Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Those days and Nights –My jungle days- Part-3

 (For Part 1
Pls. click 
 (pls click for Part 2)
We all saw a wave type disturbance from the eastern most part. Anticipating some dangers ahead, my heart started beating heavily.
However, my colleagues showed no reaction but continued their stern watch not only on the grass stretch but also on the branches of trees.       
It appeared they as if were waiting for someone to arrive.  My apprehensions were true.
A big monkey family came up soon and it was a scene. It seemed that the survey team and members of the monkey family were great pals.
 The citrus fruits and guavas thrown at them were accepted and there were few exchanges of well wishes from both sides. I was unaware that I also joined in those “well wish” messages.  
Jumping and dancing, an Impala family arrived from the eastern most part of the grassland.  They were also old buddies of the monkey family and there were once again lots of energetic well wishes from both the sides.  The impalas also looked at us and one of us threw a big ripe guava to them.
A pair of Impalas responded by a duet dance and caught it in the sky. We joined in clapping along with the Monkey family.
Following this, there were many subsequent fruits throwing from us and receiving by the Monkey family and the Impalas.
 After a while, the two families left the stretch together, the monkeys by sky jumping from branches to branches of trees and the Impalas jumped and ran simultaneously along a twine racing line.
 Before moving through the grassy stretch, I looked at Murmu. Murmu wanted to avoid the topic and said
“Nair babu shall tell you why and what for we stopped here. We need to complete the survey of down the valley quickly.”
At the end of our job, we were about to pack up the Theodolite sets and start walking down the valley to meet Nairbabu for the lunch, but Murmu spotted something and signaled  us not to go down the slope.
I used my binocular and looking at Murmu’s direction, at first saw only a tremendous shaking in a big portion of grass and shrub cover. In a nearby place, along the slope the exposed hard rocks inhibited the growth of shrubs.
We saw there at first a Mongoose and then a never before seen, a big hooded King Cobra.
The Cobra was bigger than the Mongoose in all respects but fell short before the wits of the Mongoose. The Mongoose as if being highly afraid ran for his life and lay standstill on a big rock. Actually, it lured the cobra to grab   the fatal bait for him.   
The King Cobra spotted it quickly and ran there to catch the prey lying standstill on the rock
As the Snake’s big head came down to bite, the Mongoose slipped away from the rock surface at a lightning speed and before the snake could do anything, the Mongoose bit the snake’s head near the eyes badly. The big snake tried to run away but failed. Within a fraction of a  second, the Mongoose beheaded the Snake.
My lips and down below the throat were still dry although I emptied one full water bottle. Nair Babu looked at me and pulled me to a shade beside the watershed. It was a small abrupt flat land on the hill slope with plenty of shades of tall trees.
As I was searching for another water bottle, Nair babu signaled someone. A tall dark person brought me a drink in an earthenware glass.
Nair babu said, “Either you empty another water bottle or sip slowly this freshly picked juice and quench your thirst. Choice is yours.”
Sipping a portion of sweet juice, I really felt better and could recognize the tall person. Looking at another corner, I found another three persons.
Well, this was the gang of four on treetops collecting juice which I was sipping right then. Within minutes of gulping the juice down my esophagus, I felt fresh and the strong nagging headache had weakened.
 Nair babu broke the silence now “Are you O.K now?”
I nodded positive and raised my thumb. Nairbabu continued, “These four persons collected juices from the trees and brought lunches for the entire team, hot and fresh, ready to be served.”
I said in a low voice, “They also cooked for us.”   
Nair babu said, “No. they were busy climbing up and down on those tall trees and besides collecting juice for us, they also kept a vigil on any abnormal movement in the forest. The fishing group caught few fishes, cooked a simple lunch for us, rice, dal, fish curry, and resumed fishing. The juice group picked the lunch packets for us.”
I heard Nairbabu, apart from being a good drilling engineer, was an excellent organizer.
 I asked, “You were saying something about keeping a vigil what’s that?”
The fishing party arrived just then with a good catch of fishes.  Nair babu signaled them to serve lunch and soon they became busy in laying washed banana leaves just by the side of the watershed and under a big shade to serve lunch.
Replying to me, he said, “The people on the tree top while collecting juice can note abnormal movements of other animals whenever   a ferocious animal is on the prowl. On such incidents, they beat their small drums in coded rhythms.”
Few of us enjoyed like me a hot fresh lunch Rice, dal, fresh vegetable fry, and fish curry on Plantain leaves and sitting beside a flowing watershed of a mountain with music of ripples.
“We are already much behind the schedule. So instead of post-lunch field work let’s pack up and return to camp.”   
Looking at Murmu I felt annoyed.  This happened just for him and his team’s fun in the tall grassy stretch.  
Hiding my feeling, I said, “Nair babu in the grassy stretch….”
Before I could finish he said, “You were held up by the traffic signal, I  waited till you could hear the loud and continuous hoop, hoop sounds from Monkey family on the tree top. In the grassy stretches like this, you should better wait for clearance from our friends of the tree-tops. They are friends to all, starting from the human beings to impalas.”
I said, “I just don’t get you there.”
Nair babu said, “I told you just now about the Juice collectors, who simultaneously collect juices and watch the movements of animals. Monkeys do this job in a much better way as they sky jump from branches to branches of tall trees. Leopards who mostly hide in the bushes and in neck length grassy stretch are spotted by the Monkeys who alert others.”
The entire survey team was reasonably reluctant to cross the grassy stretch and better wait for the clearance from the monkeys’ mouth.
Not only their human friends, they extended their helping “shouts” to all other animals like the Impala family grazing on the grassy stretch.
The tired sunrays were gradually withdrawing from the eastern hills. This part of the slope was steep and difficult to climb down. However, from here, the valleys further down were very clearly visible.
Nairbabu spotted few moving objects and then rest of us could guess them.
They were the four persons who went down the valley to collect “Kham Aloo” and Mushrooms for us. Our group shouted at them and they responded by some code words. There was a big applause from us. They not only dug out   huge Khum Aloos but also picked good amount of mushrooms. However, that’s not all. They were also bringing two baskets of chickens. Nair babu said, “That is enough for even tomorrow’s lunch.”
 This morning, I thought these persons as unnecessary extras for survey work. However, they are the  persons who kept us going by providing refreshing juices, lunches and enough food for continuing next days work. I was still wrong. I did not count the monkey and the Impala families who keep us safe. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Those days and Nights –My jungle days Part-2

For Part-1

I stayed in the Hilltop drilling camp for more than two and half years.
A new chapter in my life, filled with thrill, fun, and hard work, started along with my new friends of the forest.
Those friends were Nairbabu and his associates, Acharayaji of “Jungle Nibas” ashram, impalas and spotted deers, Jackals,  Hyenas,  a Monkey family and last but not the least those souls who long left their physical appearances( I hate the word Ghosts). 
P. P. Nair, a calm and cool person, popularly known as Nair Babu, was drilling engineer and in-charge of hilltop drilling camp. In this part, I referred him often.
In a later part, I shall tell you about the role Acharayaji, my non-human friends, and my invisible “soul” friends played in my life.  
During this stay, I faced many spine chiller incidents, a few of them are
·       Saved, from  a python hanging from a tree, by  the timely alert from a group of monkey friends
·       Meeting with a soul in an abandoned forest rest house who unveiled a tragic happening.
·       A miraculous escape from a man-eater Leopard, just for the presence of mind of my associate.   
I shall share all these incidents with you one by one.
In my first day, at early morning I joined Nair babu and his big team of about twenty persons.  I was quite unaware that a full day is waiting for me with never before felt   thrills of viewing the live wild inmates but also a live savage fight between two animals.
I doubted at the crowd of associates but Nair babu said
“At the end of the day, you shall be convinced of the team strength and stop worrying now.”
However, I was worried. With my fresher level knowledge, I knew that I needed only a surveyor with three associates. Nairbabu for his work might require a crew of four persons.
I could not guess why instead of eight associates, there were twenty in the team, which might spoil the work actually.
In this prospecting area of 23 sq km, there are two series of Hills, the western and the eastern hills, densely populated by tall trees.
Bestowed with two big waterfalls, fog and smoke covered evergreen western hill has a picturesque presence. 
The drilling camp was in the valley between these two hills.
From this valley, Nairbabu showed me the local physiography  in general and said, “Over to your survey team and Surveyor Murmu.”
He along with his four associates left for East hills in quick steps.
At the beginning of the survey, I saw, through the telescope of Theodolite, four people were climbing trees.
Pointing my finger to that direction, I asked “Murmu, did you ask these people to climb trees?”
Murmu replied “No sir.”
Using my binocular, I saw them peeling off the surface layers of the top part of the trunk and fixing hanging earthen pitchers just at the bottom of the peeled part to collect juice from these trees.  
While climbing the eastern hills at one flat ground, we stopped for a rest and checking our position from already marked survey stations near camp.
From there, down the valley, the meandering river appeared like a silver chain. Through my binocular, I could spot few people digging around a big ant’s hill.
I asked “Murmu, what for these people of our camp are digging? They are supposed to be with us, right here.”
Murmu said, “They are digging for ant’s eggs and some herb roots.”
I said, “For what?”
“Ant’s eggs when mixed with those herb roots and flour paste make excellent bait for fishing.”
I said, “Do you mean that they are going for fishing from that hill river and won’t be with us for the rest of the day.”
Murmu said “Most likely Sir.”
I said, “Four people are busy for juice collection and now the rest eight people are out for fishing in river.”
Monglu sordar, an associate of Murmu said, “Sir, only four shall go for fishing and another four to further down the valley for mushroom picking and Kham Aloo digging.”
Later on, I learnt about Kham Aloos, which are giant shaped potato type vegetables.
I heard all these but on a second thought preferred to hide my reactions.
I never climbed so high a hill before. Gasping for breath, I stopped at few places and instead of drinking water, sucked the juicy sweet and sour citruses, freshly picked from the valley by my associates.

 We were on our way to the highest peak of the Eastern hills. The flat area around the peak was just half of a football ground provided an excellent bird’s eye view of the entire prospecting area.  
Apart from this, it appeared that as if at a short distance a giant is smashing the air columns with roars.
However, Murmu and the survey team showed me the actual roaring giant. It was a giant indeed, a gigantic waterfall at the Northeast corner   of mist covered Western hills.
As it was quite after the mid day, most reluctantly we left the eastern hill top and started climbing down for the survey of the Northeastern part of the slope and back to camp.
Murmu reminded me that we should speed up to reach the spot for Lunch break. Nair babu would be anxiously waiting for us.
While going down, a flat stretch came covered with tall neck length dense grasses but intercepted frequently by tall trees.
Murmu and his team stopped just before this stretch. With their tense face, they were whispering among themselves and constantly scanning the branches of trees and the tall grasses.
Although they tried to hide, it appeared to me that they were reluctant to cross the tall grass stretch and decided, “Wait and see”
Were they suspecting the presence of some thing dangerous hiding in the neck length jungle of tall grasses? Using my binocular, I began scanning the neck length jungle.( part 3- the survival fight between a King cobra and Mongoose tomorrow 24.04.2014)