Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pangs of Conscience at Bhagsu Falls

Anyone who spends time in Dharamsala or McLeod Ganj makes the hike up through Bhagsunag to the waterfall up the canyon.

It is a popular spot: while people go to enjoy the rough mountain scenery or swim in the pool at the waterfall's base, many wash their clothes in the cold, clear monsoon-swollen river that flows down toward the Indian plains.

Last week a boy died there.

As reported on TibetNet

Dharamsala, August 23, 2006 (TibetNet) -- "Gosh, if only we were there! That Punjabi lad could have been alive today."

The idea conjures up, every time the memory of a local Tibetan hunk, Thinley, is jogged on the grisly goings-on of last Wednesday.

The day when the scene at the exquisite waterfall near Bhagsunag, a favourite backdrop for snapshots, suddenly turned horrid at about 9:30 a.m., when a youth from Phagwara in Punjab, slipped and fell into the rivulet, right where it was over 20 feet deep.

As the force of the cascading water sank Mohit deep into the water, his fellow holidaymakers, Rohit, Adarsh and Parminder, went about making frantic calls for help.

Soon, the local police fetched rescue teams. And efforts went on, all day long, to retrieve the boy's body. Then, at about 4:30 in the evening, three local Tibetans, Torten, Thinley and Ka-thu, who frequented the swimming pool at Bhasunag, caught sight of the human melee at the waterfall."

When we reached the spot, the first thing we felt was the pangs of the wailing relatives, who don't want to leave their boy, without a descent burial," recalled Thinley.

"We felt we should do something. As all of us are quite good at swimming, we volunteered to dive."

A pell-mell rescue plan was thus chalked out. Torten was to make the first dive, with a rope tied around his waist. The other end of that rope was held by Kathup, in a standby mode, at the opposite bank, with Thinley, floating in life jacket, ready to dip into the water, at the sign of anything untoward happening.

Much of the grand strategy remained dormant, as Torten hit the spot in his very first dive.

The crowd heaved a collective sigh of relief, when he resurfaced with the victim's body, which was stuck beneath the boulders, deep inside the rivulet.

"The Deputy Superintendent of Police and the various other bigwigs, gathered at the spot, gave us a hefty pat on the shoulders," Thinley recalled.

"The most touching was the way the boy's relatives thanked us for our small effort, which we simply thought was our duty in the hours of need."

"But, I still feel," Thinley adds, "if only we were there, when the boy slipped into the rivulet, we could have saved him."

Media reports say that some two months ago, a person met the same fate at the same spot, in addition to the two similar cases, reported last year.