Friday, August 13, 2010
Cloudburst. That’s what they called it.
Bubbleburst. That’s what it is.
The bubble of life burst.
Uncertain life. As uncertain as a bubble. I always thought of the analogy as an exaggeration. Yes. Life was unsteady and uncertain but one could still be sure about almost everything.
How carefully, thoughtfully we have planned our comfortable cocoon. We have secured our fortress more and more against all dangers. We have covered all our vulnerabilities.
Vaccines to fight against diseases, weapons against enemies, insurance against death.
Waterproof. Fireproof. Quakeproof.
Quite a security system we have built.
And all it took was a few hours of rain to bring everything to naught.
Less than a month ago, I was in Leh, Ladakh.
Savouring the desert. Savouring desserts too.
Exotic pastries – Mango Crumble, Banofie Pie, Almond Triangle – from a German bakery. Bargaining with travel agencies. Winding up the mountain roads. Scaling heights. Sauntering by the Sindhu river.
Walking the streets of Leh among the soft, smiling hospitable Ladakhis, returning their greeting “Juley”.
Taking pictures like there was no tomorrow.
Indeed, there was no tomorrow. For some of those people.
Those people who had stood at an arms distance from me. Talked to me. Sold their wares to me. Smiled at me. Served food. Drove me around. They are no more.
They rested for the night in their cocoon, fortress, cocksure, dead certain that they would wake up the next morning. And didn’t.
Washed away to Pakistan. Buried under rubble. It was all over.
The face of the city has been changed. Forever.
The market square will never be the same again.
The corner shop selling apricot juice. To which I ran morning and evening. For a glass of honey coloured sweet and sour liquid that tasted like heaven. Is the shop still there?
The two women who sold semi precious jewelry on the pavement diagonally opposite to the mosque – from whom I bought a necklace of black Onyx and Jade and another string of Carnelian stone – are they alive?
And the stationery shop that sold the latest newspaper that was yesterday’s?
The palace ruins. A few hundred years old. It has withstood the elements for so long. Please survive this one.
The monasteries perched precariously on hilltops. I hope they will remain too.
It is these that are the life giver of the people of this land.
Nothing else grows here. In this desert.
The Ladakhis have nothing else to sell.
Only these ruins and relics of history.
The Leh Kargil Srinagar highway. How many years it has taken the army to build it. And the bridges. “In two more years, this will be a beautiful highway” that’s what my father said as we crossed a rough patch still under construction.
Now, with the mountains generously issuing forth mud, water, sand, pebble, rock and boulders on to the roads, work will have to start all over again.
All over again.
But man is unrelenting. His tenacity to life is incredible. He did not outlive the dinosaur to be washed away in the end like an ant.
He will build again. With perseverance, persistence & persuasion. And he will build better than before. He will build a stronger fortress.
In the never ending battle between man and nature, man may be defeated but he will never give up.
By now we know.
The flood is here to stay.
But so is Man.
Whether or not The Buddha protects.