|Bhongir Fort: Source Wikipedia|
I was really gasping by the time we reached the top although I was not even carrying any of the instrument boxes, courtesy the boys again. Anyways, we set up the survey instruments. Our instructor gave us instructions and we did the work in turns. Well, we took readings only once and the rest was done by B. B was the sincere learner of our batch. Each and every topic was diagnosed and analyzed to the core. Each and every book in BCL (British Council Library) was turned inside out to empower his knowledge. So, for exams, we didn’t have to bother much. Just one hour before exam, B would give his discourse on the subject and that was good enough for us to write the exam.
Surveying and readings were forgotten, including by B, and the boys started to search for hollow places. They went on banging on each and every stone and were very excited whenever they encountered a hollow one. They even started engraving their names on those places so that it can be reserved in their name if ever the treasure was unearthed. So, much for a treasure. Sigh!
Now, post dinner there was a discussion, as to who would carry the target to the hill top nearby so that the rest of the group could do the night observation. As such, many were not willing to go there, as we would have to be awake till 11 for the night observation, as well as an extra half an hour to come down. The guys didn’t want to lose that 1/2 an hour of blissful sleep and maybe they were scared too:). Anyways, after a heated discussion, three brave people volunteered to go to the hill top. A torch was to be used as the signalling mechanism. If the torch was put on and off 1 time, then it meant that we were observing. If the torch was put on and off 3 times, then it meant that they could come back and so on.
So, R, K and Captain went to the hill top to set up the target while the rest of the group waited for them. While waiting for the three musketeers to set up the target, we got talking with the instructor again and he was again on his spree to tell us stories. When he had gone to survey in a forest, it seems the group he was in had lost its way in the night. They suddenly spotted somebody with a lantern moving in a particular direction and decided to follow it. After a few mins, the person vanished right in front of them. They all didn’t know what to do and stood transfixed. No one slept that day and they kept awake till the morning.
By the time, the story was completed some of us were perspiring and looking at each. The place from where we were observing was right opposite to a burial ground (eeks!!!). Our instructor was continuing his ghostly encounters. It seems at many times, our instructor (T sir) had heard anklet sounds and seen some moving figures on a full moon day. Fear filled us. Our gaze went up to the white round thing which was looking in all its glory at us, yes today was also a full moon day. I was getting uneasy. My subconscious mind wanted to dispel the fear but I couldn’t. Through the corner of my eye, I saw something wavy, something moving. I caught K’s hand and stood grounded. We started looking at each other to see if the person next to us was our friend or Mr/Ms Ghost.
All this while, B and V oblivious to the ghost stories surrounding them, were sincerely setting up the instrument for the observation. We were more than happy when the observations were done and we signaled to the guys to come back. We waited for 1/2 an hour for them to come back but there was no sign of them. It was time to sleep and we girls went to our tent. Somehow the chillness outside and added to it the eerie silence of the camp was making me restless. I lay down and tried to sleep but couldn’t. I kept hearing some tinkling sounds like those of anklets. I closed my ears and tried to sleep. I must have drifted off to sleep when something fell on me. I got up sweating and heart beating aloud. I wanted to shout but it looked as though I had suddenly become dumb. I fumbled for the torch in the dark and finding it, put it on. Holy gosh, it was only V’s leg on me. V had the habit of putting her legs on whoever slept near to her. Least did she know that she gave me a mild heart attack that day. God, bless my weak heart, I can be so scared at times for stupid things.
Day 4, we got up refreshed. T Sir decided to move us to different locations and the survey points of all the groups was changed. This time we went to a nearby hill top. This was the most scary climb of all, at least for me. The rest of the climb is ok but when we reach the survey point, it is a single stone with a 90 degree inclination and you need to be a Spiderwoman with a web to climb that. Anyways, I was literally pushed up the stone and the survey started. While B and T Sir went about writing the second chapter of Surveying, the rest of the group played cards.
Day 5 was the final day of our survey and we were given the entire day to make our charts and complete the calculations. B, Me, V, K and some of us were very sincerely doing the work while some slept and the rest went for a walk. It seemed to be a never ending process. We calculated, re-calculated and by dinner, we were done. We showed this to T Sir who said the the calculation was wrong and have to re-do it. We felt a bit sad but still sat down again not knowing if we could sleep that night. 11pm turned to 3 am but we were still doing the calculations. It was shivering cold outside but that did not deter us. We went on and on trying to match the calculations. Around 5 am, Captain woke up the cook and got some black coffee made for us. That totally washed down our sleep and we continued. It must have been around 9 am when we finally completed the calculations. It took us 24 hours to do this entire task and we had not once slept in between. Anyways, after that we caught a few winks of sleep while the rest of the group copied the results (as always).
It was also our last day at Bhongir and we were to bid farewell to this place where we had some awesome time for the past 5 days. It is 8 years since this camp took place but the memories are still afresh. We all now reside on various points on the globe but these are memories which will we carry all through our life. No wonder, when K suggested this topic, I just couldn’t resist.
Now K from hamara bharat desh and B from Germany are putting in their brains to work too for this post. It may seem am exaggerating but I can’t help but saying “I have the best friends in the world”. They are friends with whom I may not talk for months together but will be the first ones to be by my side in my most troubled moments, friends with whom I can giggle and just be myself and not the matured person I pretend to be, friends to whom I don’t have to say “Please come” but rather “Are you going to come or not… else am going to send my goons to parcel you to India”, friends with whom I can talk and talk for hours together and when the conference call ends, its just “Why did the call end?”. Three unknown people, brought up in different environments met each other and there blossomed a lifelong friendship. K and B have been an integral part of my life since college and my best buddies till date. I have met many people, have made a lot of friends but no one can take the place of K and B in my life. Thank you guys for everything :).
Final part to be continued in next post showcasing our Jibba story and the final run to catch the train.
So, it was a group of 19 students and a couple of professors who were bid goodbye by a small group of parents on a rather sultry day in January from Chennai Central.
The train moved on, we sang, pulled each other’s legs and had the usual fun college going students have. We had the dinner we had brought along. I started to feign sleep by 11 pm and told everyone that I wanted to sleep. Well I didn’t want to sleep actually because it was my birthday the next day and I knew a cake was eagerly waiting for me to cut it. But I didn’t want to spoil the surprise my friends had planned. So, with my eyes tightly shut, I tried to show off that I was in a deep sleep least no one suspect.
Just a few minutes before 12, people tried to wake me up but I didn’t budge. K moved me, B called out my name in my ears but to no avail. Slowly after many efforts, I got up, I yawned, stretched out my hands as though woken up from a deep slumber and then seemed pleasantly pleased and surprised at the cake in front of me. My dear classmates till date don’t know that I was awake all the while… Don’t you think I could be a good actor???. For the first time in my life, I cut my birthday cake in a moving train.
Cakes and sweets done, we all went off to sleep finally (this time in reality) unaware of what lay ahead of us at the camp. Morning we were woken up by the captain. Let me introduce Captain before I proceed. Captain comes from a family wherein the entire family is dedicated to serving the nation (Police/Army). No wonder now he is in the Navy himself. So before I say anything about him, I have to say the customary salute to him as we always do in our friends circle. So, with full reverence, I say aloud “Salute Captain”.
Now, Captain in college time was the taskmaster. He was the one who managed each and every IV beautifully. Every single detail from booking the bus, booking tickets, accommodation to food, sightseeing, used to be taken care by him. So, while we coolly boarded the bus/train to the destination, he did all the running around. Mind you, he enjoyed every bit of it. However, if we ever happened to get in his way/do something that we shouldn’t have done we got to hear the choicest of words, otherwise known as gaali in Hindi. Girls were spared up to 40% while guys were spared 0%. This tour too without exception, Captain managed everything along with T (T being the class rep at that time). A cook from the college mess was arranged to cook for the 6 days of the camp (the remaining four days were to be spent in Secunderabad). Groceries and all other supplies, including cooking also was successfully managed by the Captain without a glitch.
Coming back to the present, we woke up and by the time we could come to our senses, one of our rather “high profile” professor announced we should get down at the coming station and catch the local train to Bhongir (the destination for the Survey Camp) and then, there was mayhem. We had brought along many types of survey equipment for the 19 of us to be used in the camp and these equipment weighed a tonne literally. Have you seen these queer looking instruments by the roadside with people looking into them trying to detect a target.
We had similar ones. Captain took charge, all the instruments were brought near the door. Girls were advised to carry their bags and leave the rest, the guys would take care as the stop was short at this particular station. So, out jumped the girls followed by the guys forming a chain to pass on the stuff. (At that time, I really thanked God that I didn’t have to pass/carry those heavy stuff around).
Now, our same great professor told that we would have to go to another platform to catch the local train to Bhongir. This prof came year after year to the Camp and was well acquainted with the place and the route. So, with all bag and baggage and of course the instruments we moved to the one as directed by our Prof. We waited for another 1/2 an hour there. Finally, they announced the platform number and yes, you guessed it right “We were at the wrong platform”. You can’t trust Indian Railways to allow the train to arrive at the same platform year after year right. So, it was run, run again.
I was literally dragged to the other platform in spite of my legs not helping me in anyway and was almost out of breath by the time I reached the train door. I sat down in the train and came to normal while the guys were again loading the instruments into the train.
Finally after an hour of travel, we reached Bhongir. We got down, flagged down some share autos and reached the survey camp without much ado. The survey camp is set over a large area with no buildings and has only tents as the living quarters. The guys (13 of them) were showed one big tent and the girls (6 of us) were showed another smaller version.
We were told the bathroom was on the backside of the tent and the toilets were outside. The toilets were one big piece of cloth wrapped around 4 poles in rectangular shape and with a khula aasmaan on the top and khula gadda on the vertically opposite side. This is the girls toilet, for guys, I hope you will understand. They don’t need one right. With a lot of skepticism and not being used to such a environment, we tried to settle down. There was only one bulb in the tent and the floor had been layered with clay to even up the space. We chose our corners and put away our stuff and got ready for the day. The water had to be fetched from the tap a little away from the tent. So, we got our buckets and started to get ready for the day one-by-one. However, the guys had to take bath under the tap itself (no special treatment for them :)).
The cook had by then setup the kitchen and vegetables and other things had been procured from the nearby market. So, we got to have our lunch too. Post lunch, we were given a short briefing by the surveyor-in-charge about the plans for the rest of the 5 days. We were then divided into four groups and dispatched along with four instructors/surveyors to start our tasks. So, we marched to the surrounding hill tops (including the bhongir fort) to start the survey work.
Day 1 passed off without much problems. We called up our parents in the evening from the local STD booth (those were times when we didn’t have cellphones). The surveyor-in-charge. also took a class for us (Night time post dinner and class…. yawn!!!). We had some fun around the bonfire and winded up soon as it got chilly. Sleeping on the clay layered floor and added to it the chilly weather inside and outside of the tent, sleep eluded most of us 😦 but maybe the tiredness got the better of us and finally all of us drifted off to sleep unaware that we would be meeting a ghost the next day …
To be continued …
P.S. “Nee illai endral vaazhkaiyil illai vaanavillay.. Un mugam parthu sooriyan sirithu ezhunthathinggay….” This was a popular tamil song at that time from the movie Dheena.