Pg. 2 Not crystal clear anymore
Recalling these numerous conversations, I finally reached the stream. There was definitely something strange about it. First and foremost, the water was not crystal clear as before. Rather, it had a tinge of rust colour. Secondly, every exposed surface such as a boulder along the stream or the stump of a tree, had a coat of dust. My plans of bathing in the stream were long gone and further affirmed when I heard the blasting sound once again and saw a dust plume descending my way. Tilting my head, I found that a few kilometers above, another patch of forest had been cleared. On my hill! No wonder I didn't get to see the occasional deer or chattering monkeys or the little birds that used to live near this stream. They must have moved on to the adjoining hillock where I didn't see any mining activity as yet. I was disappointed to leave my stream so soon, but I didn't want to be covered in dust either! The journey back was much faster and I was home just as my mother had started preparing breakfast and my father was milking the cows. I couldn't stop myself and blurted out, "They're blasting right here on our hill! The stream up there looks different, there's dust everywhere...do they even know what damage they're doing?" My father turned around and said, "What you saw was just the beginning. Come with me to Neergaon today. You'll get to know the extent of damage that is possible."
So, right after having breakfast and packing some food and water, we set off for Neergaon on my father's bicycle. A little out of practice, I'm sure I scared my father a bit by applying sudden brakes and riding over some stones on the pathway! Gradually, I started recalling the route, its numerous twists and turns, and then the ride became smoother. Two hours later we finally arrived at the outskirts of Neergaon. I was on the lookout for the small cutting that lead to the village. Instead we found the pathway joining a concrete road that was three times the width of the earlier unmettled road. It was easier to ride on the smooth road but nevertheless tiring since most of the shady trees along the road were gone. And the midday heat was obviously relentless. Shortly, a small truck carrying a group of people passed by us. My father explained, "They are the workers employed in the mines. They are from some other place, trained earlier while working for the mining company elsewhere. But with the expansion of the work, the mining company has started encouraging the village youth here to join and get trained in the work."