Facing Floods in Assam….

I was posted in Cachar Project of ONGC during 1987 to 1991. Our company was desperately looking for oil and gas in this area. There were 5 rigs employed for these operations in different areas around the town of silchar which is located in the southern part of Assam adjoining agartala and near this town is another town called Badarpur which is a gateway to north eastern states like agartala, Manipur and Mizoram. This area where drilling operations were being conducted bordered Bangladesh. Two rivers namely Surma and Kushiara flow through this area which are actually two parts of Barak river coming to this area from Manipur. In fact, town of silchar is situated on barak river. These two parts again rejoin and enter Bangladesh where ultimately it joins mighty Brahmaputra river.

There was one site called Adamtilla where I used to go for duties on aan old Romanian rig. It was about 120 kilometers from our residence in silchar and a good 2 to 3 hours journey. Our company has hired maruti gypsy jeeps for this job.

There we did duties on 14 days on and off pattern. It means that for 14 days you will be there on the rig. Of this, first 7 days one officer did day duty from 6 am to 6 pm and other did the night duties. After 7 days pattern reverses and when 14 days are over, the employee shall go to his declared hometown and resume the duties again after 14 days. Mostly people did the off days at their hometowns from different stations throughout India.

But with me the case was different. I was well site chemist which is a supervisory duty but as my family had moved to my hometown in Chandigarh, my boss gave me 14 days chance in addition.

When the shift was off duty, the staff was put up in temporary accommodation at Patharkandi which was about 7 kilometers away. It was a good accommodation with Assam type houses for 2 people each. In addition, there was a mess for food and entertainment room with TV and VCR. There were no TV channels like these days. There was also a badminton court. But real pleasure was the flowering plants like marigolds and dahlias. All this was supervised by a gardener who hailed from orissa. In fact this residency was the first one created when the project commenced.

Buses took shifts to drill site and back. Although it was only 7 kilometers but road condition and ongoing construction of a bridge over the sunai river stretched the time to half an hour or so. Many a times the roads inside the tea gardens were blocked.

When the shift completed its tenure of 14 days, they were transported to airport about 170 kilometers away. It belonged to air force and flights operated only in the day time only. There were only two flights each day and operated between Kolkata, silchar, agartala and Manipur. Everyone was desperate to catch the flight amidst uncertainties like strikes, irregularities of flights and inundations due to floods.

I faced one such flood. We were on the rig when the news of flooding due to overflowing of the sunai river and closing of road traffic trickled in. The river was in spate. It was decided to stop the work. There was a railway station on the line from agartala to badarpur. While all the staff was sent to station we 5 to 6 people stayed back to close all the engines. The drill string was pulled up to casing shoe and BOP was closed. The plan was that staff reaching earlier will try to somehow hold the train till we reach the station. But the work on rig is as difficult to close as it is to begin. So when rest of us reached the station, the train had already left. There was as such scarcely one train daily so there was no chance till next day evening.

We returned to drill site which was now pitch black. Somehow the generator was started and light was restored. There was no food. Nothing to lie back on. Mosquitoes attacked in hordes. Cicadas chirped with piercing sounds. Whole night passed like that. In the morning, flood had not receded. Only way to colony was walking along the railway track all the way 7 kilometres. It was raining incessantly. The going was slow. There were many small rivulets flowing full and the wooden slippers were of uneven thereby increasing the chances of slipping down. Had someone slipped, he would had sure fallen into the stream. After sometimes, as energy was sapped, walking became very tiring and we had to sit in the rain for sometime.

At last, after 3 hours we reached patharkandi colony. We got refreshments and were dead tired. We were held up there for 3 days before the shifts resumed again.

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Sibsagar in Assam

ASSAM SILK SAREE SHOP IN NORTH LAKHIMPUR ASSAM
ASSAM SILK SAREE SHOP IN NORTH LAKHIMPUR ASSAM (Photo credit: rajkumar1220)

Sibsagar is a district in upper Assam. It is called Shivasagar these days. It is an important historical town in Assam. It drives its name from a huge water tank named after the Ahom King Sib Singh. Sagar means a large water body. Ahoms are not the original inhabitants of Assam. They came here from China through Patkai range of hills. Slowly from invaders, they stayed here bewitched by the beauty of the land, lush green woods and hills. During there early days they subdued local Chutia and Kachari kings.

They established their capital in Rongpur which falls in this district. They were very fond of very huge water tanks and made so many of them. The water never dries in them indicating that they are fed by underground water sources.

The town is famous for silk clothes. In those times, there was a loom in every home on which women of the house weaved clothes of silk and cotton not for sale but for the family folks. Silk was obtained from three kinds of worms namely eri (Attacus ricini), Muga(anthraea assama) & Pat(Bombyx textor). they produce different kinds of silk. These silk worms feed on leaves of different trees. Eri feeds on castor oil plant, Muga worms feed on sum-tree and Pat worms on mulberry trees. A fine white thread which is much valued is obtained by feeding Muga on chapa (Magnolia griffithi) and mezankuri (tetranthera polyantha). During British times, Muga production ousted all other forms. Pat production was lowest.

These days, there are many shops which do roaring business in silk materials. Silk clothes are acquired from Manipur mostly these days. In the town there is a popular shops called Sangeeta dealing in all sorts of silk materials. Most of the visitors to the city make it a point to buy tea, silk dress materials and visit the sibsagar tank and famous Shiva temple called Shiv dhol.

When Bamboo Flowers!!!

Yes, bamboo species called Melocanna Baccifera blossoms copiously approximately every 48 years. While the blossoming of flowers is heralded as spring and is the nature’s way to be happy and show the joys to the world, flowering of bamboo is considered the coming of an calamity in the North East states of India. This variety of bamboo grows densely in Mizoram, Manipur and adjoining Burma. Bamboo is a natural resource extensively used in the construction activities to build scaffolding. It helps in the conservation of soil with its strong roots and also beautifies the landscape of the area.

So, why the flowering of bamboo considered as ill omen?

When the bamboo flowers, whole bamboo jungle is filled with flowers which lead to the formation of copious quantities of seeds and signals the death of the tree. It takes many years for the new bamboo trees to grow. Since the area experiences heavy rains, with the soil having become nude, there is heavy erosion of fertile upper crust of soil.

The floor of jungle is now full of bamboo seeds which are packed with nutrients especially the proteins. Rats from the nearby places are attracted to the seeds like iron fillings towards a magnet. They gorge on these seeds and gets very hefty and indulge in the procreation. There population increases exponentially. After cleaning out the seeds, the hordes of the rats turn their attention on the provisions stored by the people living nearby. In the matter of days, they eat up every thing creating the famine.

Due to the shortage of food, the inhabitants are forced to eat anything they find in the jungle or contaminated left over food and fall ill. Thus along with the famine, a epidemic visits the people. In the past, due to the casual attitude of the government, people revolted against the state.

Many of us have heard the story of pied piper of Hamelin which charmed the hordes of rats which had made the life of people a hell and lured them to their death. May be such a pied piper was there also when these disasters occurred. But no cheating with him in the payment for his services as the governments generally do, otherwise it can invite his wrath and he can lure the innocent children and take them with him.