Assam Earthquake

Amidst the worsening COVID situation in Assam, a massive earthquake hit Assam and its neigbouring areas on the 28th of April, at around 7.50 in the morning. With its epicenter at Sonitpur in Middle Assam, the magnitude of the tremors ranged from 6.2-6.7, as claimed by various sources. However from my apartment in the fourth storey of a relatively dilapidated building, the tremors felt like they hit the maximum level of how strong an earthquake can be, or at least how scary it can be. As I ran down the four storeys holding my mother’s hand, both of us anxious and gasping out of breath, I could feel all the layers of anger, ambitions, and an array of dissatisfactions and complaints about life peel one by one automatically. All that mattered during those few seconds was to reach downstairs and step away from the building that was on the verge of collapsing. Disturbing images of the Wajed hotel in Kathmandu Nepal, that few years back in a similar earthquake was raged to dust, with its rooms and balconies and pillars falling apart like cards, kept playing in my mind, and with them, the images of those known ones who lost their lives, being crushed to death as the hotel collapsed – a team of retired ladies who went on a pilgrimage tour to Nepal – fate perhaps had other plans for them.

The irony is that the otherwise rational and non-spiritual me, suddenly found myself engulfed in the blankets of spirituality, of fatalism and of all the predictions of doomsday and the approaching apocalypse! Questions like was 2012 actually the ‘beginning of the end’, as claimed by the Mayan calendar hundreds of years back, surfaced my mind, and it oscillated from one thing to another in a never ending series of questions, prophecies and crises. Logic and reasoning somehow seemed dead in the midst of all this. But how would logic fare in a world which is maimed by a pandemic that seems to bewilder everyone right from top-notch physicians to laypersons – as if like that demon who would recuperate and multiply into a hundred more after his head was separated from his body – these tales, fables, the sayings in the BhagawadGita – that in the end of Kalyug, people would find themselves grappled in a situation where there would be crises everywhere, there would be a disease that would have no cure and would leave all perplexed, and all would ultimately have to seek spiritual refuge and think about the Almighty, all started making sense, suddenly.

Suddenly as if all the optimism and zeal in me paced towards a well of nothingness, where nothing is in my control. I turned fatalistic all of a sudden. As if I would just move to some spiritual abode and meditate till the earth was swollen up by some Godzilla kind of a monster, rising from sea or somewhere, who knows! Everything seems to be possible today.

We are undoubtedly living in a time of multidimensional crises – while people are dying on an unprecedented rate with the virus taking a violent form, lack of oxygen cylinders, lack of hospital beds, old and young crying for life, and again the sword of a complete lockdown lurks on – threatening a further deterioration of the country’s economy. And there seems to be no immediate solution out of this state. No one knows when the COVID crisis would leave the country – or would it just claim the lives of everyone – like a storm that comes uninvited, sweeps everything away and leaves the whole land barren and empty. No one knows where we are heading. All news portals are full of news of someone dying in an auto –rickshaw, gasping for breath, a soldier running from hospital to hospital in a dire cry to save his wife, some woman in some part of Ghaziabad dying as a result of insufficient beds in the local hospitals, while her son desperately tries to save her – he loses the battleand so does the government, the state, the administration and the whole nation combined!

There is a constant pessimism that enshrouds me and thousands of my generation who live in an unprecedented period of uncertainty – a kind of uncertainty that does not promise to end soon – even if the nation comes out of the pandemic and earthquakes and other natural disasters, there is no paradise awaiting us. Poverty, unemployment, rapes and arson, farmer suicides, global warming, water logging, dowry deaths, political murders, mob lynchings, and a host of other problems are eager to befall us right after. That is in fact the only certainty that this epoch promises.

COVID, Economic Depression, Lockdowns, Earthquakes, and what not! There is absolutely no logical explanation for the same except for exclaiming – “The Gods must be angry!”

Swaswati Borkataki teaches history at the Assam Royal Global University, Guwahati.


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