Story 1

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Not crystal clear anymore

"Sir, please buy this magazine. Five rupees only."...."Hot cup of tea for two rupees."...."Chintu! Come over here right now! How many times must I tell you not to leave my hand in crowded places?"..."Hurry up! The porter's way ahead of us!" Wading through the endless stream of people on the railway platform, my friend, Anand, howled a notch above the rest at me, "Come on Prakash! Train leaves in five minutes!" It took us three minutes to scramble into the coach, a frantic minute to find the seat, half a minute for a bear hug and best wishes; and the last minute for Anand to run and hop off the train! My best buddy Anand, I'd be lost in this big city without him and his kind hearted family. It's been five years since I first left my native village, Neelagaon, in order to pursue higher studies here in Gopalnagar. After three years of burning the midnight oil and a year training to be an accountant, I finally landed a decent job in the city. In the past year I'd been saving money and planning to visit my parents in the village. Now, as I waved to Anand, I was finally on my way home.

The train rolled into Golganj station ten hours later. From this small town, it usually takes three hours
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by bus to reach the outskirts of my village. It will be another half an hour on foot up the winding pathways on the hill before I reached home. To my pleasant surprise, the bus reached its destination in less than two hours, thanks to the new concrete road. The walk home brought back fond memories of my childhood spent in the shadow of these forested hills. But as I looked around I found several barren patches in the distance. Hmm...wonder what happened to those trees? "Welcome home son!" And my pondering ended abruptly as I ran into my beaming father who had been waiting at the corner of the pathway, watching me all the while.

The rest of the day was spent relishing food and sweets prepared by my mother while listening to
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updates of the village from my parents and neighbours who dropped in to say hello! During the monologue (since my mouth was stuffed with food), I somehow felt something amiss in their tone. Just before I could inquire about it, I was silenced by what seemed like a thunder clap, followed by the noisy protest of birds in a nearby clump of trees. Bewildered, I turned to my parents and found a mixed expression of anger and sadness on their face. Calmer of the two, my mother found her voice first and said, "What you heard is the rock blasting being done in the iron ore mines uphill." Getting no response from me she continued, "Do you remember the group of officers from the city who arrived here a few months before you left for Gopalnagar? They were a survey team from an iron ore mining company. Within a year their mining operation was underway in some sites in the neighbouring hills. The trees at the site were felled, bushes and undergrowth cleared away; making room for the drilling and digging machines. And then...." Interrupting her my father said, "Alright, that's enough for today. It's getting late now. He'll anyway get to know about it in the next few days." With that our neighbours took leave and we all retired for the day.