Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Earthquake: Shock, Paneer and Adele

The earth shook yesterday. And we are still here.

At around 2:40pm when people were just settling back after Zuhr prayers and lunch breaks, the ground rattled. And rattled on for the longest 4 minutes ever.

People came rushing out to see the buildings shaking. The minaret of the mosque swinging. The overhead water tank spilling through the overflow spout. A few boards coming loose from the new cement.

And we swayed. And swayed. And since death seemed so close, people were reciting whatever they could. Mainly the proclamation of the Islamic creed. With eyes wide open and ears intent, trying to gauge the earthquake's intensity. Javed, in disbelief, kept claiming "Zameeni buneul chhu" (Its an earthy earthquake), because you know, sometimes the earth quakes in the skies. While his wife who was preparing tea refused to let the earthquake disturb her and only came out to look what the commotion was all about.

A small crowd had collected, and after sometime people were no longer sure if it was still quaking or not. Some people were feeling faint.

The sky was an angry apocalyptic grey. Unrelenting. As people looked above for mercy, there was none in the skies. It was a  thick grey shield over the valley. Let up only after the quake.

The traffic was in a bad shape. Everywhere. A huge honking stream of cars which was not moving. And people who had been buying school uniforms for the new term, were standing in the middle of the road.  Worried. I can hardly imagine what people in hospitals and other critical places do in such situations, disaster management training notwithstanding. But I did see three labourers from India make a run for it, as if the world was surely going to end. For a minute, we all thought so.

(Javed's wife was kind enough to send us the tea)


A few hours later, it was business as usual. Not for the traffic though, that was bad till night.

Riyaz, the tea vendor, asked his son to deliver tea to Bashir Ahmed, the advocate. The son refused: he won't go all that way.And he wouldn't go to tuition as well, because the teacher has given him the day off. The only thing the lad agreed to do was fill his father's sugar bag, from which his friend took a fistful. On the Amira Kadal Bridge, a fisher-woman was explaining the merits of her catch. Another woman was buying pulses. Traffic was still jammed, life had returned to normal.

 I could tell you more details of how I was stuck in the car for two hours for a journey that normally takes 30 minutes, but suffice to say this:

I spent the time singing Adele and being told to shut up; and nibbling raw paneer  till one of us decided to get down and buy vegetable rolls from HatTric which were awful. I was expecting the people to come up with rumours of earthquake 'predictions', but thankfully we were spared all that this time.

How did you fare?

Friday, 23 October 2015

23 October 2015

Since I did not have a camera. not even a phone, when it happened, I must write a blogpost for it.

23 October 2015.
Srinagar, Kashmir.

There is a curfew in the city. It is 9th Moharram and a Friday. Also, RSS goons have killed a young truck driver for being a Kashmiri  for no reason, though people say, they suspected him of having beef. (And they are the master of everything, didnt you get the memo!) So it is not clear why the curfew was imposed. Though it is clear that no transport was allowed.

Since there was nothing to do, I was reading on Twitter how @_Faysal, went to buy milk and was stopped by the Indian Army a hundred times way. And watching from my veranda, as the leaves on trees shook in the air before falling down. As my tea got cold. As a giant chinar stood stoic and still. And no sounds came from anywhere, as if the city had gone to sleep. Except the birds.

The sunlight was making patterns on the neighbour's tin roof. A crow was strutting on the wall, trying to avoid my eye. A bulbul perched on the electric wire and caught my eye.

Curfews are an old thing now here. Its a regular feature.

Schools were supposed to finish exams today. Young cousins were looking forward to the days of absolute freedom which follow the end of year-end exams. A picnic had been planned, I guess. Now its off to Monday at least.

I was recently told that a cousin who started Engineering here in Srinagar is still in final year, while her peers have returned from India after completing their degrees. That is at least one year extra in college.

The bulbul flew on to the open door. I shooed it away thinking that it would fly into the house and get trapped in the rooms. But it calmly flew on to the steps and chirped.

There is no redemption from despair in Kashmir. You have to live with it. I guess you learn to live with it. There is a new cafe opening in the city I am looking forward to. And I am sure there will be something tomorrow to look forward to again.

And soon this autumn will end for a colder, truer winter.

I threw a pinch of bhujia  from my bowl at the bulbul. It pecked at it straightaway and flew whence it came to return with its pair.

We should be ready for Spring.