Monday, May 16, 2011

mines, and sparrows

the view from my room with the profusion of trees on the campus. the hill where the mines are is seen only dimly in the hot afternoon haze. a part of the hospital building is seen to the left.

i have been here for nearly a week now, and the sound of the blasting on the hills around dalli still startles me. sometimes i see a cloud of dust rising from a far-off hillside, but at other times i cannot make out where the earth is being blasted to lay bare its treasure of ore. the rajhara mines are strip mines: the ore is mined from the surface of the earth, in contrast to the typical mental image one has of mines, which has a pit going deep into the earth in a mine shaft and then horizontal tunnels under the earth.

the shaheed hospital sits on a hillside just outside the town of dalli rajhara, and across the valley is a huge rust-red hill, which has numerous parallel lines on it which i realise is the winding dirt road on which trucks ply all day long. i hope to be able to visit the mines sometime.

the hospital is a 100 bedded one, constructed and managed by mines workers who felt the need to have something of their own, where they would be treated with dignity, and where they could get affordable health care. it is always full to capacity and overflowing, with patients on the floor and in the corridors as well. at present it has seven doctors including dr saibal jana who has been here for the past 25 years. his wife alpana jana is a nurse, who has helped to train the 26 local girls who work in the hospital and provide nursing care, as well as handle most of the deliveries in the labour room.the patients' relatives cook in a long hall fitted with 21 sets of smokeless chulhas; and a separate room provided with LPG gas stoves for those who can pay the required amount of Rs. 20 per hour to cook a meal.

the campus has a variety of trees - amaltas, neem, mango, drumstick, bel, karanj, palash, banyan, and others in addition to the bougainvillea and hibiscus that grow in profusion everywhere. what amazes me is the number of sparrows here, including the couple that has persisted in building its nest in my room in spite of my efforts to shoo them away. in the process they litter my room with several handfuls of grass, small feathers, string and other ingredients essential to the building of their home. i love the sound they make. not since my days in bokaro in the 70s have i seen so many sparrows. lately i have neither seen nor heard them at all: i dont recall any in bhopal, and my part of the town in bilaspur has few birds, and certainly no sparrows. the blasts on the hillsides seem to bother them not at all.