It was a regular Sunday evening on the 18th of September 2011. We were posted in Sikkim at that time, and my father’s unit/workshop was near a small village called Martam. I was in fifth grade and my half-yearly exams were starting the next day and the first one was my childhood nemesis, Mathematics. I sat down on the dining table with my math expert and a not-so-great-tutor, my dad. My brother, of age 7 was preparing for his English exam with my mother in the other room. My dadi was in the Pooja room reciting her chants and doing her everyday prayers. The sun was down and so was my morale with all this maths. As you can sense, it was a pretty normal day. The only thing stressing me was my exam and my undying fear of mathematics.
Our wooden house was built on an elevated ground of the mountain, it was the only house present on that platform, the other families working under my father stayed a little far from our place. Right below our house was my father’s workshop/ the unit where all the men used to come and work with machines and army vehicles. They had a huge generator placed down there that they used to turn on quite often. It was so powerful that when turned on, we at our homes could feel the vibrations of the generator.
Cut back to our story.
So that evening, I was solving the math problems with tears in my eyes and my furious fauji dad looking down upon me, literally. I was offended by my father’s floccinaucinihilipilification (No no, stop googling, I have the meaning for you here: The action or habit of estimating something as worthless.) of my mathematical skills, but he wasn’t wrong. Suddenly, we felt the light tremble again, '' must be the generator '', we shrugged it off. Within seconds the trembles changed into something so horrific that the very thought of it sends a chill down my spine even today. It was an earthquake.
My father picked me up in his hands and paced towards the door, my mother and my brother came out running from the other side. The lights went off, our paintings started falling off the walls, our crystal collection on the mantel came crashing down, the plaster on the ceiling started coming off in huge chunks, and in the midst of all of this, we realized that my dadi was still in there! My father rushed inside in the pitch dark hell screaming out to her and dragged her out. She had tripped on the sofa leg and was struggling to move. We assisted her and ran towards the plain ground in front of our house. According to Wikipedia, the earthquake lasted for about 30-40 seconds and was of the magnitude 6.9, however in real life, it felt way more than that.
Now, the earth was finally calm again. It was what happened post the earthquake that stuck with me forever.
Within minutes, all the families came down to our porch, shocked, aghast and horrified.
Children were whining, women were in tears, and the men were too numb to even utter a word. Our houses had fallen apart. Our unit was a mess, machines broken with all explosions. Everything was gone.
Gradually Tourists and travelers who were stuck on the roads, parked their vehicles and found their way into our unit for food and shelter.
Villagers came down from their bastis, bruised, bleeding, crying because they lost their entire livelihoods to the calamity. Their terrace farms, their thatched-roof houses, and their will to live.
Quickly our workshop arranged food in the unit langar, treated the bruised with basic first aid, made arrangements for sleeping bags inside the offices, and water supply for our new guests.
And at that moment I saw the best of humanity. People were helping each other, feeding each other, treating wounds, and boosting each other’s morale. We sang prayer songs that night, holding onto each other’s hands in the cold, we thanked the Lord for we still survived. At that moment, everybody was equal.
I realized that these man-made boundaries, hierarchies, and priorities are nothing in front of God’s will. It takes a second for our lives to turn upside down, takes a second for everything to come crashing down to nothing. I learned that day that nothing is permanent and NOW is the most important thing that we have. Since then, I’ve been trying to make the most out of my present, counting my blessings, cherishing every day, loving more, laughing more, and living more.
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