Saturday, October 08, 2005

سورة الزلزلة

It was the night when everything is so grey that there is no different between sleeping and day.

I was awake. The howling winds coming off the bay rushed up the slope towards my dorm, cursed and yelled outside my window and then rolled on over the little pond, through the trees brittle with dead leaves.

A friend told me his brother has smsed about a tremor, just then. O Fearful Connectedness of Googletalk. We both cursed. And waited. He got to the news link first.

And even as it unfolded, the next few hours, deja vu started rolling film. The same emotions: the same checking to see if loved ones were ok. The same reading of cautious local news websites, letting the numbers flow through their fingers slow at first. Checking BBC-- updates, eyewitness reports, pictures.

Geological discussion: young fold mountains this time.

Group mails, receiving replies: some light-hearted, some in fear, some waiting, like me, for news from the places that were still ominously silent.

Receiving an IM: yes, a help blog has been started.

I have seen all this before. This has happened all before.

The Eurasian fault line runs through the area. Tremors happen here all the time. New Zealand quivered too, measuring a 3.9. Bangladesh recorded tremors at 5.4, causing high waves in the bay.

But this one was a 7.6. And the death toll projected by international news agencies is at 2000. According to the the Director of the Weather Office, its the biggest quake in 120 years. International agencies are claiming that the Pakistani Govt are remaining "eerily silent" on revealing a realistic death toll: I quote--

"But oddly enough, no one was talking about the human toll.

It was almost as if no one wanted to talk of the death and destruction that the quake could have caused

A reporter working for the state-controlled PTV said he had seen "30 to 40" dead bodies himself in the Frontier town of Mardan.

But it was never repeated".

PM Shaukat Aziz said it was too early to talk about the death toll, rescue operations were still on to pull the living from the rubble.
An appartment complex fell down. School children were crushed. Landslides have taken whole villages made of straw and mud down into ravines and a river.

The worst hit are those living in the heavily militarized zones of PoK and along the border of Kashmir. Thank god, that unlike what happened in Aceh, the military and aid workers are going in together immediately to carry out relief measures.

The relief measures in inhabited areas began immediately. One must be glad.
The actual death toll in the northern interior regions cannot be known immediately. God be with those alone and cold and scared, and with those who are trying to bring them to safety.

The red cross and red crescent groups are out in their ambulances, tending to trauma cases. Every hospital in the affected areas has patients being treated outside, for fear of another after shock.

Information rolling. Deja vu.

No tears came during the tsunami's aftermath, midst all the reading writing talking and running around that accompanied it.

In front of this lap-top, watching grainy BBC reports, I havent been able to stop. Misery because its the end of the world? PMS? nope.


people on cellphones from under the rubble, calling to say they're alright. Policemen digging with their bare hands, not bothering to wait for equipment. Children wide-eyed in terror. A group of dusty men and boys yelling and heaving a part of a concrete wall, one two three together. British citizens of Pakistani descent praying together, getting visas together, blocking phone lines together, collecting aid together, and jack straw adding a chorus to them all:

"But in this particular case, because so many people in this country - so many of my own constituents - hail from Pakistan, or their families do, of course the anxiety and the shock is even greater," he said.

"My message to them is that we're going to do - and we are doing - everything we can for British people of Pakistani heritage, number one, and two, for Pakistanis of whatever connections."

The london blasts saw tremors of a different kind run through UK's ethnically diverse population. From the pain of those accusations, from the threat of racist violence against pakistani/bangladeshi/indian citizens, to this coming together.

There hasn't been a single report, local or international, of crimes being committed in the aftermath of the quake. No looting, no murders. My friend tells me of houses lying open, all their valubles exposed, and passers by standing guard at the entrances, to keep safe the belongings of the dead and dying.

The apocalypse haven't won yet.

Midst all this loss and terror at shifting continental plates, with the many who broke their fast around the world, I give thanks. We give thanks.

Chapter 99 of the Qu'ran is named سورة الزلزلة(Az-Zalzala) which means 'The Earthquake':

When the earth is shaken with her (violent) shaking,
And the earth brings forth her burdeens,
And man says: What has befallen her?
On that day she shall tell her news,
Because your Lord had inspired her.
On that day men shall come forth in sundry bodies that they may be shown in their works.
So he who has done an atom's weight of good shall see it.
And he who has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it.

This is my version of dhikr for today: thanks be for the fact that even while in the mud, we are haunted by the stars.

In order to contribute to the Red Cross and Crescent networks active in the affected areas, please contact the following:

· In Islamabad: Khalid Kibriya, Secretary-General, Pakistan Red Crescent; Phone: +92.51.925.7404;

· In Islamabad: Asar ul-Haq, Disaster Management Officer, Pakistan Delegation; email:;
Phone: +92.51.925.0416; Mobile: +92.300.856.8136;

· In Delhi: Uzmat Ulla, Head of Delegation, India Delegation; email:; Phone: +91.11.2332.4203

· In Delhi: Nina Nobel, Programme Coordinator, South Asia Regional Delegation; email:;
Phone: +91.11.2685.8671

· In Kabul: Fatima Gailani, President, Afghanistan Red Crescent; Phone: +

· In Kabul: Vincent Toutain, Programme Coordinator, Afghanistan Delegation; email:;
Phone: +93.7001.8727

· In Geneva: Charles Evans, acting Head of Asia Pacific Department; email:;
Phone: +41.22.730.4455

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david raphael israel said...

Wow Priyanka,

I'd not been looking at your blog lately. Will peruse more at more leisure . . .

bests, d.i.