Trip to Koderma: 2nd day

This day we were to be up and ready by 9. Uncle was already gone by the time I was halfway with my morning business. Before leaving he told me that a bolero would come to pick us up and take us to the officers’ mess for breakfast. I knew for sure that I would not be able to stay hungry till then, that’s why I brought 2 packs of magi from our trip to the market yesterday evening. Thereafter Abu went into the bathroom and I went to the kitchen. It is very hard to find the exact thing you want in someone else’s kitchen. It took me around five minutes to gather my tools and start working (on the Maggi 😉 ). I added a little bit more water than needed and it was sloppy, needed a pinch of salt be palatable. Anyway, we were ready by 9. We locked the doors and came down to wait outside.

2nd day morning

The warm morning sun was pleasant! So we stood there waiting for our ride. It wasn’t until 9:20 that we realised that our ride was getting late. By then the sun was too warm to be pleasant. After loitering a few more minutes outside we went up to our rooms. We hadn’t even settled down when a person appeared at the door. Finally, our ride had arrived! We took the middle seats. Yesterday during the chat on the balcony, Mr. Manoj had told us that most of the plant staff was Bengali. True to his statement, all the people in the vehicle were talking in Bengali! On a distant land finding someone from home is just like being back at home, and here there were so many! We were feeling a lot better. The vehicle dropped us at the mess for breakfast. Today the menu was “matar puri” and some curry. We ate to our fill, came down and found that our ride was gone. Called up uncle, he told that it would be back soon till then we would have to wait. Around us everything and everybody was moving, except the two of us standing in front of the mess building like two idols. We were very prominent and people could easily tell by the looks on our faces that we were outsiders. A guy even came up and asked if we were looking for something. As soon as we said “waiting for our ride” he gave a nod of understanding everything and said “hmm L&T”, and went off.

(Before I go any further there are some facts you should know. DVC is setting up a thermal power plant at Koderma. They have given the construction tenders to different companies. L&T has bagged the job of fabricating the coal silos, 2 boilers, 2 turbines and the switching yard. My uncle is the head of the safety department of L&T at the site)

While our ride was gone, we went to a nearby shop to recharge our phones. There we had a hearty chat with the shop-owner. He was quite friendly and told us things about doing business there like how hard it is for the little businessmen to keep themselves afloat and so on. By then our ride had come back and we were back on track, though a little late. The road was long one and very bad. We kept bouncing up and down in the bolero until we found a good piece of road towards the end of our journey.

Our first view of the plant, from a long way off

It is a huge plant!! At the gate we expected some trouble coz we didn’t have gate passes, I mean someone was waiting at the gate with our passes to let us in. But at the time of our entry there was some sort of scuffle at the gate, so we went through unnoticed (at the end of today we came to know that the person who was waiting at the gate for us, waited for a long time, coz he didn’t know we had got in 😉 ) We were taken to my uncle’s office. It was at the other end of the plant. The roads inside the plant were worse than those outside, and made the worst by the continuous rainfall since 3 days. Today the weather has cleared to some extent, tomorrow I hope the skies will be clear. So, there was mr. Manoj again. He gave us blue helmets (helmets are colour coded, blue is for supervisors) and off we went walking through the scrap yard towards the boilers. We 3 were like great friends now. He took pleasure in telling us about the things we don’t know and we were equally interested not to miss a single word of his. He told us that the present scrap yard was originally the raw materials yard when construction of this plant started 4 years ago. Now that the plant is up and ready, the place has become the scrap yard for the surplus materials.

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He took us through the path between the coal silos and the ESP (electrostatic precipitator) to show us the burner and the boiler. This plant had got two boilers, two turbines for electricity generation. Today is the last day of commissioning of the 1st boiler and turbine. Mr. Manoj explained commissioning as running the whole device and equipments at 1.5 times of normal capacity for 72 hours. This test decides the fitness and durability of the plant for normal electricity production. There was a minor fire in an oil line for boiler 1. By the time we were there the fire had been extinguished and there was a collection of helmets of all the colours 🙂 . We saw some guys were of our age, but they were employees of BHEL (BHEL is in charge of supply and operation and maintenance till the plant is ready for normal operation). Then we went to the BHEL site office to meet with the chief of the electronics department. This isn’t as big as it sounds. We were just gonna consult him about some sort of contractual jobs if any, at the plant. But he was busy somewhere else.  Right beside the office were the two cooling towers. Mr. Manoj explained the design of the cooling tower like a cascaded fountain where water is sprinkled at the top and it overflows each step and comes down. Its only difference with a normal cascade fountain is that it is damned huge, covered from all sides and only open at the top! There is a dam nearby which supplies water to make up for evaporation. Then it was time for lunch. We were taken to the plant canteen. Lunch was tasty, even more coz I was hungry from walking for so long.

One of the cooling towers, huge!!!

In the 2ndhalf we went to the place where the turbines are placed. One turbine was being commissioned today another was in its last stages of fabrication. They had not covered it all so we were very lucky to see the inside. I had never seen any turbine so closely and I never knew anything about the blades’ design and placement. So within a short span of time my head was buzzing with new knowledge 🙂 ! Right beside it is the switching yard. The switching yard takes the power generated, regulates it as required and transmits it forwards to the overhead supply lines for distribution. We were standing on the edge of the turbine floor when we saw a commotion beneath. An ambulance was reversing and within seconds it sped off towards the main gate. Mr. Manoj left us in a hurry with the instruction to be there till he came back. Took some snaps of ourselves to pass the time.

The ambulance and the crowd

Mr. Manoj came back after some time and called us. This time, uncle was with him. They introduce d us to Mr. Abhimanyu Ghosh, the person we have been waiting for all day. He is a respectable person but I should say that he lacks common courtesy. Among all the persons in the room he was the only one who didn’t even look at us. As if he was feeling disgust in our presence. We may not be as highly qualified as him, but we are engineers too. We did deserve a minimum respect from him. So, the job for the day was complete, almost. We went to DVC office too to meet the chief, but he wasn’t there. That means we are gonna have to come back again tomorrow to meet him. Our ride was waiting for us, we submitted our helmets and got into the bolero. The way back seemed quicker, though a different one..

A scene at sunset
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Trip to Koderma: 1st day

The day was quite exciting to begin with! We had plans to board the Purva Express around 10 25 AM. As usual Avinandan (Abu) was late and I was at Durgapur station by 9 45. The man at the ticket counter gave a bad news. The recent train fare revisions has made it mandatory for everybody to buy tickets for certain minimum distances for each class of trains. In our case we were to buy tickets of Rs.118 instead of Rs.68 each 😦 !!! I was quite sure that I was awaiting criticism from my dad for this. When I passed on this bad news to Abu, he too was like “my dad is gonna kill me for this“. All our dads are same, they always tell upon us before listening to anything we have to say. Anyway, I am quite used to it.
It was 10 15. I was waiting at platform 3. The train’s arrival had been announced. It was due to arrive any minute yet Abu wasn’t visible anywhere. He wasn’t even aswering my calls because he was busy talking to Anima, his girlfriend. How more irritaing can it be??! But things were gonna get better from then onwards. Just before Purva express, The Howrah-Mumbai Mail pulled into the adjacent platform, along with Abu appearing on the scene 🙂 . I was relieved!
We had general compartment tickets for Purva Express, but it was damned crowded as usual. We were gonna have to stand for the whole journey of 4 hours, but there was another option. The Mumbai mail was late by 12 hours, so it was quite empty.

Abu on phone

We asked a TT on the platform if we could get on Mumbai Mail and he gave a positive nod! The general compartments were mostly empty.  We took two berths for ourselves 🙂 .
Another thing I forgot to add! In this meantime Anima had reached the station. She was just got on the opposite platform and became visible when our train began to pull away. It was a cinematic moment! Him and her, both waving to each other and receding into distance.. I would have loved to film the moment but Abu was blocking the door 😡 . So we began our journey! 🙂

Halfway on our way the dreaded R (for roaming) sign appeared on our mobiles as we entered Jharkhand area. It was time to save our phone balance like misers 😉 . Other than that our journey was quite uneventful. Around 10 minutes to our destination, I got a call from my uncle. He asked us to wait in front of a hotel named “Shital Chhaya”. So we did. After getting off the train we went to there to wait.

On the way

At first glance the surroundings looked much like our own Benachity Bazaar of Durgapur. Only difference was that the roads were a bit less crowded and there were a lot of  Trekkers waiting for passengers. We don’t have trekkers as a mode of public transport in Durgapur. People around were too busy to notice these two curious people gawping at them. A billboard above a shop told us that we were on the Ranchi-Patna Road. I had a random guess; if that road was the Ranchi Patna road then Ranchi might be somewhere near. I called up my friend Tanvir (nicknamed Guruji), he lives in Ranchi. He told me that he hadn’t heard of the place yet, but he could come over to meet us if it weren’t too far. After a while a medium height person approached us asking if we were Mr. Patra’s relatives. I gave a confused nod. Confused coz I didn’t know my uncle’s full name, so I wasn’t sure if it were him who sent this person to receive us. Then I thought since there wasn’t anybody other than the two of us waiting, so it had to be us. We followed him on foot for quite a distance. We were to be received by a Bolero, we were bit  unlucky. The Bolero had broken down before meeting us 😦 . We went to a hotel deposited our luggage and took a table for ourselves. Mr. Manoj (that was his name) was to pay for our lunch. So we ordered our usual rice, daal and sabzi plate. Two plates arrived and we started our lunch. Back at Durgapur, the hotel owners are misers. Whenever you order a meal, they give you half of what ur stomach asks for. Back there you can’t help asking for extra helpings to feel full. Here it is the opposite; you don’t dare ask for an extra helping!!

Just outside the station
We were staying on the 1st floor

Filled to our throats we resumed walking. But this time Mr Manoj called up two rickshaws. Having loaded ourselves we were off for Tilaiya Clinic. The place we were staying was called Jhumri Tilaiya. Koderma was the name of the district and the nearest city. So, the station was also named Koderma, even though Koderma is 6 km away. Few minutes later we were at our destination. Uncle wasn’t at home, Mr Manoj had the keys. He unlocked the doors and let us in, showed us the rooms, kitchen, bathroom etc. Then we had an extensive discussion with him on the balcony. He told us about the upcoming power plant that we were planning to visit, his designation, his job, my uncle’s job, life at Koderma, transport etc, yet it didn’t tire us anymore that we were already. He left after sometime, but I stood at the balcony for a while longer watching the road, people and vehicles. Even though at a distance of just 4 hours by train, we were the farthest away from home in recent times. Felt like something 🙂