In the evolving years of the 1950s and 1960s‘, India was shaping herself in different fields. About a decade and a half out of British rule, the independent country was consolidating her natural resources, nurturing the people who inhabited and adopted technologies to survive as a self-sustaining nation.
Challenges like, inadequate infrastructure, scarce competent people, illiteracy ran wild. For widespread development, it became absolutely necessary for the organization, in both private and public sectors to hand over the baton of leadership to people who could stand up to the test of time and apply selflessly towards the work they did without expectations.
They did it for the pure passion they harbored for the work they did.
I was fortunate enough to have seen, and interacted with one person of that stature, very closely. He was quite special to me. He created me, put life into me, and taught me what life is all about. He was my father – Dinabandhu Lahiri, an exploration geologist of repute.
He was born of a unique blend of being suave to tame urban mortals and blend with nature’s fury when in the wild. He commanded board meetings with his debonair flair and at the same time, had the toughness, and ingenuity of a universal soldier to scale mountains and merge with nature to survive and help others to eke out a living as well.
My father, being a geologist always remained well equipped with his standard entourage, which typically consisted of two Willys CJ-3B Jeep, 4×4, with trailers attached to carry and bring in supplies, labors to quarry as needed, set up the tents, and help in the myriad excursions, Krishnabahadur, his most trusted driver, a confidant who hailed from Nepal remained like glue, and a Vickers Martini rifle, which he carried for sports, remained as a trusted companion.
The place where he stayed with my mother was called Degana, a small town in the Nagaur district of Rajasthan. He stayed about three years in this barren land, intents and Jeeps. My parents moved from one place to the other, camping for seven to ten days and when work got finished, off they went to another area to explore.
Among many places they had traveled, Degana, Jodhpur, in and around the Aravalli‘s where the prominent ones, for geological work. As the team headed by my father, installed themselves for a couple of days, many incidents, small and big took place, which is thrilling, if not gripping in nature.
In the shadows of one of the rocky mountains of the Aravallis, the sun was climbing high. As noon approached, my father was about to come to his tent for his lunch. One of the junior officers was running over the pebbled path, waving furiously, trying to attract my father’s attention who was busy using his hammer to chunk off a rock section. The officer, panting came up to him and informed that my mother was wriggling in pain. My father bolted across the terrain and came to the tent.
Flushed red, tears streaming from eyes, my mother lay on her back and tossed on her sides. She was not able to speak even and only pointed to her calf muscle on her left leg. On inspection, the tiny black, sickle-shaped, sting, part of the ‘telson’ was jutting out of the muscle, and blood oozed out of its reddish base. The officer, born in the desert looked at it informed that my mother was stung by the deadly desert scorpion.
The nearest medical help was at Udaipur, about eighty kilometres south-east of the camp location. Hurriedly, the officer summoned for a local doctor, from the nearby garasia tribes, who bordered the camp. With a makeshift wrap, dabbed with a solution of some wild crushed leaves, the doctor secured the wound and asked for an hour’s time for the pain to subside.
My father thanked the doctor and decided to take no chances and drive the eighty-odd kilometres over the un-metalled roads to Udaipur in the open Jeep. As there was no help who could come along, an imaginative idea of fastening my squirming mother, with ropes on the right seat of the Jeep, he drove the left-hand drive vehicle at over eighty kilometres per hour wherever he could. The roads were nonexistent in few stretches and the tossing of the passengers unsettled the ride considerably. The direction came from the overhead compass which hung loosely over the rear view mirror, swinging due to the bad roads. A folded map lay hidden in the metal glove box.
At places, he held my mother with his right hand to comfort, between the gear changes, and his left hand controlling the steering wheel as his eyes looked straight out of the dirt splattered windshield.
Being a four-wheel drive, the Jeep never lost her tire grip. Dust, debris, and hot winds blew all around, masking both my parents but the Jeep continued its relentless journey and after a grueling two and half hours, my father reached the city of Udaipur and visited the state hospital. The doctors attended and after two days of stay, my mother returned to her normal, usual self.
Her smile spoke it all. Had my father, not taken the evasive action, no one knew about the consequences, and perhaps I would not have been around to narrate.