Having been brought up in a seismic zone III (we got promoted to seismic zone II only after the 2004 tsunami), earthquakes are what I studied in geographic textbooks. That is until the morning of 30th September 1993 when the Latur earthquake struck. My closest friend was visiting me after having moved to Mumbai and we had just spend the good part of the night chatting. When we finally decided to call it a night, the earth shook. The slow ponderous rocking motion of the earth was something I was not used to. So I cross checked with my half-asleep friend and she gave her usual practical advice, “Yes, the bed rocks.. Now go to sleep!” or something to this effect. Only the next morning we understood that we had just experienced the tremors from one of the most damaging earthquakes that people would talk about even though it measured only 6.4 on the Richter scale.
Since then I have experienced many tremors, mild and strong. During the strongest tremors, I stayed put where I was hoping that it was my imagination. Because by the time I realise this is not my imagination, they stop. There was once a series of tremors in broad daylight, where the people in my apartment building ran out into the street. I, of course, cannot bear to be seen in less-than-perfect in public, so I first changed into something presentable and then proceeded to make my exit from the building. All the while being convinced this was a complete waste of time since I couldn’t feel the tremors at all. (Oh, I have a friend who grabbed a chocolate bar along with emergency cash and important papers before stepping out!)
Sometime in 2007, I felt a true-blue tremor while I was at office. Sitting on the 7th floor, I was a bit worried but it lasted for less than a minute. And for some reason, not everyone in office felt that tremor. Since there was no chance of wringing a holiday out because of it, everyone went listlessly back to work.
Last night was the latest in my career as the earthquake antenna in my house. (No one, except I, can feel tremors it seems.) Reading this insightful book about Schopenhauer, I lost track of time. Sometime around 2 AM, just as my eyes heavy with sleep were about to close, the bed rocked. A slow irregular rocking motion for less than a minute. Again, by the time I could ascertain it’s a tremor, it subsided. A few crows were making a racket for a while. Then an unearthly stillness descended. I got out of bed to look around. Through the window, I could see the light in the neighbour’s house illuminating their blue-tiled empty swimming pool, which was still under construction. It looked like no one had noticed the tremors. Suddenly, a storm broke out and the power failed. I drifted into uneasy sleep. Around 4 AM, the landline phone rang loudly in the drawing room. I didn’t have the energy to go pick it up. As soon as that phone ring died, my cell started ringing. It was my brother. He was calling from the US to check if we were okay. He said someone had written about tremors in their gtalk status. He was talking about an earthquake that had hit the Andaman’s, 7.6 on the Richter scale. I was stunned. So, those tremors were signs of an earthquake! The good news was that everything was fine at least where I was. The morning brought perspective as we hungrily checked TV channels and newspapers for news about the earthquake.