“The Fact That I Didn’t Leave The Building Shows How Lightly I Took The Earthquake”

Posted on April 30, 2015

By Sahitya Poonacha

It can be a big political event, a terror war, or even a life-changing calamity. As long as we aren’t involved, “What’s the big deal?” A few people will make a hue and cry and news will spread rapidly. Suddenly, once the ‘drama’ subsides, it’s all okay again. The fact that we weren’t directly affected makes it easier to put it aside as a little tit-bit of general knowledge. One day we will look back and remember the event in its most broken down form and pass it on in textbooks to children, it’s now very simply History.


Sitting on your bed while your building is shaking is something I can talk about now with some confidence of getting the facts right. But the fact that we were standing in our corridors with grins on our faces and treating it like some sort of never-before sighted comet is testimony to our disregard for the situation.

There I was, deep in conversation with my mother over the phone, when suddenly the entire room began shaking noticeably. I thought I was about to faint, but when my roommate turned to me and asked “Is this an earthquake?” It was like the lights had suddenly come on after a power-cut. I cut the call with my mom and heard girls from the other rooms in our PG racing down the corridor. It was a long one, so all of us had enough time to realize its effect.

When it began, it wasn’t panic that set in, the atmosphere, at least for me, was just an unexpected occurrence that I’ve only ever heard about. Of course there were those who moved downstairs quietly, understanding the gravity of the situation. The fact that I didn’t bother vacating the building shows exactly how lightly I took the situation. Conversations on Whatsapp lit up my phone and we were in an awkward frenzy. I feel ashamed to admit it now, but as someone who had never experienced this before, it was extremely satisfying. It became something I could tell people about.

Maybe it was our discomfort that translated into dry humor, I think in our minds we all had a fair idea of how dangerous this could be. We laughed at jokes of how we’d be sleeping and never wake up to it, or what if we were locked in the building, it definitely doesn’t sound funny to me now. I stood with my back to the wall, a stupefied expression on my face as I felt the walls vibrating, saying excitedly to my friends “It’s happening yaar!” and the others nodded along equally fascinated. Since the tremors were not as severe as they were in Bihar or Nepal, we felt that we had a right to play the situation down. Somehow we managed to take our calmness in the situation to a whole new level, that of complete optimism.

When we turned on the news and the damage sat before our eyes like a glaring headlight, staring at us with accusation, I felt like I had undermined the situation far too much. Had we performed the same spectacle during a real earthquake, we’d be in one hell of a pickle.

The whole experience also made me see how materialistic I actually am. After the earthquake had passed, I thought, God forbid, if there ever was an earthquake- would I be able to leave my precious diaries, my laptop and my mobile phone, that one shirt that means the world to me, my Harry Potter posters that I couldn’t dream of leaving behind under any circumstance and all my notes and readings that I protected with my life, oh! And my wallet that is literally my life-saver? My heart plummeted at the very thought that all these things would vanish within moments. I knew in a heartbeat that I was not yet ready for a calamity and as a side-note; that my priorities are completely messed up. How low can I go?

Among other realizations, another epiphany that struck me was that this was a hypothetical situation, just a scenario, and so I don’t really have to worry about it. But in Nepal where this had already happened, it wasn’t hypothetical any more. Houses have shattered, more than 3000 lives have been lost, UNESCO heritage sites destroyed, people’s belongings too (more than just Harry Potter posters).

No matter what compensation is offered to them, life will never be the same. I don’t have the solution to their problem, I can’t do much. But what I can do, is change my attitude, maybe now I can be a little more conscious and a little less excited when a tremor hits, I can be a little more sensitive and a lot less materialistic. I don’t want to be that person who thinks “What’s the big deal?” I have been very lucky to have escaped any disaster. For all the times I have told myself that “My life is the absolute worst” I have been wrong every time.

We need to take time out to appreciate the safety we have, we never know when a calamity could strike. There is no system of predicting these occurrences, the least we can do is be intelligent and grounded when it happens and try not to attach value to non-living things, those are replaceable, but life isn’t. I realize now that getting stuck in the rain when you don’t have an umbrella, or spilling soup on a silk shirt, losing a game or not getting those extra few marks on an exam, conversations not going right or stepping in dung, dropping a phone, etc. doesn’t on any level mean that you are unlucky. It just means that you can be a little more careful, work a little harder, and be a bit nicer. At least, you have what you really care about, your life, exactly how it is right now, comfortable.

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