The news channels flashed 7.5 on the rector scale. Or was it 8.2? The casualties were still filing in, crossing a few hundreds, and it was hardly just nightfall. Messages from one loved one to another, from one business dealer to another, from one friend to another were rushed without hesitation, without punctuation marks — for the sole reason thinking waywardly, “What if it’s their time now?” at one moment, or “What’s to become of me then?” at another.
Fortunately or unfortunately — I’ve yet to decide which — my every single nerve received the waves and shocks and the after-shocks of the October 2005 earthquake and the one this past month. Legends of bravery of how I managed to not fall down the receding steps of my house shall be passed down to my potential generation, and then their children, if I live to tell the tales. For in times like these, “not falling down” is an extraordinary feat in itself.
Imagine a slow silent movie: a toddler’s rattling feeder on a shelf of a kitchen, in a household of an isolated neighbourhood, becomes conspicuous to the young mother cooking curry, until she realises it’s the mother-earth itself, possibly, about to betray her. Satellite dishes start to dance in the dazzling sunlight, while cars join in, in their relentless motion, jerking themselves out of the parking gear.
They claimed this time it was not as horrifyingly destructive as the one ten years back. I claim otherwise. What does an adolescent feel every time his mother plays with a knife on his throat? Duplicity, betrayal and frailty?
The mind is a fatal organ that is trained to emotions. When the ground beneath, which a moment ago was cradling us in its soft earth and blanketing us in its warm breeze, begins to lose control, the mind too begins to lose its intellect. Not over-riding the phenomenon, but one does begin to feel an existential crisis: will our death be appointed by the same living n’ breathin’ earth that gave birth to us? Come to think of it, why else would the rabbits scurry around helplessly in a cage in the garden? Why would birds, who were neither born on the grounds nor ever lived there, are the first to wing towards the infinite skies in search of a proximal divinity? Questions… questions… one never gets tired of asking them, even when you do find the hidden answers to them.
Ever sat on a bouncing ball? The hedonic sensations while on it take us back to our origin, to the questions of life, of living, and of having lived it — the swaying and swinging is our mind’s vulnerability, its contemplative mode. It makes you wonder whether it’s a message by God and yet again, whether it’s also a jerky parable or simply, merely plain, old jerkiness. We keep on moving to and fro. It’s persistent and insistent, and is unyielding, until we take our stand on our feet, and then it halts abruptly. Wait, did I just answer my query? I’d rather not know the absolute answer because that’s precisely when I’ll lose it.
Having done and said it all, right after the earthquake, I slept like a baby! Perhaps, everyone does, after a shake like this. I was among the more or less fortunate ones to wake up from it.