Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jeep No. 510 (Part III)

With all my love for wild animals, I never wanted to be so near an angry wolf! I was very angry with Lawrence for following my command so literally! I could not shift my gaze from the wolf but from the left corner of my eye I could see that Lawrence was also having all his teeth out in soundless mirth! As if he thought it was a big joke!

The wolf was letting out a much suppressed growl like dogs before they attack and every time it was letting out a growl a pungent odor of rotten flesh was filling my nostril and the wolf’s saliva was being sprayed on my shoe. We were both frozen in time....the wolf was holding its ground and fortunately my leg was paralyzed to avoid any movement which could have provoked the wolf to attack. Though my neck and vocal cord were also momentarily paralyzed, my super active brain was trying to assure me that there was no known incident of wolf attacking an adult human being! But I was not sure whether a wild wolf in this remote corner of Orissa would know about that statistic! Neither did I want to end up being a statistical aberration! Considering my diminutive figure, it might not even realize that I was a full-grown adult!  

Fortunately nothing more interesting happened and the wolf slowly lowered its guard. I could see a perceptible change in its gaze. It then closed its fangs, lowered its head and turned away. Both the wolves then trotted away towards the mountain having lost their supper because of my unintentional intervention.

Dusk came very fast and all of a sudden it became quite dark. Even the cluster of huts was engulfed in darkness.
Lawrence, why did you switch off the engine?” I demanded after getting back my composer after all the drama. “Don’t you know carnivorous do not attack a jeep if the engine is on?” I added further.
“Sir, I did not switch off the engine. It just stopped!” replied Lawrence meekly.
“OK, what are you waiting for? Just start the engine and get off from this place immediately. I do not want those wolves to come back in a pack” I added.
Lawrence immediately switched on the starter, but it failed to start the engine! Lawrence tried several times but though the starter was working, the engine was only coughing without starting. Though I did not know driving a jeep and was quite innocent about its engine, I have seen that people in such situations would always open the bonnet and peep inside. So I promptly ordered Lawrence to open the bonnet which he immediately did. After surveying a little about the possible presence of wolves, I jumped out from the other side to join Lawrence. Inside the bonnet it was darker than outside.
Lawrence, please get me the torch, let me have a look inside” I said while looking inside the bonnet.
“Sir, there is no torch in this Jeep” said Lawrence hesitantly.
“What? You do not have any torch? What about a match box?” I asked tentatively, since the whole place was smelling of gasoline and a naked flame could be dangerous!
“I do not have any match box. I am a non-smoker” replied Lawrence
“Oh!” I had to downplay this particular fault of his since I was a non-smoker myself.

There not much of traffic on the road and whatever loaded trucks were passing were not in a mood to stop and help us out. I was just waiting for some passing car from our factory to get a lift and arrange a mechanic from our transport division. With the twilight drama just concluded, I was a little jittery. About fifteen minutes passed which seemed like ages and I requested Lawrence to try starting the engine once again. Lawrence followed my advice wordlessly and the jeep started with the first start itself as if nothing had happened! I immediately climbed onto my seat and prompted him to drive of immediately.
“Tomorrow, as soon as we reach the site, you should take this jeep for a through servicing. Probably the fuel line is choked or there could be an airlock some where” was my expert advice as soon as we started towards Kansbahal.
“But Sir, I have taken the delivery of this Jeep yesterday only after a through servicing!” remarked Lawrence.
“Any way, take it to the service station once again for a through check up. Also purchase a torch and all the necessary tools as required” I replied.

Next day, before I got busy with the work, I once more reminded Lawrence about servicing the jeep. I did not want to get stuck mid way once again.

All the site people were very friendly with me and whatever I was lacking in my experience I was trying to make up with my enthusiasm. I was particularly impressed with Harbans for his personality and the command he was having over his rigger gang. I, however, found that he was very independent in his thinking and had scanty respect for my advice. He would listen to me very attentively with a smiling face and would go out to do exactly what he wanted.

That day we closed the site at about 8 PM and after dropping my colleagues when I started towards Kansbahal it was already passed 9PM. I was very tired, having got up at 4 AM and was dozing, and so was Lawrence when we reached the up hill gradient near the “hill with twin peaks”. Though Lawrence did put the jeep in the first gear, from the sound I could understand that the engine was strained while climbing the grade, which I felt was quite normal. But after it had climbed the grade and was almost parallel to the cluster of huts on the left side, it coughed a few times and then suddenly stopped, nearly at the same place like yesterday!
Lawrence, what happened?” was my startled remark.
“I do not know Sir. It just stopped all of a sudden” replied Lawrence and tried to restart the engine. But it failed to start even with repeated attempts. That day, of course, we were better prepared and Lawrence climbed down with his newly purchased torch and a tool kit. He opened the bonnet and checked thoroughly but could not locate any fault.
“Did you take it to garage to-day for servicing?” I demanded in a not very pleasant tone.
“Sir, I myself am a motor mechanic. In the garage to-day, I along with the garage mechanic checked each and every part of the engine. We even flushed the fuel tank and the connected line. There was nothing wrong with the engine” replied Lawrence, almost in tears.
There was nothing much we could do except waiting. After about fifteen minutes, some thing clicked in me and I advice Lawrence to start the engine once again. Surprisingly the engine started without any hassle!

For the next one month everything fell into a routine. At site all the dismantling work was over. Mechanical parts were already transported to our workshop at Kansbahal where they would be repaired, replaced or modified under my supervision in consultation with our client. Mr. Roy along with all other supervisors would coordinate repair and modification of the structural parts at site. When both these portion of work would be over, all the parts then will be assembled at site and then erected on the crane bays. Within a couple of days I was supposed to go back to Kansbahal and return once again to site only during last phase.

Even stopping of the jeep near the cluster of huts became part of the routine, even with Lawrence’s best efforts of finding the fault! It almost became like a tea-break except there was no tea stall nearby. I thought it could be due to overheating of the engine while climbing the slope. This theory, however, was discarded by Lawrence.

After lowering the girders and other heavy parts, Harbans left along with his gang of riggers. He was supposed to come back during the erection when we would need his help to lift the heavy equipment on to the crane bays. Though he violated safety standards at times, I liked him quite a lot and was vocal about it. One day, while taking tea with Mr. Ghosh, somehow Harbans’ name cropped in and I was all praises about him. Mr. Ghosh allowed me to finish and then added “Mr. Sengupta you are so young. It is nice that you are not a miser in praising people. But too much of praise is also not good unless you know the person thoroughly”. I could not fathom why he said that but discarded it as professional jealousy.

It was a Friday and the next day was my last day at site for the first phase, when Mr. Ghosh approached me. “Mr. Sengupta why don’t you have dinner with us to-night? Our cook, Kalyan will cook chicken curry and rice and also arrange some sweets from the Bengali shop near the station” said Mr. Ghosh. “ You can spend the night in the transit room” he added further. I heard about Kalyan’s cooking ability and did not want to miss the chance.

We closed the site little early that day and reached their Bungalow at about 7 PM. We took our showers and then sat on the garden chairs in the well maintained lawn when Kalyan served us hot tea and some home made snacks. It was a beautiful moonlight night and we were gossiping on any thing under the sun (or moon) when Mr. Ghosh asked me in a very sober voice “Mr. Sengupta, do you know the history behind your jeep no. ORO 510?”   Immediately all his other friends stopped talking and there was a hushed silence as if he has said some thing very unpleasant and terrible. [To be continued] 


Milan Acharya said...

this "break ke baad" makes the story even more interesting...everytime!!

biplab said...

Did you read other two parts?