The bubble is not abating at all. The iron plate is reddened by the flame of arc welding. On two inches of water accumulated fifty feet deep in the ground. The stars in the sky fell like scabs. Water boils with the touch of hot iron. Half a dozen eyes of the three were fixed on one spot. Fire or water! Which one has more power?
The face of the circular shaft, fifty feet deep, is quite narrow. The geometric radius is only five feet! The whole structure is like a well or an indara in a zamindar house. Joseph, Chris and Ian working on emergency tunnel connections under Indara.
The bubbling has stopped. Ian dipped his finger in and brought up a six-inch by four-inch plate. A new spacer should be put on the mouth of the pipe. Otherwise, the pipe cannot be inserted into the ground with a hydraulic jack.
Chris felt a slight pain in his chest. Gently pressed the left side of the chest and breathed hard. Joseph puts his hand on his back and says, breathing hard.
No, nothing like that.
So feel weak?
No, not even that.
Fresh air is continuously sent from above through a fabric pipe of one foot diameter twisted like a curse. Ian checks the oximeter anyway. Whether there is sufficient oxygen at the bottom of the shaft. Digital reading saw 19.85 percent. not bad Humans require 19.5 to 23 percent oxygen to survive. However, high levels of oxygen in the air during welding can cause fires.
Joseph wants to send Chris upstairs before the new welding starts. Have someone else come and do the welding instead. Joseph snorted, tilting his head back and raising his forehead to the sky. The ‘Topman’ standing up echoed in Sunny’s ears.
Sanaullah Mia is in charge of Topman today. Did not go into the well. According to health and safety rules, one person must stand above if someone is working at the bottom of the well. Crew of four. Sanaullah team lead. He has to do the work of distribution of responsibility. Has been in the company for eleven years. Anniversary next year!
Joseph shouts, “Sunny, you can come down. Chris is feeling a little sick.”
“Tell him to come up, Joe.” Sanaullah replied in a rough English accent. They call Joseph Joe. Sani like Sanaullah.
Chris comes up. There is no elevator to go up fifty feet. No stairs. There is no space for a ladder in a pit like a well. A ladder is made by welding rods with English ‘L’ shaped iron sheets to the concrete wall around the well. The ladder is again covered with semicircular tin. This tin fence is for safety.
Chris’s chest is heaving like a balloon. Exhaling again, going down.
Why are you panting so much Chris? Sit on the concrete block and pull it a little.’ Sanaullah showed the huge concrete block with anchor bolts.
Chris removes the harness from his body. A harness is a type of safety belt. Many times stronger than a car’s safety belt. A steel ring is attached to a gauntlet in the harness. The ringed git is placed slightly above the center of the back. If he loses consciousness at the bottom of the well, he is pulled up by a crane holding this ring.
Again lanyards are attached to harness rings to prevent falls from high places. The other end of the lanyard is anchored to a large concrete block. So that no one falls from above.
Chris sat down flat on the side of the concrete block with the harness on. Sanaullah took out a bottle of mineral water from the cooling box. Forward to Chris.
‘Thank you Sunny.’
‘For the next two hours you stand up and do Topman’s work. I’m going downstairs to do the welding. I will get up before lunch.
Sunny immediately took off the lanyard. Standing up and looking down for so long. A lanyard has to be placed on the harness to prevent falls. No need now. Just put on the harness and start going down the iron ladder.
steep ladder Every ten feet leaky fringed iron plates. Sanaullah went down without stopping. After dropping thirty feet, the head throbbed. Vision becomes blurred. The eye tries the dollar. Gloves on. Safety glasses in the eyes. Take off the gloves and put your finger inside the safety glass. With the thumb and forefinger, both eyes are rocked together.
There is less light at the bottom than at the top. Sanaullah tried to open his eyes and see better. Ian and Zoe stand in the water. Two inches of water. But that’s the current. The water is coming from the horizontal tunnel that is being cut from the bottom of the well to the north.
The tunnel is being made little by little by cutting the wall of the municipal shaft and digging inside. A large diameter iron pipe is inserted into the tunnel with a hydraulic jack. A man is a tall pipe. The soil inside the pipe is cut and removed. Then the pipe is inserted a little further under hydraulic pressure. In this way, the excavation work of the tunnel is gradually taken forward.
Short lengths of pipe. Length is much less than diameter. Only three feet. The new pipe is attached after three feet of penetration. This joint has to be done by smooth welding. Bangladeshi welding master Sanaullah Mia is the craftsman of this craft.
Sanaullah is standing on the third floor of thirty feet. Now look up. no one Chris is about to arrive. The poor man is probably still at rest. Let it be a while. Just got a new girlfriend after an old relationship breakup. The body now needs energy!
The smile did not stop. But Sunny started going down. Only twenty feet. Ian and Joe stand and wait. The eyes are itching again. But there is no way to itch. Both hands are busy on the rung of the ladder. It is a place to stand, and it is a shelter to hold hands. Safety boots with long toes. There’s no substitute for toe boots when working in water. But climbing the stairs is very uncomfortable.
Sunny reaches the fourth or last floor. There is an open ladder to go down from the fourth floor. There is no security fence around. Because the bottom of the well is only ten feet away.
The amount of water coming from the tunnel has increased. Dewatering is stopped at the moment while welding is in progress. Pump not running. Thikathike water. Blue sky reflection is not visible. But the sunlight is getting reflected. The whole watery area looks white. Standing on the floor, Sunny’s head started spinning.
Forty-five years old memories came flooding back. A view of fishing with bamboo sticks at Karatoya. Three tall bamboo triangular structures. One corner of the triangle is tied tightly to another vertical long bamboo. The area of the triangle is meshed. Leaves facing the stream. So that the fish swims against the current and catches the fish in the net.
Sanaullah climbed this bamboo many times as a child. He looked at the water from the top of the vertical bamboo. In the glint of the sun, some parts of the water looked white like silver. Little water under Joe and Ian’s feet. But it looks so white.
The top of the shaft is completely hollow. The ten-foot-diameter face and surroundings are kept as empty as possible. Floor to ensure maximum access to natural light and air. In the meantime, the sun has come and stood on the steep side of the well. Just as the sunlight refracted in a mirror dazzles the eyes, so is the wonder in the water of the well. Sanaullah goes back to his childhood days.
There is no Joe or Ian below. Atu and Kalu are floating in the water by submerging the body in the water. Atahar Ali did not know when he fell in love with the people of the village. Kunchvaran Abul Kalam has become ‘black’ in his complexion.
Kalu squeals on shiny teeth.
What is Sana, Chaya Dehos? Banshet tha laf de.
On the side, Atu holds back the swimming water with one hand. Called Sanaullah with another hand.
Are you doing this late? Jump.’
Hallucinations. Sanaullah is sure he is hallucinating. Everything looks wrong! But Atu called again,
‘I understand, Izkya baat khas nai. Your grandmother gives you food.’
A sudden earth-shattering scream from the bottom of the shaft. Help! Help! help
Sanaullah does not remember anything else.