Friday, April 13, 2007

Feat or Failure: An unusual experience

-Shared by Roto Chobin

Bribing some top-notch bureaucrat or politician for a job in government department is so common for the people of Ziro and Arunachal as a whole, and to find a niche in life without greasing anyone’s palm seems rather sporadic to me. My cronies asked me if I was wound up by the tidings when I got a job as teacher. As a matter of fact, I might have been if it happened thirteen years back. And if there was any dab of happiness in getting this job, it quickly died down with the update that the school, where I was needed to teach, is at the periphery of provinces.

I discussed so much about the contretemps of being posted at geographical fringes with my friends, that ‘would-be’ my first visit to Radum was beginning to look like an upheaval task. When I finally made the journey I realized it was much easier to tough out than painfully thinking or talking about admonition. It was undoubtedly a dispiriting and wearisome journey though, but at the same time was not impossible either. There were two mountains to ascend and descend, and a stream thrown in between which becomes a river and unable to cross in rainy season as the student, who aided me to carry my baggage, explained to me while crossing the river which was reaching up to my thigh already. Many a times, while climbing the mountain I thought my lungs will collapse from respiring very deeply, and at times my knee will give in from interminable trek. It took more than three hours to reach Radum. My colleagues told me that I was swift for a beginner.

Radum is a hamlet, populated by denumerable Nyishi families and hidden behind extremely steep mountains. It is even hard to imagine that the people would dwell in such hostile terrain - virtually cut-off from human civilization.

When I first saw the dilapidated school building and the staff quarter, I felt incommodious. I wondered how they could reside in the building which was old, haggard and patchy and urgently needed a fix. And the building could cave in anytime, I feared. When I arrived at Radum, it appeared as stillness enveloped the entire village. I expected some teaching staff will receive me when I’ll show myself up in Radum. But they were nowhere to be seen; even the villagers couldn’t able to tell me there whereabouts. I returned home with heavy heart, weary mind and absolutely pooped soma. And for a day, I found myself in awkward situation whether to resign or embrace the job.

All my family members including my close relatives and friends plumped for the pick that I should take up the job. I thought, perhaps it was my kismet - a career hand-picked by God for me. So I decided to stay and put up with all the adversity.

Adversity is adventurous in a way, only it’s an eternal and we’ve to endure it with grunts. Honestly, I was a tad upset when I learnt that I had to march more than forty kilometers on foot to arrive at my destined school. Absence of electricity and communication in Radum and its vicinity was indeed unpleasant but it wasn’t of primary importance to me because the candle and the torch light could fill-in and serve as a substitute, and because I have a hope that the power will reach at Radum in near future. However, it was humorous to watch the naked lamp post which was rusting and on verge of falling apart and which can still be seen around the village. The villagers told me of the times when they had electricity at their hamlet for couple of months. As of now, it seemed as if no one is bother about the absence of electricity. Besides, the villagers are using the wire to fasten or tie the fence. And I don’t blame them at all for using it, seeing that it comes handy as rope. At least they’re making good use of it. What else one could do with the wire when it doesn’t carry any electric current?

The basal issue in Radum is drinking water. My colleague once told me, “Had it not been for the landslide which knocked down the water tank, we might still be having running water in our school compound”. I presumed the state of water reservoir was perhaps beyond repair. So I had to take a half an hour of vigorous exercise of ascending and descending the mountain in every morning just to wash up. And the water from where we fetched was neither well nor it was spring. Though it looked like a shallow furrow that had filled with rainwater, it meets our daily requirement of water - cooking, dishwashing and if we would use water sparingly we would save some for tea also. Sometimes, when the student would get ahead of me and see me sloping down the mountain, they would bellow and inform me that the water reserves had completely drawn down, and then it would become ineluctable for me from doing some more workouts (I had to descend beyond the water hole near the foot of a mountain) of sloping down where there was another source of water. If it is not for the scarce supply of drinking water and lack of basic amenities, Radum could be ideal vacationing spot for both nature lovers and tourist. The vast green foliage stretch on all directions as far as the eye can see, not to mention the multitudes of colorful birds that chirp and hops on them. And at night, the stars appear so bright and nigh as if we could pluck one of them. On a clear day, even a snowcapped mountain can be seen from Radum. For some, the weather can be pleasantly befitting but it reminds me of my hometown - unpredictable, cool and windy which doesn’t go well with me. Maybe, altitude engenders it and the chillness of wind perhaps derives from the far-off snowcapped mountains. Apart from weather; there is many more I have yet to see and explore, viz. the mystifying waterfall, which the denizens believe is haunted, and if any unfamiliar visitor comes by this waterfall, will meet an unnatural death. Because I heard a similar anecdote from one of my Naga friend, so I got anxious to travel and see this place as soon as I can but what they told me is that it may take a long time to reach there. B
esides, I thought it is vain to go there without an equipment to capture the unexposed sight.

During my first two weeks stay at Radum, I couldn’t ingest the food my colleague provided me, as everything tasted so stale. Besides, scarcity of water enables us to wash our utensil rarely. Therefore, everything looked so filthy and unhygienic that I would shelve my meal until my stomach grumbles. As the day passed, I got accustomed with the coarse meal and it mattered a little whether the food was well-cooked or hygienic. In any given day, the smell of rat meat can make me puke, and I made it taboo to consume anything that is not domesticated. I reckon the taboo is wholly based on our perception. And if we twist the way we perceive things - even the poison becomes comestibles and the impossible becomes possible. Believe me, I am yet to taste the delicacy - rat meat, of course.

There’s nothing much to do at Radum when the school hours will end and the students will leave for their respective chores. Sometimes I would stroll around the village and watch the tall mountain. And sometimes I would immerse myself in the world of Mario Puzo’s Godfather and sleep, or my colleagues and I would play volley ball match where the loser team would buy a chicken for dinner.

When I got back home after spending two weeks at Radum, I couldn’t attune myself with the sophistication of urbanism for two days. The only noises at Radum were the winds in the forest or the spatter of rains on tin roof, interspersed with babel of voices from hostellers. I used to regard my hometown, Ziro, quite reinvigorating until I came face to face with the wide open spaces of countryside. Now I feel congested amidst myriad of vehicles and souls. Moreover, it is like a one large septic tank, always stinking of feces and urine - be it a shopping complex or housing estate. I guess I have to endure this hellish stench till my vacation is over.

In the final analysis; though there’s no electricity and running water at Radum, it is far off better than having an irregular supply of electricity and 15 minutes of water supply that comes with exorbitant bill.


  • Tabu

    Roto's (hi)story of the Radum makes me feel about my own spell of two months in the year of 1987. The only difference is that the place where I was 'forced-posted' is only about 50-60 km from the town. As I was in dilemma whether to take up the job of teacher or to continue my study, I chosed to serve as leave-substitute for 2 months until the incumbent returns. Till these days, there is no electricity, no water supply and above all, the burnt down school building, as I found it at my arrival after 5 hours uphill journey, had not been revived. I am proud that I made a few of the children do their BA/MA. Thanks to the department who makes "2-month-leave-substitute-Teacher" out of me and to recapture the memory.

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