By looking at this title, if you are expecting a GRR Martin type thriller blog filled with action, adventure, dragons, sex, death, plot twists, incest, and ice zombies then you, my dear friend, are going to be disappointed. It’s simply about two things, actually two experiences, that I had for the first time. One was a hailstorm and the other, a forest fire.
It was wonderful seeing the little blocks of ice falling down, nothing short of a magic. When I realized that there was a hailstorm, I rushed out of our office building like a child who had seen something for the first time and opened my mouth looking at the sky in a hope that a few pieces of ice may fall in. But the fallen cubes took other directions. They were all over my face, on nose, eyes and forehead. I have to admit that it was a bit painful to be hit by ice blocks. So, I retreated to the safety zone in the shade of the building.
The next time when hailstones hit me was during a bike ride to reach my field area. Even though I had a helmet to protect my head, the stones kept hitting one after the other. It was really annoying specially as it came with the chilly winds. The sound of ice falling on my helmet reminded me about the music I made the last time I tried my hands at drums. When I had finished my performance, a friend clapped, came next to me and said “Rehne do beta…tum se naa ho paayega”. For the love of humanity, I’ve never touched drums since then.
Then came forest fire. Every summer, it creates serious havoc in the hills. Many times, the fire is caused by the negligence of people or by natural causes, most of which start in pine forests that have needles. Sometimes, people deliberately create a fire so that it allows fresh grass to grow underneath, which could be used as fodder for cattle. This man-made fire often goes out of control and destroys many hectares of forest land. During summer, these forest fires occur so frequently that the skies here turn white with smoke.
This is a common phenomenon in forests across the world. In developed countries, they even use planes and helicopters to put out the fire. But in India, unfortunately, we currently neither have the resources nor the political will to undertake such operations. As always, it would be up to the local people and understaffed forest department to douse the fires. In the first week of June, a major forest fire engulfed areas around Mukteshwar. It even reached our organization’s guest house in Sitla where many of my colleagues live. As a response, many people including me and my friend Joseph went to the forest to put the fire out. Initially, we did not have a clue on how to do it but once we got a hang of it, the idiotic hero side of me decided to save a burning oak tree perched against a cliff. My friend warned me but I chose to ignore his advice.
When I was climbing up the cliff, I didn’t know how will I come down and thought that I’ll figure that out later. Up there, I was able to douse most of the fire from the oak tree and grasses nearby. Suddenly, I heard people behind me shouting out my name. “Rajat! Rajat get down”. On turning and looking back, I saw an inferno, a line of forest fire that was coming towards me. Fear and adrenaline kicked in, and I climbed down the hill in record time brushing my ass against the rock and holding my hand against the cliff.
A line of fire was approaching me from the left and I was running to save my life. Luckily, I outran the fire in the nick of time. There was a wall of fire behind me. Then I saw Kishan Da, who works in the CHIRAG forestry division and was desperately trying to put out the fire. Kishan Da is one of the most amazing and sweetest human beings you will ever meet, always positive and cheerful with a welcoming smile on his face. But he was tensed that whole day. He told how he was trying to extinguish fire from 5 in the morning to now 6 in the evening. Basically, it’s his job to prevent forest fires from consuming the saplings that CHIRAG had planted.
He showed some techiniques of dousing the fire in mountains. They do it by by making a fire-line and removing all the flammable material near the fire, so that they can douse it or it dies out. I spent the rest of the evening watching him doing daring activities like running down a hill at the speed of light and coordinating with people in the villages to make a fire line. While going downhill, he fell down and hurt his arm but in spite of that, continued his relentless pursuit to put down the fire. Later at night, as he realized that he was hurt and wasn’t able to ride his bike, we dropped him at his home.
Ever since, whenever a fire breaks out somewhere, he calls me to help him out and I gladly go do it in whatever way I can.