made me, for the first time in three years, regretting for not learning Sambalpuri, the local language.
10:03PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: "Boba ... Ye Boba ... Kene acha go …" The lines repeated few more times. But every time after his letting a shout the wood cutting sound would disappear. As we took few steps ahead the sound would re-appear.
10:03PM, May 11 - SUBASH HOTA: Wow! What a narration. Carry on Aurobindo and Banaj!
10:04PM, May 11 - GIRIJA PANDA: Gripping indeed. Continue please!
10:05PM, May 11 - GIRIJA PANDA: Actually, I am reading out the narrations to my son.
10:06PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): Arabinda lekh be, mu ta adha bhuli sarichi ... (Arabinda keep writing, I have forgotten most of it ...)
10:06PM, May 11 - GIRIJA PANDA: He too is enjoying.
10:08PM, May 11 - GIRIJA PANDA: If you stop, fix a convenient time again. Prime time ...
10:10PM, May 11 - SUBASH HOTA: Looks like Aurobindo slept ... Must rest, after a long walk ...
Ha ... Ha ...
10:12PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): Arabinda, continue... Are you there?
10:14PM, May 11 - Lamay: Expedition members to contribute their experience. Are they in the group?
10:15PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): Group decided that after reaching the stream, two would continue cooking and teams in couple would move further in different directions to find a nearby village. But for that we must find a stream first. The walk continued...
10:16PM, May 11 - Lamay: Banaj, not a good idea, at all! In that process, all of you might have lost.
10:20PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Lamay, you are rationally correct. But rationality doesn’t come handy at time of despair.
Sorry, being dinner time and at disposal of my in-laws at BBSR, had to oblige. Even, they are annoyed at my being glued to the mobile! Anyway, let's continue ...
Banaj you have to stop. With your immaculate speed, you would finish the story in another hour tonight. Don’t kick at my job!
10:21PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): Ha ... Ha ... I was trying to recall. Continue ...
10:21PM, May 11 –AUROBINDO: You missed few vital things, so let me add up ...
10:21M, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): Yes, you write. I will miss half the story otherwise. I need every little detail ...
10:22PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Lush green trees in every direction of that valley was creating an illusion of the source of axe-cutting, echoing. But at reappearing of the sound, Bhegnath continued " Boba ... Ye Boba ... Kene acha go …”
Alas, without any response!
10:24PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: On our enquiring about why the wood cutters keeping silence, Bhegnath explained that the unauthorized wood cutting being the reason behind. They might afraid of our being the forest officials in civil dress. Those poor fellows didn’t at all believe us our being students, despite Bhegnath shouting the same in Sambalpuri.
“Burla Engineering college nu jungle ghuri asi … baa’t nuri galu … bha’ya … (Student from Burla Engineering College, on jungle expedition … lost direction … brother …)
10:27PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: "Boba ... Ye Boba ...” became a matter of morale booster for us, non-Sambalpuries. Someone or other tried to mimic Bhegnath at intervals resulted laughter from the other members.
Repeated efforts from Bhegnath and our intermittent mimicking "Boba ... Ye Boba ...”resulted in a group of woodcutters responding, finally. They engaged in a lengthy discussion in Sambalpuri with Bhegnath, the Raju guide. We only heard echoes as the sources were completely camouflaged behind those surrounding lush green trees of that valley full of grass, which often drowned us from the surroundings while finding our way through.
10:29PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: On getting some vague direction from the woodcutters, Bhegnath lead way and rest five followed without questioning. Crossing the grassy land, we came to a dead-end. It was a sharp fall of some 100 feet deep and a feeble jungle stream was visible running beneath with giggling audible.
We stepped into the valley climbing up the slopes. Now there was a sharp fall, to escape from the valley. Within few feet declining, I learnt that the descending down being much more difficult than climbing up. One has to be doubly careful. A little slip was causing someone of us falling bang on his hips for others to blast out.
Moreover it was almost a straight fall like a cliff, but Bhegnath led us like an expert. Sometimes little slide on hips, keeping full body weight on both the arms and sometimes clasping to a rock or clinging to a bush, preferably a green one as suggested by Bhegnath. One ought to give a powerful jerk onto whatever he was clutching onto, before taking a further step, down.
10:32PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: The most difficult part was a monolith huge rock some 20 feet above the ground with near straight trajectory. While sliding side-wise on hips, hanging our legs freely, Bhegnath narrated a story that goes like …
With some friends he was leading a jungle expedition and lost way, back home. After searching they found a running stream and decided to follow as evening was maturing fast, to darkness. Bhegnath was leading the path with a stick in hand to measure the depth of the water before putting a step further. At one point the running water was making louder noise ahead. It was bound to be a fall. Being the leader he offered to slide on his hips at the edge of the doubted fall so as to measure the depth.
Alas, his slipper slipped!
10:34PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: He was about to lose his balance and was on the verge of tumbling down that he heard the sound of the slipper hitting the bottom. Realizing the lapse of time from the slipper slipped and the sound of its hitting the ground, was enough for Bhegnath to shout, “Gin’chha be … bahut gahera a’chh’e … (Pull me up … It’s a extremely deep …)”
Started shaking uncontrollably after being pulled up and it took few minutes to calm down.
With such narrations, Bhegnath was garnering more and more confidence of the group that he was the “Chosen One” to get us out of the situation.
Despite my drained to the brink of dehydration, Bhegnath’s story made me to tighten my grips around whatever available and made each one of us to be very cautious till one of our toes touched the ground.
Day’s boo-boo made everyone battered at each step but landed safe though scratched and bruised.
But, we did it!
10:37PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Everybody was happy reaching bottom and leaving bulky Shashikant behind, ran up to the running stream and splashed water on our face.
"Don't drink … the water may have malaria parasites!"
Shashikant’s thundering made us little frightened. But very next moment he continued, "Well, running water does not accumulate the malaria parasites..." and joined us in the water splashing game. Group was blessed to have a person like him, having all sorts of knowledge for which he is the Google.com of our batch.
We all changed to our night suits, T-Shirts and Bermudas and drenched our full body with the stream water. It was clear, cold and fresh with slippery surface but none did mind getting slipped couple of times. We ran here and there to scale the heights of the nearby rocks and took some snaps.
10:40PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: To our astonishment an elderly couple appeared, followed by 2 more, walking up by the steam. Bhegnath started conversations in Sambalpuri. They told about their coming for offering worship to Jungle Deuta (Deity) on the auspicious occasion of Makara Shankranti and were on their way back home, completing rituals. They advised not to worry as they were about to take shelter in a cave and pointed at a height. A cave, at 50 feet above, was visible from the place where we planned to pass our first night at the heart of Debrigarh Reserve Forest.
(Having discussions with the 2 elderly persons. Pulu at right saving himself from the setting sun, standing are Bhegnath with backpack, Banaj pointing right index, on the floor myself with cap and Niranjan with his backpack. Where is our Google.com??? Behind camera, of course.)
10:42PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: They advised to arrange for night fire to keep the wild animals at bay. It’s noteworthy to mention that, in fear of weight we didn't carry enough woolen clothes. Before moving towards their night’s den, also shared little amount of kerosene from their lantern into an emptied water bottle. The couple ascended the path we traversed. In their late forties, with agility of Chimpanzee, climbed the terrain with ease and in no time occupied the cave they aimed for.
10:42PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: In the meantime Bhegnath found a huge un-burnt log in the near vicinity at downstream and told that the same would easily catch fire. We joined Bhegnath to carry the log.
10:42PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): Arabinda … Let me add …
Pushing with leg Bhegnath tried to roll it over to check if the log was dry at the bottom too. But in spite of his putting all his force, the log didn’t budge. Three of us with the help of few wooden poles managed to roll it over. A deep imprint on the soil was vociferous about lying for years.
Now how to carry it up, all the way to where we decided to rest at night, a flat surface of granite upstream.
10:44PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): “Tale jaga khojibaku padaba… uparaku nei pariba ni … ho …” (We must find a place downstream … can’t carry this log up …) gauging from the effort it took for the three to just roll the log, Bhegnath purred.
Bhegnath and myself ran down the stream and hopped from one boulder to another for a suitable place. Crossing the next bent looked as far as eyes ran, but didn’t find a place more suitable. Only boulders and pebble not a single flat surface.
“Na seita best jaga… (No, that’s the best location…)” I reported back panting, pointing to the flat surface where we had placed our backpacks.
10:46PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): None did find another dry log that would last whole night. After little thoughts, Bhegnath boomed “Hei jima bo … (We can do it …)” with a confidence that only he could command, waving rest of us to come over to help carry the log.
10:48PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): Even today, can't believe getting that log moved, it was too big. Five engineers were discussing to put some roller underneath. Nevertheless, the country guy Bhegnath had different idea.
10:50PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): As suggested by Bhegnath, helped him to made the log stand up and then pushed forward, toppling over. Again made it stand up with great effort and pushed forward. Anybody could have been crushed beneath, had it slipped and fallen backwards. Darkness was approaching fast. We continued, without any fear of stepping on a snake or a scorpion, hiding below boulder, as reprimanded by our Google.com.
We moved the log for good 60-70 feet, till we reached the flat surface, from where it was relatively plain and we managed to roll the log from there. With good 10 minutes effort could get that log to the intended place. Anybody could have been killed in the process.
Well before the jungle went to complete darkness, the log was lit with help of the kerosene, offered by the elderly couple. Arabinda, please continue ...
10:50PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: The burning log and flickering lantern up above in the cave were keeping the darkness around, at bay. But failed, as the pouring of more and more darkness continued, the glittering of the log fire and scintillating the lantern became prominent.
Bhegnath's shouting "He Boba ... (Hey uncle …)" one of the elderly male, up in the cave responded, “Kain hela je … Bua … (What happened … Son …)”
Bhegnath retorted “En’ta ni … bo … (Just like that …)
Reoccurrence of the three above lines, sound of ever flowing stream was breaking the killing silence of that evening.
10:51PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Shashikant offered equally the bread, spread with jam, which he had insisted during our shopping, despite my resistance. Even today I would never take bread and jam as the item makes me recall childhood days. Falling ill, one was left to this diet, I loathe a lot. But thanks to Shashikant's vision, that bread and jam became not less than life saver.
10:51PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Debrigarh forest started showering more and more chill, but suddenly, the air was filled with a strong aroma of coffee, prepared from the stream water by Shashikant. Hot coffee and the log fire kept the chill, at a distant from us.
10:51PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): Thanks to your photographic memory, I am re-living the experience.
10:51PM, May 11 - MANOJ DAS(USA): Very interesting, and we want all minute details.
10:52PM, May 11 - PROF. PANDEY: Good going Auro & Banaj ...
11.02PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: As the night grew darker the sound of the stream was becoming more prominent with intermittent "He Boba …" from Bhegnath and the elderly male responding "Kain hela je … bua …" followed by “En’ta ni … bo …” by our Raju guide, made us to have a grin.
Might be the elderly couple were also longing to talk to as we six were!
11:03PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: We took shelter by the side of a giant rock balanced with little surface contact, bounded at one side by near straight rock at about 100 feet and the running stream at front, at about some 40 feet. The stream while running since ages with opulence of water during rainy season had smoothened the huge rock that was to be our night’s bed.
The monolith rock beneath was extended to distance upstream with a slope from which the water was running down. But the darkness made all these dimensions endless in every direction. It seemed as if we were on a flat ground neither with a beginning nor an end. The giggling of the sprint appeared from the extreme right of the darkness and continued to the farthest left.
The whole world sunk around the log fire.
11:11PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): What a description! You are in wrong profession Arabinda. Tell that big noise at the middle of the night.
11:12PM, May 11 - BANAJ(UK): 2 were standing guard in turns and other 4 sleeping, I think.
11:15PM, May 11 - Lamay: Correct, you were 6 people in the expedition.
11:15PM, May 11 - DHUSA BHAI: Lama, Banaj & Aurobindo ... give rest to your mobiles and take rest yourselves.
11:15PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Well it was time for dinner. Hot Maggie, prepared by Shashikant, was served in paper plates that even he had suggested to carry. None of us took time to lick the plate clean. Alas, that was the last ration as confirmed by Shashikant. That night's half filled stomach was more satiating than any day's stomach-full dinner to this date.
11:17PM, May 11 - AUROBINDO: Killing silence, blinding darkness, fear of jungle beast and all sorts of fear of the world, every minute of that night seemed endless. With falling of more darkness of the night and showering of chillness, baring the burning log at feet was visible the small light, up in the cave where the elderly couple took shelter.
Our shelter was surrounded by rising terrain with lot of trees with their drawn silhouette leaving a very little portion of the sky visible. There were around 2000-3000 stars were twinkling overhead.
Occasional little cracking from the burning log, emitted numerous fireballs those moved erratically up to few feet, beyond the flame, through the dense smoke, left one to withdraw a little from or the fire place.
At intervals ear was ringing with "He Boba … … Kain hela je … bua … … “En’ta ni … bo …”
It’s just the beginning of an endless night!
To be continued …
[Started posting the sequence in the WhatsApp when I was on vacation to Odisha and was preoccupied with WhatsApp, except for sleeping, almost glued to it. Even my wife checked my mobile quite few times to check with whom I was chatting to.
Here, I have the liberty to keep readers guessing about, how we came out of the jungle …, what we eat …, when we reached hostel … ete. etc. But batch mates spread across the different time zones of the world took me to task, if they happen to miss the story on real time, as evident from the cross talks. Cross talks never distracted me but influenced and inspired me to on the track of story, even skipping daily routine.]