Another Moment of Our Insignificance

Source: dawn.com

Source: dawn.com

It was that moment again. The moment that you would anxiously dread for your entire life. Just like dreading war in peace time. Just like anticipating an intruder without a gun.

It feels like staring at death. In sheer terror, you scramble to save your life, leaving behind all this dear to you, except your life. Something which you are condemned to carry with you.

Looking at everything you built, waiting for it to crumble down.

Thankfully, many of us escaped the ruthless blow of Nature, but many among us did not.

On October 26, that fateful day, the earth shook again, and almost swept everything away. And only those who live through the disaster, those who survive it, could tell you what it felt like.

And for those who could not make it, let’s keep them in our thoughts forever. For it so easily could have been us and our loved ones, as they are.

The Afghanistan quake was 7.5 strong on the scale. Some were calling it the worst earthquake in the history of Pakistan, but I knew they were wrong. It was nowhere near as devastating as the 2005 Kashmir quake, that I ironically wrote about just weeks ago. But it was pretty devastating nevertheless, especially for the people of KP, Northern Areas and Afghanistan.

And believe me, we can never understand the pain of those who lost their loved ones and homes.

But that’s not all what this week brought. It also .

In Rawalpindi and Islamabad, it had already been overcast and rainy for the past two days. And on the eastern dawnsky, Mars, Jupiter and Venus were converging in a magical astronomical display, only to be repeated after decades.

I missed it. Two days after the quake, I managed to find clear skies on the morning of the 28th. With what I had, I managed to take these.

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Maybe, some of you could spot Mars if you look hard enough. If you have the time for it, that is.

20151028_051726ee

Looking up at the sky at that moment was a different feeling altogether.

A feeling of significant insignificance.

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This Day, Ten Years Ago

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Exactly ten years ago, on October 8, we experienced probably the most devastating earthquake to have struck Northwestern parts of the subcontinent, or at least Kashmir, in centuries.

I have a clear recollection of the shocking 2005 Kashmir quake that rendered the entire AJK region upside down, killing over 86,000, injuring thousands more and displacing millions. It also deeply affected survivors like me in more distant locations such as Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

We realized that day that the federal capital of the nation was just about at as much risk as any other place prone to natural disasters. But disasters such as these remind us of how valuable life is, and how everything dear to us could be lost in a fraction of a second.

I still recall that fateful morning that changed the lives of millions for the worse. I recall how I rushed to take cover under my dining table and saw how close we were to completely losing everything around us. It was the scariest 9 minutes you would ever go through, though I bet it was not the worst by any means, at least not for my family and friends. But we had no idea what was unfolding just more than a few hundred miles from my home.

I still recall the compassion of the world and how everyone flocked to help the troubled people of Azad Kashmir. I still recall those US Army Chinooks flying over my house almost every day for their search and rescue missions. I wonder how many lives they saved along with the Pakistani soldiers.

I also recall the hundreds of aftershocks, which proved more nerve wracking than the major tremor, and which forced me to sleep outside my house in the car for a night or two. It might sound ridiculous, but it was a traumatizing experience, though from a relatively very safe distance.

It dawned on many how fragile human life is and how vulnerable we are on this planet, even to those who were not affected as devastatingly as most families in Azad Kashmir.

I would not be surprised to learn that many families who lost their homes in the quake would still not have completely recovered, despite a decade passing since the tragic disaster occurred. What is even worse, some would still be searching for the loved ones they lost that day.

Natural disasters can ruin the lives of individuals and families beyond redemption, and only life remains to be the most precious gift at the end of the day. Because it could just have been anyone.

Nobody can possibly fight a 7.6 magnitude earthquake.

Let’s just hope we don’t have to do it again.

A version of the post was published in The Nation blogs.