Hey guys…. it’s been some time. And much has happened in the interim. Too much actually. Maybe not strictly personal. But nerve wracking nevertheless!
Let me roll back to Saturday, 25 April. After much dilly-dallying I decided to drive down to my friend’s place in Delhi: something I hadn’t done in a very long time… 13 years to be precise. As I am prone to quip often, the traffic in Delhi pretty much moves in every conceivable direction except falling off the skies or emerging from the bowels of the earth, rules be well and truly DAMNED! So I chose a relatively jam-free window (11ish) to make my journey. As I turned into Greenpark, the Radio Mirchi RJ suddenly stopped a peppy number midway and announced an earthquake. “Did you feel it guys” she squealed.
I certainly did not. But as I reached my destination, my friends looked shaken. They had rushed out of their house minutes ago as the whole building swayed dangerously. Once. And then AGAIN. “It was quite scary” they chanted in unison, and the TV soon announced the mega 7.8 magnitude Nepal quake.
I immediately called home, and was informed by my horrified family that they had rushed down 6 floors (twice) as the apartment block rocked – ceiling fans swaying, magnets falling off the fridge, furniture shuddering… it was terrifying to say the least.
In the next few days it was quite clear that the devastating earthquake had wreaked complete havoc in Nepal and some part of India as well. Thousands dead, tens of thousands injured, several missing, towns and villages flattened, millions stranded in wretched conditions, arterial roads cut off, heritage lost forever…dismay and despair all around. As if this wasn’t enough the thunderstorm that followed along with the non-stop aftershocks sent the people into panic mode compounding their misery manifold.
“Nepal’s Stories of Loss Include a Mother Pulling Out Her Young Children’s Bodies” screams a headline. Breaks your heart. The daily barrage of visuals brings the tragedy to life and you are left feeling utterly distraught. I scan Facebook for my friend’s latest update. He’s a correspondent based in Kathmandu and in the midst of his own set of troubles: property destroyed, power, water and food shortage… he is diligently covering the calamity for a national daily writing about the bodies piled upon each other at the local hospital, Darbaar in ruins, countless missing, ever mounting death toll that is set to cross 10,000 and life in the open at the mercy of the not-so-friendly elements.
Another dear friend, who had gone on her annual mountain climbing trip to the Everest base camp, is now stuck at Lukla and confirms that the situation on ground is not good at all. Rescue operations are tardy and relief hard to come by. Her brave little 8-yr-old just wrote on the FB Wall saying “she is safe”…. brought tears to my eyes!!!
One of those times in life when the normal comforts and pleasures seem so meaningless, so banal. You just feel completely helpless in the grand scheme. The pall of gloom just shrouds you in a vicious embrace. And everything you do seems pointless. Until, that is, you break the shackles, pull yourself together and look for ways you CAN help sitting hundreds of kms away: so my husband’s office has just sent a huge consignment of noodles and powder milk to Nepal… the Red Cross here is collecting essentials… several donation drop off points have been identified in the neighborhood for things like biscuits, blankets, ORS pouches, first aid kits etc… in fact, my cousin sister even vouches for this NGO that is directly involved in disaster relief and is looking for volunteers!
Today it’s Nepal and India….yesterday it was Malaysia, Japan, US, Thailand… human tragedy just like human triumph reminds us of the basic human bond we all share despite superficial differences. And as we rally around our brothers and sisters in Nepal/India in thought, prayer and action… I am reminded of a very pertinent quote by Bob Marley: You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your ONLY option.