When darkness loomed ahead: A story by Saravjot Hansrao


The incessant rain was beginning to worry Mohan Da as he completed the evening round around the excavated hill side. For most this was the taste of the season….the continuous drizzle appearing to be like fine crystal curtains glittering in the sunrays. Mohan Da, the most experienced Senior Engineer on the excavation site was also the one with the most trusted intuitions. The growing façade of grey was now irking his sixth sense as he tried to avoid thoughts of the darkness that loomed ahead. He had always expressed a doubt on this excavation site. After all, nature‘s sensitivity is akin to the humans. The thick cover of flowering ‘Palash’ trees had been uprooted, thus exposing a bare, loose hill side with high probability of landslides. “Can a mother bear the loss of her children?” this thought gnawed at his conscience.

Having updated his seniors over the radio set, he walked right into the tunnel waving the bright yellow helmet, a signal that brought all the workers covering towards him. “The rain is not abating, it isn’t a good sign. I give you all half an hour to pack up and move out of the tunnel.” The men got to wrapping up their jobs immediately as Mohan Da screamed instructions over the hovering of the giant excavators. Striding up and down the tunnel, he appeared perturbed by the growing grey of the sky. It seemed to want to outpace his efforts to save human lives.

It started with the rolling down of occasional stones and soon it was boulders, darting down the slopes. “Barricade the road! Quick….move…..there isn’t time…..barricade and move away.” His heart pounded as he blurted out instructions. The rapidly growing darkness made him yearn for the moonlight. Perhaps, it was nature’s way of expressing displeasure. What twitched inside him wasn’t the gloom of the umbrella above, but the darkness that loomed ahead, an unsaid fear of being trapped inside the tunnel. People scurried around like mice in search of hideouts, wrapping up jobs as Mohan Da’s voice commanded them to.  Then came a loud crashing sound, similar to a bomb blast, as if the tunnel was blown away. Mohan Da, stood transfixed as the cloudburst let down its fury. Soon he was surrounded by a deluge rowing him unwillingly towards the tunnel. His fears had fructified as scores of arms waved for help, heart-wrenching screams of workmen in desperation to be saved. It was the first time Mohan Da was as helpless as the others.

Yet not the kind to give up, he had managed to save the radio set from being drenched. He flung the radio set towards a worker crouching atop a crane shouting, “Ask for help!”  

Waist deep in water by now, he closed his eyes as if in penance. Praying for forgiveness from Mother Nature and remembering the tiny saplings he had discreetly planted on the hilltop.