This story is about me,but the hero of my story is a girl I met at ARIES(Aryabhatt Research Institute of Observational Sciences), UP’s only State Observatory(Now comes in Uttarakhand). It’s one of the leading research institutes of India and it specializes in observational Astronomy & Astrophysics and Atmospheric Sciences. I was a second year M. Sc. Physics student from Banasthali University (Rajasthan) and according to the curriculum all the second year M. Sc. Physics students were sent to various research institutes across the country to work under eminent scientist for a period of 30 to 45 days. I had special interest in Astronomy, but unfortunately my university didn’t include any. So I searched on google and sent mails requesting them to call me.
And luckily I got an acceptance mail from Dr. A. K. Pandey, ARIES. I also got selected for their summer school. It was a win-win situation for me and I was ecstatic. I reached this beautiful place and after completing the summer school for ten days, I started my work on star clusters under the guidance of Dr. A K Pandey.
Working at ARIES was a dream come true for me and the place was equally magical. Nature at its best. We used to work hard whole day and afternoon lunch at the institute canteen was the time to relax and interact with almost all the faculty and fellows of the institute. Here I met Bindu Ma’am, a research scholar of ARIES, a girl from Haryana, who was not afraid to speak haryanvi even in front of the scientist of the institute. Who had a number of stories to tell about her place and always carried home made ghee with her. I shared some too when we met at the institute canteen. I still remember a few of her stories. I liked her spirit at first glance, but she was not easy to be friends with. She had a goal in her mind and she was working hard for it. But she never showed it. But I could see clearly that she was fighting and worked really hard to achieve it. Anyways, I was not friends with her until that day.
The institute is located on a mountain peak(Manora peak) above Nainital. Very few people know about it. In fact anyone can go there with prior permission. As you walk up the hill, you will find houses, a guest house where I was living with other students and Bindu Ma’am too but in different rooms. I shared the room with another girl, Ragini. Then after walking quite a lot up the mountain, came the institute. But this institute also had a shortcut and it was introduced to us students by another research fellow. This short cut connected the guest house to the institute. It used to get very dark when we left from the institute to the guest house and we used to come down in groups as it was dangerous to be alone. It was the time for local panther (Tendua) to come out. Though they came out mostly at night but sometimes they came out during daytime and attacked the locals. Even killed a few.
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It wasn’t easy living there. So, like any other day I was doing my work on the computer. People fancy that observatory work is all about working on the telescope, but it can be boring at times as you have to do all the calculations on the computer. I did spent time on the telescope, both solar and astronomical ,but working on the computer took most of the time. Suddenly,I realized that I left something important in my room. I wanted to go as quickly as possible and I found a nice couple who dropped me to the guest house in their car. They were there with their daughter for an interview. I don’t remember the time exactly but it was day time for sure. I don’t know what came into me, and I decided to take the short cut to the institute.
I wanted to reach early. My work of the day was pending. As I walked ahead a few people were working on the mountain rocks. They were breaking the rocks with hammer and other sharp instruments. I walked past them and walked a few more steps. One step and the mountains echoed, a panther jumped in front of me. One rock to the other. His back facing me. I stood still. I don’t remember if I was breathing but I knew that running won’t help me.
I don’t know how I survived those 10 minutes that felt like ages and I felt like I got a new birth when the panther seemed out of sight. I feared that he smelled my presence and can come anytime to look for me. I was shivering badly and the workers with weapons were my only chance to escape death. I ran without looking back and announced “there is a panther uphill”. To my surprise the workers ran faster than me and I ran with them without wasting any time. I only took breath after reaching the room of my guest house.
But still feared that the panther will break the wooden door and get me. I quickly came back to my senses. It was time to be wise and I called the institute. I don’t know who picked up but I know one thing that everyone refused to come except Bindu Ma’am. She came to take me, without any fear. I was almost into tears and blessed her beyond my powers. I became the star of the institute that day as I was the only one from the institute who had an encounter with a panther during daytime.
Everyone called me to listen to the story. But for me the real star that day was Bindu Ma’am. After leaving ARIES, I was not in touch with her. I guess we both were busy with our lives . But it was last year that I found her on facebook and her profile read NPP fellow at NASA Goddard. I can’t express how proud I felt to know that. Good things do happen to good people. She is one of the heroes of my life. I can never forget her. May God bless her with more success.
I have a lot more to share with you all and I am actively doing that on my blog @adititushar. I am a foodie too and I review only good vegetarian restaurants on zomato and my food blog @vegfoodiemom. I also share mine and my husband’s experiments with food on @Vegfoodiemom .