Friday, February 3, 2012

North East Chronicles 4: Lakwa: Story of the missing bag and the mysterious 'bhari'...

(Recall the mention about my workstyle in the earlier narrative.   This narrative brings in a small bit of history in an otherwise simple story)

We were to install an EDI application on SCO unix in one of the oil companies.   In those days, there was no Internet.  We had to rely on internal emails and fax machines at the Gas Authority's drilling block in Lakwa to get the instructions to install and test the application and database, checklists and sign off documents.

The employees who worked in the drilling block had to leave for work early .   The morning sun brightened up the eastern skies far too early. The golden rays would melt the morning dews on the green leaves of the bamboo trees.   The birds would echo the tunes of the Assamese folk songs.

After the morning tea, we boarded the bus, daily that would leave for the drilling-fields at around 630 in the morning.   The ride in the bus is something we always looked forward.   The sweet breeze that would tease and play with our hairdom.  

The driver would play the exotic Assamese folk - the voice of the singers like the birds cooing, with signatures of fresh flute and very light beats of the traditional drum.   If one could imagine the sights and sounds of nature flow in unison, this was it.   The mind would be fresh and free, ready to tackle the frenzies of the day.
The music and dance of Assamese
resonate with nature

The seniors and the workers would leave around 4 pm.  The convoy of buses would leave for the respective abodes of the worksmen before the sun vanished behind the tall trees of  the forests.   The weather could become chill almost immediately and the birds would return home.   Silence, till next day early morning.

Some of the folks who needed to work late would stay till 630 in the evening.   No one was allowed to stay in the rig after 630 for security reasons.  Our work, during the peak times of the project, demanded that we stay till this hour.   Not to miss this bus, everybody scrambled to wind up.  There was always a sigh of relief once the bus was boarded.   We got into the bus, and deposited our bags on the overhead compartment.

The bus was playing Hindi music.  Kishore was singing meloncholic lullabies on how life was wasted in a city.  Five people including my local engineer and me were onboard.   The wind howled, echoing the impatient mood that prevailed in the darkness of the bus. 
Sibsagar bus stand - where the buses stopped last

After an hour, we reached Sibsagar town - it was pitch dark, interspersed by few dim street lights.

We used to stay in hotel Brahmaputra - which was the only decent stay for visiting professionals.  Private contractors, politicians, employees of the oil behemoths, all stayed here.  

So the bus would go through a small stop-start routine to drop all people around the town and finally would wind up its trip near the Sibsagar bus stand, just opposite to the Brahmaputra hotel.  The bus finally came to its final halt.  We pulled out bags out of the dusty compartment, and got out.

We would have started walking for few yards, then a large figurine was running towards us - as though,on cue,  shouting expletives.  'kela, sur, mur bag-tu suri korne, kela, sur!'... ( 'expletive, thief! you stole my bag, expletive, thief!') When he neared, we were standing under a dim street light.  

I recalled his face.  He was one of those administrative staff, who we would see at the rig. We thought he would be one of those unnoticeable beings. But we could remember that he used to throw those bile looks at us - the white collar morons.  Now, as he rushed towards us, his eyes shone in madness and face reflecting beastly rage.

Reaching for my friend, he yanked the bag out of my friend's hand, and started slapping the poor, shocked soul.  We could not comprehend this sudden burst of action.  I was too shocked, but recovered quickly to pull his body out of this guy's reach.   But this man was on to him like a leach, still trying to slap and smother, panting like a raging bull, and his mouth frothing like a poison victim. 

Few souls were around to see the commotion, but none moved.   Then suddenly, from nowhere a thin frail man appeared.  We could not see him.  He was dressed in a jacket and trousers and appeared as a silhoutte against the dim street light.

The stranger pulled this guy out and said - nusubo na! ( Don't touch)  On seeing this man, the raging creature stopped and apologized - 'Mur bag-tu heraal, thai...'.  ( My bag is lost, that is why). 

The thin stranger then asked this man to go and apologized.  The creature vanished into thin air.  Our friend shaken, bluttered-Moik duk paisu.  Moi doctor lage'.   ( 'I am injured, need to get a doctor')

The good samaritan led us to a small chai shop.   'Saa kaa, sob teek hobo'  ( 'drink the tea, everything will be fine').   We gratefully drank the offered tea.   It was a good anti-dote for a quick recovery for the two shocked souls.   We said ' dhonyabaad' ( thank you)and left hurriedly.   All along, my friend was behaving more surprised, excited than shocked.  I could not understand his strange behavior then.

Was he Aurobindo's brother?
When we went to the hotel, we went to the clinic attache' near the verandah.   My friend had swollen lips and some bruises around his forearms.  Doc examined them and gave a pain-killer.

No sooner we entered our room, I ordered for hot water, couple of hot idlis ( we got idli's in those hotel!!, sambhar was not as good though!).

 I tried to switched on the TV.  My friend, more excited than traumatic said, ' do you know who we saved us today?'.   I shrugged my shoulder and reached for the remote.   He pushed it away again, and said ' that is Aurobindo's bhai, Sotthi!!, believe me!'.  

He repeated this atleast 3-4 times.  I was shocked!  I just had tea with history!!!

The next day morning, I called our offices in Delhi and Calcutta and informed that we were attacked.  The seniors advised me to put in a written complaint against this guy to the Group General Manager of the Drilling block. But one of my local friends and my customer advised against it.  So we did not.

Back from work early, that evening, we walked around the place where we were attacked.  It was called the 'bhari'- the house.  The aura of the legend permeated the air.  Any reference to the 'bhari' was spoken in hushed tones for fear of being noticed.  

We never saw the frail man again.   His house was always bereft of activity - I went past the ' bhari' couple of times during the course of my stay.  But it stood there always, assuring its people with its calm facade.

- The One

( Pics Courtesy The Internet)


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