Sunday, May 26, 2024
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The Earthquake

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“Mom, is the showcase moving, or is it my delusion?”

With a rolling pin in hand, she ambled out from the kitchen and stood next to me. For a few silent seconds, she kept looking at the showcase and then shook her head.

“It’s nothing, everything is fine.”

I was surprised.

“But it was shaking a while ago.”

“Rajesh, stop wasting time and go bring milk and bread asap. Your father and brothers are getting late to go to the office.”

 

Whilst sauntering inside, I told mom behind me,

“I’ll take Rashi with me to get all the stuff.”

She was irritated and yelled,

“Why do you have to drag Rashi everywhere! Can’t you go alone?”

Without answering back, I went in to call Rashi. I am eighteen years old and in my first year of graduation. Rashi, my sister, is chubby and bubbles with enthusiasm. She’s the only darling sister among we four brothers. Although she’s ten years younger to me, I’m extremely fond of her and love her with all my heart. Moreover, amongst the four brothers, I’m her favourite.

 

Rashi was drawing something in her room.

“Rashi, come with me. I’m going to get milk and bread, I’ll buy you a five star.”

Her eyes twinkled and a smile broke out on her face, as she closed her book and joined me.

“Make it fast. Don’t go away wandering somewhere. Is that clear?”

Mom commented as we walked out of the house.

 

We had our own building and as we descended the stairs, Rashi lost her balance. She was about to fall, however, giving her support, I held her elbow and saved her in the nick of time. I felt a small tremor myself.

“Bhai, what’s happening? I’m feeling weird.”

“Yes Rashi, I can sense it too. In fact, since this morning, I’ve been witnessing everything in motion.”

 

Rashi loved to sit on the bike with me. The grocery store was three streets away, and we went there to buy things for breakfast. While I was rendering the money to the shopkeeper, Rashi requested me.

“Bhai, I want to drink almond milk. Please.”

“Rashi, that’s available only in the dairy and it’s far from here. If we are late, mom will blast us.”

Nonetheless, she insisted,

“It won’t take long on the bike. We’ll be back in a jiffy. Please Bhai, let’s go.”

I seldom refused her for anything.

“Alright. But gulp it down real quick okay? Come on.”

 

It took us nearly half an hour to return. As we approached closer, a strange sight awaited us. Dust and smoke were billowing in the air and a huge crowd had gathered around our building. There was an outcry among the folks, and our house was totally invisible.

 

Rashi clung to me like a koala bear and we both were dumbfounded. I shuddered with apprehension, as to what was waiting for us on the other side of the throng. Keeping Rashi in my arms and taking baby steps, I meandered ahead frightfully. I literally had to shove people aside to make my way.

 

Darkness clouded my vision and my heart stopped beating. The massive earthquake had swallowed our building, disappearing it from the face of the earth, as if it never existed at all. In its place stood a huge pile of strewn rubble.

The corpses of eight members of my joint family were buried under a mound of dirt. Dad, mom, three brothers, two sisters-in-law and a two-year-old nephew. In an instant, all was lost and gone forever. In a flash, life had tumbled down to ruins. Ravages of the cruel nature fell upon us, such that in the blink of an eye, Rashi and I, from home and family, became homeless and orphaned ….!!!

 

Shamim Merchant

 

 

 

 

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