October 2005

It was autumn in October. Leaves falling on earth like flakes. The trees textured in the colour of fire with the withering leaves. Somewhere in the city, an old couple were fasting in the Muslim month of Ramadhan. Reciting from the Holy Qur’an, the grandmother with a scarf covering her head was focused in the spiritual fulfillment. As her husband was sharing stories from the past to a neighbor on the porch of the house.

Minutes later.

The house had turned into heap of rubble, A massive earthquake had jolted the house razing it to the ground. The neighbor was thrown off the porch. The grandfather came under the concrete blocks and he died calling for his companion. The grandmother couldn’t be seen. She was under heavy blocks which had fallen over her. The thriving neighborhood had turned into a ruin in a matter of seconds. As if the entire place was carpet-bombed. The shrieks and cries were echoing in the sky. Choking under the rubble, a boy stretching out his hand through the gaps of concrete, calls for help. The son of the Old couple tried to throw away the heavy blocks of stone. But he couldn’t. They were too heavy to carry. This young boy in his pre-teens gave up, “Uncle I am going”. The outstretched hand became a signal of adieu.

Many hours after the rescue team came, overwhelmed by the number of casualties, they drilled into the house of that old couple. The husband was taken out, his lips were in the shape of calling someone. His eyes wide open, looking into the skies above. The wife was taken out after a long search. They found her lips curved in the shape of a smile, and in her hands the Qura’n held against her bosom.

They lived together and they died together.

This is one such story of the Earthquake that hit both divides of Kashmir in 2005. You see, even nature doesn’t recognize man-made lines that divide a people of a nation into two. As if the nature had conspired to destroy and erase the line that divides families, friends and companions.

7.6 on the moment magnitude scale, with its epicentre at about 19 km (12 mi) northeast of Muzaffarabad had killed about 75,000 people and devastated many a families. In Azad Kashmir (Pakistan-Controlled-Kashmir) when somebody recalls the event of that fateful morning, it is followed by sighs. It is called ‘Choti Qayamat’ (Little Doomsday) in Kashmir.

Well, I am not hear to recall the numbers or how the response was shoddy and the usual scams post-earthquake. It’s a reflection. I was just walking in the corridors of my university. Found this person and somehow we started talking about the Earthquake (since two days back, the memory became 8 years old). “Not a single family was spared, everyone lost someone. A brother, a sister, parents, sons and daughters. Everything changed the day after.”

Years from this devastating tragedy, we only remember what we lost. Or just pass it as an anniversary (if you stumble on a tweet or post). Then the people start remembering what happened. The day that took thousands and thousands of people, devastating families and destroying the livelihood for years to come.
The survivors who didn’t have a buck to buy a house or relocate to another place are still living in miserable condition in tents and camps. They have been left to their own fate and the promises still unkempt.

Tragedies are tests that determine how we struggle and how we overcome them. And when it gets over, tragedies that are faced become lessons for us (only if we are wise enough)

Sufferings become headlines and years after that they are either mentioned in a tiny ad-like news or just forgotten. It’s not important enough. What happened to them after? Did they get rehabilitated? Or they have been left in lurch. We forget easily, things we thought we could never forget.

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