My late father was a
Surveyor with the Indian Government and he had a transferable
job. Throughout his tenure in the Survey of India, he was posted
to beautiful small towns and hill stations all over India. In the
mid 50’s he had the transfer orders to be in the “Land of Kings”
i.e. Rajasthan. He was asked to report at the Mount Abu
Office which is a beautiful small hill station in Rajasthan alternatively
known as “Oasis in the desert”.
As a Surveyor,
Dad had to do go to remote places to do the field work. In
his stint at Rajasthan, he once had to go to Bikaner during
summer along with his co-workers. They worked in harsh climatic
conditions at the site. Rajasthan has a tropical desert climate
with practically no rainfall. Sometimes Dad and the others
had to share a bucket of water amongst them and go out for
work. Life was not easy for them.
I would briefly
describe the work of a Surveyor. A Surveyor calculates
and draws how the earth surface looks like. With the help
of instruments and after collecting the required information,
they prepare charts and maps. Their work demands them to be
in far away distant places. They had to give detailed, precise
description of a place or region. They are the maker of
On that particular
day, Dad and his colleagues had gone for their routine work.
After mid day just when people had finished their meal and
got ready to work, there was a sand storm, and they were off
the beaten track, isolated and lonely. They had lost their
way. The terrifying wall of dust moved across the landscape,
and ultimately enveloped them in a thick fog.
The team of
Surveyors waited patiently for the storm to get over. When
the sky was clear they got on the camels back. Meanwhile it
had become dark but the sky was clear with twinkling stars.
Dad was caught up looking for the constellation, (configuration
of stars). He was busy looking for the brightest star,
the Pole Star (Dhruv Tara). The Polaris could guide
them to their way back home.
from the team noticed a train of camels slowly coming closer
from the opposite direction. One of the locals who was with
Dad whispered in fear “Sahib Daku”
A cloud of
nervous murmur filled the place. People were shaken and frozen
with utmost fear, few actually too numb to speak. Finally
one of them hesitantly declared, “Let us hurry and leave the
place” Dad was the senior most and so the others were waiting
for his orders. He was cool and firmly said “No, stay where
you are and let them come” Dad knew that if they flee, they
will double the danger for themselves; If they can face the
danger, the danger will be reduced to half.
A few of them did
not like this and gnashing their teeth in anger spoke in a hushed
tone, “Well! Sir, instead of protecting us, you are putting our
lives at stake?” But dad was determined, and he knew what he was
doing; He would face the dacoits.
After a few good minutes, the camels came closer, and the men riding
on them were horrifying and scary. They had their faces covered
and one could only see their bloodshot eyes. They stopped by and
one of them who was leading, said, “Salam Saheb, Sarkari aadmi ho?”
Dad nodded his head. They must have seen the surveying equipments
which Dad and his people were carrying. The leader added “Saheb
apna kaam karo, hum sarkar ke aadmi aur aurato ki izzat karte hain”
and one by one without doing any harm to anyone they left.
When the dacoits
left the others were relieved but now the new challenge was to find
their way back. The road had disappeared and thick layers of sand
carpeted the land. For a while Dad did not know what to do but he
gathered courage and he did protect his people; he located the
Polaris and with the help of the pole star guided everyone back
to their destination.
This world is a strange
place. Some people are recognized for their work and earn name and
fame; some deserve more but go unnoticed. Dad fell in the latter
category. When he was two months shy of 61, he left us quietly for
the Heavenly abode. He was brave, dutiful, honest and straight-forward.
He spoke truth, was a man of determination, had confidence and above
all an extraordinary Surveyor.
Contributing Writer Minakshi
Chakraborty is a habitual writer.