Friday, February 23, 2024

Professional Journeys’ Narrative – 15

(An account of journeys exclusively based on true picture of areas and the people there. No poetic or romantic false expressions are included, Excerpt from a book in process)

I had been enjoying a hot evening of May 1970 in my camp at Naukundi, the last town of Baluchistan before Iran border, when a merciless telegraph department man approached me with a piece of paper. It was a telegram reading, ’Serious emergency. Reach home at once –– your mother’. The telegram was simple but compliance to order there in was not simple at all. Mode of journey from South to North of the country i.e. from Iranian border to Indian border was least simple and easy. It was a journey consisting of public bus from Naukundi to Quetta, by rail from Quetta to Lahore, and by coach from Lahore to Sialkot, involving more than 48 hours period. In summer this journey was all the more tedious. A single bus used to leave for Quetta from Naukundi daily in the evening. Time was short to catch this bus. Reaching the bus stand, I was informed that the bus had already left and that it will have a short stay at Dalbandin. Camp vehicle was started forthwith and after full speed run I succeeded in boarding the bus at Dalbandin. It was my first journey towards Quetta by bus. About 3 hours before Dawn, the bus came to a halt with the announcement ‘Bus will resume journey after sunrise. Passengers are advised to take rest and have their breakfast’. The place was not a town or a village. There was only a tea shop by the side of the unmetalled highway, named Quetta-Taftaan Highway.

After rest and then breakfast, the passengers heard the announcement ‘Bus is starting journey. Passengers may take their seats’. The bus reached Quetta at 11 AM, whereas the train, named Quetta Express, used to leave Quetta for Lahore and Rawalpindi at 3 PM. After spending 4 hours by roaming, eating and taking tea, I boarded the train minutes before 3 PM. Most of the passengers slept in cool atmosphere of the hilly areas. After few hours of journey the train came to a halt after which almost all the passengers were awakened by the scorching heat of the atmosphere. Children started weeping and women lost their patience. An abnormally fat young man shouted in Punjabi, “Hai oye kithay aa gai aan” (Oh God where we have reached). I told him that it was Sibi. Sibi is one of the hottest places in Pakistan and India. During summer passengers of other areas usually lose control of their temperament. Some passengers ran to the water supply taps but returned at the very first touch of water which was considerably hot and not warm. Sibi city is situated at junction of plain and hilly areas. In summer the water from taps is unbearable to touch. Colonial and Pakistani governments never planned plantation of trees in the area.

I reached home at Sialkot, solved the domestic problems during a week long stay, under took two days of back journey and reached Dalbandin early in the morning to take up solution of a serious technical problem of one of the teams that had been waiting for my visit. Team leader Mr. Shaheed-ul-Islam had suffered from bad health due to repeated daily efforts up and down the high hill requiring one complete hour to reach its top. Obstruction of the hazy weather was the cause of failure. An alternate technique was applied and the problem was solved which pleased everybody in the team.

Dry Water Pond
Day by day the intensity of weather’s heat increased. Morale of all members of every team was adversely affected. Workers and teams’ leaders had been away from their homes fro more than 6 months’ period. Members of every team were cut off from all other colleagues in the area. They had also been cut off from the rest of the world even. They had only been living on bread and pulses. Even tea was without milk. Shortage of drinking water had started what to talk of bathing. Most of them had been eating bread mixed with sand due to sand and dust storms of summer in the area. Those working in hilly areas were more pitiable. With inadequate diet they had the rigorous toil of daily climbing the hills or high sand dunes. Moreover, climbing required consumption of more quantity of drinking water which had already became less available. Everybody had lost body weight by count of pounds. The whole picture of circumstances was written to head office at Quetta with recommendations for suspending the field works for at least 3 months of June, July and August. It was suggested that employees be called over to Quetta office for improving their physical health. This suggestion was also in accordance with general practice of entire department according to which all field works were suspended during summer. I had been astonished by the reply from headquarter that suspension of work was not possible due to extra ordinary circumstances, and special attention to the on going works. ——— To be continued…


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Category: Travel

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