Bhuj, home to my aunt and the place where i have been spending my holidays for the past 10 years or so.
It was 8:55 in the morning. Everyone was ready for breakfast except me. I was always late on the dining table and often made mom angry. But that day mom didnt get angry. Wondering why ?
Bhuj and neighbouring places had just witnessed a powerful earthquake that rocked the whole of gujarat. The word earthquake always evoked something-but that something was never akin to terror. On the other hand, it was something right out of a Bollywood potboiler.
But……but not this time. I thought the earth had cracked open and was about to swallow me. It was the most horrifying experience of my life. All of us immediately rushed out of the house. I saw all my neighbours running away. We were not just nervous, we were frightened. I saw some three, four persons dead on the way. We could not see a thing because the air was full of dust. Houses were collapsing, and at one time it was so dark, so dark………My father described it correctly. He said it was like a huge plane landing right on your head.
First time in my life I was dragged face to face with reality, ironically the only reality of life that is death ! Isn’t it incredible how with a tiny nudge, nature can annihilate a whole town ! A prospering state like Gujrat was ruthlessly kicked and trampled upon by the same affectionate mother nature that only showered bounty so far. Aren’t we humans really powerful enough to have complete control on the place we live? Perhaps the answer is NO. When Nature goes beserk we just make way. Mysterious are the ways how nature can Toy with us. Soon enough rumours started to spread about the aftermath of the earthqauke. More scary than the tremors were the rumours about them. They told us, the sun will rise tomorrow and the beams will be so strong that everything will burn down. And the tales keep spinning. The suspense, on the quake keeps building like a poltergeist in horror movies…and the people keep waiting when it will finally come and finish everything and they could start re-building again. But rebuliding….a delusion right now
. I thanked God that he spared me and my family from this terrible natural disaster. It was 10:00 AM. All of us were at the Jubilee School grounds. And with us were countless number of helpless people. Many of them requiring medical help. Makeshift hospitals were already built. The whole of Bhuj was reduced to rubble and dust within a matter of 2 minutes.
Beneath a makeshift shelter sprawled the women of one Hirji gamily. While one had a head injury, the remaining five have had fractured limbs. A few feet away a man was sitting hugging a toddler and smiling to himself. His wife had died in the killer quake and he had been unable to come to terms with the shock. When I look around, I felt sick with anxiety. Who, I kept wondering, will nurse Bhuj back to health.
The impact of the visuals was enough to shatter an inexperienced greenborn like me.
We decided that Bhuj was no more a safe place to live. Infact it wasn’t easy to see the misery of the people and the shattered city. 2 days had passed by and I was back to Akola far far away from the shattered land But yet so close to it. The media didnt let me feel that i was not in Bhuj. I was still so close to it, so close. Newspapers, TV and the Internet helped me a great deal in knowing the day to day progress in Bhuj.
The response of the world was there for all to witness. With lightening speed, thousands of self help outfits, social workers and common people galvanised into action, never waiting for the government directives. Help piled up from far and near, in the form of items as well as volunteers. This was nothing short of ‘Maha Yadnya’ that we read about. And what to say about the affected (victims) themselves ? Here was a picture of the magnificent grit of phoenixes rising everywhere, from heaps of ashes. Burying back all their grief and all their losses in the ugly craters created by the earthquake and sealing them once again with determination, building a sound pedestal for the future ! Exemplifying once again the amazing way man conquered hostile nature over centuries.
Looking back, I feel I grew up substantially through this experience. Paving through every news paper, reading every editorial, I tried to imbibe the agony of every individual family with its unique loss. Also, some solitary heart warming mirades which strengthened my morale. My heart was filled with awe, witnessing the accuracy the information technology conferred on a developping nation like India-as well as the intrigue of the irony of our helplessness despite being so well equipped in the IT-field.
Here was a lesson for me to ponder upon & meditate-that man may not ever be equal to nature, but this fact does not mean he has to lose hope and bow down in subjugation. It is upto him to struggle to stand, to seek support from among his own people and to create an example that forever works to rebuild another life from a totally discouraging catastrophe ! And than, even the most uncompromising nature would yield !