Monday, April 9, 2012

One Last Breath

2007, Summer.

The temperature was 38 degrees, it had been half an hour in the scorching heat. We were in the no man’s land, the area being prohibited, and there was no-one to prevent trespassing. The sun was showing no mercy on us - Aman and Harsh(yeah that's me) : college returns, who decided to break the monotony of the ongoing vacations by spending some time in the countryside - the mines near our city.

Half an hour ago, we parked our butts on the hot seat, our bottoms feeling as if they were on a toaster, of a five years old Suzuki Fiero, and dragged ourselves towards the undiscovered areas of our city. The area was picturesque and that gave us, the budding photographers some incentive to compensate our play with the scorching heat. After passing through the crude road, with the tyres of the bike become brown with mud, we got completely drenched in sweat. I chided myself for having worn my new T-shirt that day, which was now stinky because of the sweat-drops rolling down my neck. After hopping here and there for about 15 minutes, at last we found the place which offered us a grand view of numerous hills. The  majestic sight of something like The Grand Canyon filled my mind with awe and wonder. I had been untouched by such a beautiful place that too lying hidden and undiscovered in my city. I jumped all through the way and finally made it to the edge of the hillock. The smoke of underground fire filed my nose, reminding me of the similar smell encountered in the chemistry lab when they conducted that H2S experiment. I sensed that it was a risky place, but the advertisement of DEW during that time with the tagline 'Darr Ke Aage Jeet Hai' inspired me to stay firm. Just six feet from the edge I was thinking of capturing the panorama of the canyon.

Humming Creed‘s famous song One Last Breath, I moved ahead with my right leg trying to find a vantage point only to realize that it was not at all the right thing to do. To my surprise, the land beneath me began to go down. No, it wasn’t a landslide, it was not a swamp, but it was actually loose soil, which had inside it - fire, underground fire. The area had burning coals within it all around and was prone to be swallowed by the earth. Everyday newspaper editors filled their local columns with one news of 'land swallow' in Jharia - that’s the name of the place where we went. The place was prohibited for the laymen, and we, the future engineers of India were not counting ourselves in this category of ‘Layman’. And that day, this future engineer of India was going to get roasted in the underground fire of its own country. My feet trembled as I saw the soil beneath my feet trickling down.

Within a moment, I realized how bad this death would be as there would be nobody to ever get to know the cause if my death, nobody to relish the sight of my red hot tandoor, rather I would add to the national reserves of coal! I saw Aman at a considerable distance from me and told him not to proceed that side, as the soil was very loose. I took two photographs(see my passion for photography!) and ran back as fast as I could. Had it been a 100m race, surely I was gonna win. Several lumps of soil were swallowed by the earth as I hurled my 58 kg light body over them. I felt like HULK because for the first time I saw that my 50 kg was enough to crush the grounds by about two inches. By the way, have you ever wondered why HULK‘s underpants do not get torn when he transforms from a human to a HULK? I was feeling a sudden power in my veins (and arteries too). And this sudden power was suddenly overpowered by the ground, as I tumbled on the way back while adoring my power.

Seeing his friend enjoying the song One Last Breath alone, Aman could not resist. He came running towards me and helped me out. And we hand in hands, with utmost caution, proceeded towards the safe place and took three shots through our silly 2 mp phone camera. Finally a sigh of relief !

Thanks to the Suzuki Fiero, my perspiration was air-conditioned on the way back and set-wet zatak did the other work, and the ordeal was etched in my mind, forever.

The Place Where I Stood

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