Sunday, April 8, 2012

Things have really Changed

The rituals were at the last stage. The groom is to put the vermilion on the forehead of the bride but suddenly the thin hands of the bride clasped the hand of the groom firmly and said “Stop it now, I said stop it now”. Bride Sneha did another action, She sprang up from her seat and untied the knot of her Banarassi Sari with the Dhoti of the groom and started leaving the Pandal.

It all happened in a spilt second. The Bride’s father, his uncle, the Priest of the Marriage and myself , the marriage registrar quickly recovered from the shock and disbelief and tried to reach Sneha as quickly as possible. Before we could reach, the groom and his friends came in her way.

She stopped near the New Motorbike, a gift from her father to the groom and shouted, “ I said clear my way before I turn nasty”

“Turn on any thing” the groom shouted none the less “ But tell us and everybody about the drama you made just now.”

“Tell everybody present here and me, did you chant a single mantra of this marriage?”

“Well! Not every words of it, how does it matter?”

“You could not because you were busy in talking to your friends and seeing the Bike. I shall tell every body that he nether chanted the seven words of promises and while taking rounds before the holy fire he looked neither at the fire nor at me but listening to the filthy abuses that his friends were hurling towards my father and the mobike”

One of the friends of the groom side now took over “What a bike, re-painted, bloody old model, two- stroke garbage. This is not worth even a Mopade. We were telling this hour before. But, your father seems to be a deaf. This is a deaf’s family. Till your father replaces the marriage shall be postponed.”

“No Postponement. This marriage is cancelled” Sneha tore the garland and threw it on the face of the Groom. She was shivering with anger; the village women surrounded her and her mother.

The villagers and Torab, the village head,brushed aside the crowd and made their way to reach the trouble spot. A few members of the Barrati party now attempted to thin out from the place. Torab shouted “ Catch hold all of them, don’t let none to go. Amol, you did not call us at the final round of talks with these people, now tell us what is all these going on?”

Amol, a schoolteacher of the village school is the father of Sneha. Sneha is the eldest of the two other unmarried daughters. About a month-back, he finalized the marriage of Sneha with a businessperson boy. He agreed to all the dowry demands of the groom side including a Mobike for the groom.

Torab said “ Amol, People are telling me that the friends of the groom were talking in a foul language about you and the Bike. We were hearing but tolerated enough. Now tell us did they specify anything about the bike, make or model at the day of marriage fixation? Problem is you did not call us. Otherwise…”

The father of the boy and head of the “Barrat” party said, “What is there to specify? Look at the Boy, his and our status. Not every thing is said. We asked for 10 tolas of Gold ornaments. Does it mean that he should give us gold plated third class thing? We have not checked that. It is all possible with this type of family.”

Now another villager said “ did you not come to his house many times before this marriage? Did you not check with us the credential of this family and the character of the girl. You were then speaking very high of them and now why you changed suddenly”

Another person looked at the two gold chains one bigger and another shorter that the groom was wearing. Pointing to the shorter one with his long finger he said “ I am the gold ornament shop owner. This one Amol purchased from me. Not only I but the hall mark in it, guarantee for the purity of gold.”

He touched the longer chain “ But this one?”

The father of the groom said “That is our own”

The Gold smith just had a look and touched the chain.” This one is gold plated”

One of the villager said “They buy fake ones when the buy from their own pocket”

Torab’s brother, Ali, the owner of Mo-bike show room in the Town said “ who said this is old and re-painted? We have the documents to prove that it arrived from the factory just this week. No one so far complained about the performance.”

He identified one person “ Ask this gentleman, about two month back he purchased the same model. Have you faced any trouble or the performance is below the mark and claims made by company?”

Amol said “ He is the younger brother of the groom”

Now Torab pulled his hand “ You were most abusive. Amol is of your father’s age. Beg pardon before him or we compel you to do that” Seeing the angry crowd before him the person obliged readily.

Torab was now fast in his action. He called the father of the groom to be near him

“ Now things are clear to me. We understand what a family you are. Any way, tell me what you want now. There are a variety of bikes in my brother’s “Gowdown” just a Km far from here. All of you go there in my vehicle and pick the one which you like. But that is only and all and before proceeding you and every body in the Barrat must seek seriously the pardon of my brother Amol and make it fast. Otherwise don’t blame us to straighten out thing in our own way.”

Sneha’s mother came from inside of the house “ TorabBhai Please come inside. Sneha is not listening to us.”

Sneha was now in her ordinary dress. As soon as Torab and I reached there she said in her usual calm voice “ Uncle you all did a good Job”

“ Yes Sneha ! Things are now settled now. They sought pardon of your father and he has pardoned them Now get dressed, time is running out”

Sneha said in her calm voice “ Uncle do not misunderstand me. I shall be misfit in this family. Tell them to go back. I will not marry this boy”

“ Sneha try to understand. You may do this but it shall be why difficult almost impossible to arrange your marriage once again. Besides this, you have other unmarried sister. Think of them and better revise your decision.”

Sneha said " Uncles, things should change now. Marriage is not a compelling thing to live. If the attitude of all other grooms family do not change we shall change ourselves to live life being unmarried than getting married to a family like this."

I said “ Sneha there is one more problem. Just an hour ago, this marriage was registered and all of us signed it. It can not be waived so easily. The groom’s side may make problem with me, and all of us. The law …”

“ I shall go for divorce then but certainly not stay married with this man. Uncle get me the papers I shall sign them”

Torab and I finally gave up. I shall have to talk to my seniors to find out an easier way other than divorce suit. That is a long and uphill task.

Five months later:

As a single marriage registrar I move to all most all the villages near by for the marriage occasion. Things have really changed now. Before performing the registration, I made it a point to take a declaration from both the side that there was no deal on dowry. Parents of this and the surrounding villages are getting their son and daughter married without any dowry demand. Things have really changed.

Sneha is getting married today to a close friend of me. My friend and his friends arrived an hour before. Instead of car or bus, all of them including the groom came on each of their own Mobike. The things have really changed.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


That was an awesome and incredible day of gold prospecting in Zimbabwe. From the satellite images we identified an extensive area of Granite “Granite hill” with numerous intersections of smoky Quartz veins. We three from India and a local Geologist Jiban traveled in a Japanese made “truck” to that site. The vehicle failed just few kilometers away from Target area. We moved on foot and Jiban accidentally stumbled on an insitu Granite that contained some evidence of Gold Mineralization. Moving down the valley, we saw a fresh Deerskin on the top of a tall tree. Could it be an activity of a Leopard. Jeevan was walking further ahead of us in the narrow foot track of the forest. He suddenly disappeared. Was it a Leopards attack or something else happened to him? For full story along with some amateurish photographs, read on below
It all happened due to Jiban. We called him by Jiban and he frowned with a deep furrow on his forehead whenever we called him. His actual name is little different. He tried to rectify us but finally gave up.

Had Jiban not stumbled on the rock just near the shadow of the tree we could not find the lead to start with. Later on, his GPS failed due to cloudy sky. We headed towards nowhere and finally spent the night on a hilltop, near a Leopard’s den just below

We were evaluating Gold prospects of our Company’s business proposals in Zimbabwe with a local Business Man of Indian origin.

Many times if you can find a rock, occurring extensively in an area, do not neglect it as simple granite. There is a chance that within these rocks there are small bands of smoky gray colred rocks (smoky quartz). If nature so likes, it may reward these smoky quartzes with impregnation of precious yellow metal “Gold”.

“Morning shows the day” and the cloudy day began with the absence of our local guide. We two Indian and the local geologist Jiban decided to depend on GPS and proceeded for the 200 KM journey in our Japanese made “truck”. We previously identified this area after studying the satellite images of the area.

It is actually a covered jeep at the front and an attached tub at the back, suitable for our purpose to carry field equipment like Power drills, “Lil giny” (Portable generator), survey equipment, Spades and pick axes, and geophysical instruments. The “Truck” looks like “Genio” and “Bolero Camper” in India built by Mahindra.

The Japanese vehicle did well in Main tarred road and took only 90 minutes to reach Kadoma, 142 Km from Harare. As per our GPS, we should move from here towards South- East for 9 Km to reach the Granite hill, the target area for occurrence of gold bearing smoky quartz veins, intruding the Granite. The single lane tar road ended after 4 Km and the treacherous spiral mud built road leading to granite hill began.

After crossing two hairpin bends, it appeared to be a real uphill task for the “Truck”. The engine, after few coughs and jerks, stopped. Roberts, our driver friend assured us in the beginning but after half an hour said, “It may take an hour to know the exact position.”

We need to cross this hill, go down a little and then once again go up to reach the destination as per our GPS. We could make it by walking alone but not with our equipment.

It was Jiban’s idea to go by this truck. Earlier we planned to go by both Xylo and this truck. The xylo would carry us and this truck should follow us with the equipment. Jiban, well acquainted with local constraints compelled us to drop this idea. “In a gold bearing province moving with two vehicles may draw the attention of locals and we may have to face problems.”

Opening the bonnet of the truck, Robert was trying for the last one hour. Time was running out. Except Jiban we three were talking about our Bailadila days in 1980. Willy’s four-wheel jeep was our constant companion and it never failed us in the rugged hilly terrains of Bailadilla.

We decided to better walk some distance and find some evidence of Gold Mineralization. We reached the peak of this small hill; the adjoining granite hill was far away.

It was a dead walk for an hour and except few drifted quartz pieces from the adjoining Granite hill; we found nothing The Sun was just above our head. Locating a big shadow, we thought to take a break and better have a look at the map.

Jiban was ahead of us and we called him to come back to us. He looked at us, hit something, and fell in the ground. We ran to his rescue and then we all sat there only. Sipping coffee and munching Sandwich I was wandering what hit him so hard.

Jiban said He hit something very hard just near the bush. Covered by dry leaves and bushes, I found, what we were looking for.

It was a big piece of rock protruding a little from the soil. The yellow sulphide stains on the rock, intersected by numerous smoky quartz veins studded with few grains of Gold Nuggets gave us the first hand evidence of a gold bearing zone.

Checking with Compass, the strike (Length direction), dip (inclination) amount, and direction of the rock matched well with the regional strike of the insitu rock. We were sure that this small exposure was not a drifted rock but an insitu. Charged with this finding we started searching around the place for another one to confirm our observation but found none.

Left with no option, we walked down the valley, covered with deep forest. After walking a little, foul smell entered our nose and Jeevan saw something in one of the tall trees and showed us.

Up in the tree there was a skin of a deer killed freshly.

Jivan told us it could be Leopard’s unfinished job. The leopard can drag a prey, which could weigh two to three times its own weight, high up in a tree. After making a kill, the leopard may eat at the site, drag the remains of the prey by the neck in its mouth, and pull it high up into a tree. The carcass is hung over the tree branches so other animals will not steal the food. The leopard will eat the remains of the prey in the next few days.

We had only pocketknives for sampling, except Jiban, we were soaked with beads of sweats on our forehead. Jeevan took out few masks of strange looking human face and diesel soaked dry sticks from his bag. We wore the masks at the back of our face and kept the sticks ready in our hand. Jiban assured us that the mask should prevent us from an attack from the back and the lighted sticks from a face-to-face attack. Jeevan led us the way towards the valley.

The narrow zig- zag foot track amid the long trees on both sides took suddenly a left turn and we crossed the turn we could not find Jiban but only his torch till live. We started shouting for him but there was no reply.

Facing diametrically opposite to each other, we formed a big circle, and once again shouted for him. We heard his voice and it appeared he was probably unhurt but might need a rescue.

Following his voice direction, we were running and we heard him once again. Person at my back suddenly pulled me with full force and his timely action saved me otherwise I would have been just like Jiban.

Craning our neck we carefully stood at the immediate outer periphery of a pit in which Jeevan fell and shouting for our help. We came to a safest possible approach nearest to a pit and with our lighted torches could see him clearly.

We threw a fresh diesel soaked stick and a match box so that he could help himself until we could find something to approach him. He lit the torch and with that, he was pointing something in up direction and disappeared soon.

Looking in that direction we soon found a horizontal opening appeared like an adit mouth and soon another vertical shaft. Mean while Jiban came out from that adit opening and his opened his fist and shouted

“Gentlemen, see what I have brought for you. Look at these dull looking stones; they are with the glittering nuggets.

With delicate blows of hammer, we broke the dull looking rocks into small fragments and put them on gently inclined chamois leather. The gold particles were caught in the leather.

An adit for entry into Gold Vein by illegal Miners

">Through the adit opening, we went inside and reached the place where Jivan fell down. We went down little more to collect some more samples. Some people illegally opened
up this place; they even made a small vertical shaft also and mined gold nuggets but stopped as ground conditions became hard for them.
Vertical Shaft made by Illegal Miners
However, we found all the strong evidence of further continuity of this gold bearing zone down the depth.

Jeevan suggested going further down the valley and there could be a river. That could be the only place to meet the people from villages where we might hope for a night accommodation.

">Before we could reach the river, we saw another interesting thing. The whole area just near the river was dug up and people were engaged in other activities than mere taking bathing or fishing. They already made many pits and were busy in taking out the rubbles from these places. At one place, with the river water they wash the rubbles and pan for gold. Musclemen buy the gold they recover from these places at the weekend. The soiled few dollar notes are not sufficient to buy enough corn or Maize to feed the whole family. The malnutrition of the children that they brought along with them was sufficient to tell us that these simple villagers were speaking the truth.

Jiban spoke to them in the local language and told us that it would take us an hour to reach the adjoining hilltop where we may find some place to stay for the night.

Afternoon was setting in and we decided to take a short cut to reach the hill than take the long spires. However, the shortcut path was through neck deep grass. We were cursing Jeevan for taking this route. However, he was encouraging us and telling us the demerits of the spires. Not only it was longer, it is dangerous after the dusk. No sooner he finished his talking we all heard some movements in the adjoining bush. Suddenly the movements stopped, I felt a cold flow in my spine, and all of us stood motionless as if to become easy and tasty prey of someone.

We saw something in pale olive color firmly approaching us and there it was. An armed forest guard with a sten dangling at his back stood in our way and shouted in local language. Jivan took out the special permit of all of us and showed to him. He told us that he was sorry for taking us as poachers only.

Jiban said, “We saw, down in the valley, a deer skin. Possibly a Leopard…”

The guard broke in laughter “They killed almost all the leopards for their skin. The only Leopard, which lived in a den just at the down-slope of the forest rest house of the hilltop, did not come back to his den for a week. Possibly, he had the same fate. Have you seen any blood stains around the tree on which you saw the skin of the deer?”

We did not and that was a poacher’s job who kept the skin atop a tall tree for drying.

However, right then, the mention of guesthouse delighted us but he shook his head.

“ No ! for some reasons that has been stopped. There is an open tin shed at the back yard of the guesthouse. He said that accommodation means an open tin shed. Enough firewood is stored there for cooking and the fountain water is just nearby. But you better keep the fire live for the whole night to keep you warm and safe.”

“Safe means do you….”

“While going up you will cross a small hill fountain, the water from this fountain flows down the valley. Sometimes, at night, the remnant animals of this forest go there to drink water. They rarely come to hilltop but for your own safety you must keep the wood burning. Who knows the lone leopard is safe and is back to his den. But about half an hour ago I saw a covered jeep going up the hilltop. If they already occupied the tin shed, you may have to share it with them. ”

">The site of the hill fountain lured us to soak our body for a while. We deserved a bath after the whole day’s episode. Although the idea of sharing the accommodation with the passengers of covered Jeep was nagging us, we forced ourselves to keep it aside.

We did not know until then how much surprise was waiting for us.

The “XYLO”, parked outside the rest house, was unmistakably ours. The number plate pointed so. In our last conversation with Roberts, we just mentioned that we were near the river where people were panning gold.

Robert informed the Main office in Harare about the breakdown of the vehicle and the possible need of the spares. Harare office promptly sent the Xylo along with a Mechanic, spares, cooked food, water and sleeping bags. Dropping the mechanic with Roberts, the XYLO took an hour to reach the panning site and was redirected by the villagers to reach here.

We all told Jiban “ Just look at the job done by XYLO and the Indian driver Samuel” Jeevan said nothing.

The food from Harare was awesome. We skipped the comfortable stay inside the XYLO.

rial Black'; font-size: 100%;

">The fire was on in the Tin-shed and each one of us narrated their Jungle days. But, nothing was like this. The sound of waterfall and the sound of the herd of animals down the valley quenching their thirst in the background of chirping of Crickets was a rare orchestra session for us. Suddenly there were continued alarms of barking deers.
One of us who spent almost his lifetime in Forest told us “The Guard fellow was wrong. He has come back”

Jeevan said “Who has comeback”

I whispered “ Possibly the Leopard. The Barking deers…”

I could not finish. One of us said “All of look at your back. Look at the roof of the Guesthouse and there look at the top of XYLO. There is another one”

We saw pairs of glowing eyes and our heartbeat became very fast.

Jeevan took out a roasted chicken leg from the plate and raised his glass of Whiskey. “Oh! They are… wildcats only” he raised a piece of burning wood and threw the roasted chicken.

After all, who was afraid then of hungry wildcats?