Walking with the quake

(Another submission for the Soch lo contest on Indiblogger. This is about past conditioning and a reimagining of my memories of the earthquake in 2001)

Every once in a while someone comes along in life who mocks your illusions and brings you to the reality of being human. For me that was you. Before you I never thought anything was impossible. I never felt there was a thing that good intentions and persistence couldn’t set right. But you proved me wrong. I don’t know it if made you happy. But maybe nothing makes you happy, you never seemed to be. Somehow your negativity seems to have rubbed off on me. Shouldn’t it have been my positivity rubbing on to you?

It still is difficult for me to comprehend how little the quake affected you. It devastated my home. The little cracks in the old home, they burst open. There are times I still wonder if I had repaired the cracks would the home have been saved. But how was I to know a quake was due? And even if I did, some destruction was inevitable.

You walked with the quake. That was the way it always was, wasn’t it? Your coming was the signal for the coming of the quake. Someone long ago had told you that. Someone whose words were the truth for you. You ran from the quake always, but the times that it was late, you worried and almost wished it would strike soon. After all, how could the self fulfilling prophecy be wrong? Someone long ago had told me of the havoc you could wreak. But I was given no tools to recognise you, no plan to protect the house from you. So when you came, I just let you in, just like I have always let everyone in.

You seemed to admire the house. The cracks were strategic, even pretty you said. They gave the home a character. You talked of strengthening the house, painting over the cracks. No traveller had talked that way. For them, it was just an Inn. You seemed to call it home, but I could somehow feel that you didn’t mean it. You feared the quake and at that time, I didn’t know.

The rumbling had begun. I could feel it but for sometime I thought my ears were playing tricks on me. It registered somewhere that it was a quake coming, but I told myself it couldn’t be. I asked you if you heard anything. Didn’t you smile and say no? Didn’t you hold me tighter saying you feared it too but you didn’t see it coming and that I must have imagined it? You had told me of your quake nightmares so I trusted you knew better. That night we hugged each other close as we slept, I still felt the rumbling, but I let it be.

At dawn I could no longer ignore it. Then the first slab fell and I woke up. I felt for you beside me but you had already woken up. You were at the door, all ready to run. But you said it wasn’t coming I cried. And you replied, well I walk with the quake so it had to happen. So matter-of-fact your voice was. You never wanted to stop it, I understood. You had wished it away for a while, but you believed that was your destiny. And even before I could cry out in anger, I could see you had a counter to every question if mine. You were going to walk away, maybe laughing at the illusion you created or cry that you couldn’t control the quake. Either way, my house was going down and you walked away because you never had any.

When the sun rose I stood by the road, in front of the heap that was the house. It was all a-rubble and it was all I had and it was still mine. I still had a place. The neighbours wept silently with me. But we couldn’t wait beyond afternoon, we had to get to work. Each of us started piecing things back. We gathered what was intact, we fixed what was fixable. We chased away the robbers too. This was the first time I felt that good intentions might not be enough. And yet, aren’t they always the foundation of beautiful edifices?

I could see the path you walked on. I could be the quake harbinger too. But I still had my land and I could still build an edifice here. I didn’t have to wander away from what I had built. Yes, it was now a rubble. But then it was old and wearing away. Now I could build something new. I am not alone, the neighbours help with the logs, the fresh mortar. There is that boy who loves the way I lay the bricks. There is the old woman who thinks my paint is good. There are some old cracks still there in the remaining part. But there is more mortar we have all got.

I had waited for you till evening, but from the next day, I have only built my house. I had one before you and now I am building one after you. Its already taking shape. I can see the neighbourhood growing too. And I hear there are some settlers on the way to this town. I didn’t need the quake, but now that I have a new home that I am building, maybe it will only get better. And this home would stand all the quakes in the future.

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