You can read the First Part HERE and the Second Part HERE
suffocating. The cold was gone completely. But they were still in stark
darkness and hope trickled down their tired muddy faces.
“Simi, I am too
sleepy. What if I don’t make it? I can’t feel my legs anymore. And I don’t have
the strength to stay up anymore. “
Simi looked at
Lisa and knew she had almost reached the zenith of despair. “I will keep watch,
you sleep for some time. You will need strength for when they pull us out of
this hell hole.”
Simi’s advice and Simi was more vigilant than ever. It was more like the last
burst of energy before the end, at least for her.
infinite lapse of time, Simi felt light showers of dust on her. The same as the
one she had witnessed after the one minute of nature’s wrath had ceased. But
this was different. This one was for hope.
“Lisa, get up.
I think the rescuers are here. Please get up.”
Lisa got up to
witness the same shower, now accompanied by faint thuds. It was the rescuers
for sure. But she was too fatigued and dehydrated. Simi started screaming with
all her might for help and the thuds stopped.
anyone in there?” Someone asked.
“Yes, we are.
Two people. My friend is hurt. She can’t move. But she is alive” an elated Simi
minutes of desperate wait, Simi could finally see daylight but no escape route.
The dust shower had increased and Lisa refused to even raise her head anymore.
Exhaustion had taken a toll on her, but the surging energy in Simi seemed
enough for both of them.
ten minutes, Simi could finally see their rescuer’s face. Maybe it was
exaggeration, but Simi had never been so pleased to see anyone, ever, let alone
the fridge first. Lisa was squirming with pain from the minute the cement
boulders were being raised but the minute the huge machine was lifted, she
screamed and fainted. The rescue team didn’t waste any time in asking Simi
about her condition. A man came down, picked her up and left. There was chaos
above, and Simi was lost, waiting, fearing what she didn’t even want to
imagine. After sometime another man came to take Simi. He tried to lift her,
but she protested. She wanted to know about Lisa.
“Your friend is
fine Ma’am. She was pinned down for too long. There was a toxin build up in her
blood – it is very common in these cases. Sudden blood flow caused her immense
pain and she fainted. The doctors still need to look at her legs. But she is
fine, she will be fine.”
Simi wanted to
cry, wanted to let go of her fear, wanted to feel safe. All she needed was to
cry but was unable to do so. She let her rescuer take her out of the
Simi was in a
small camp that had been set where the central garden of her society used to
be. She looked at what used to be her building. She looked around and all she
saw was death, and wreckage. Her society was gone. Buildings were gone. Some
cut in halves, some shortened, and some with no reason for being called
buildings at all. She looked at the people in the camp. Seven people were from
her building excluding her. She imagined some to be in the hospital where Lisa
was being treated. A lady from the medical tent had come to take Simi for
checkup, but all Simi wanted was water and sleep. She had not had water for
more than twenty hours now, but she went with the lady anyways.
The doctor at
the medical counter had a Motorola handset, and throughout her checkup she kept
a stern gaze on the cellphone. After the doctor was done with his job, Simi
spoke for the first time after being rescued.
“Can I make one
call from your handset?”
smiled and handed her the phone. “Just one call please, for now” he said and
went on to check the others dragged in by the lady.
“Aunty, this is
Simi. Lisa and I are fine, alive. She wanted to talk to you but the doctors
took her away. She wanted to say sorry. She survived, we survived because she
wanted to talk to you” Simi said and waited for the sobs to die down at the
other end. “Please call Maa and tell her I am fine. I will call her when I get
a chance to.”
She ended the
call and collapsed where she was standing. Sobs and tears had finally found a
way. She was crying because she was happy. Life was finally making sense again.
And she remembered the last words her mother had told her before the call had
ended, “You are lucky, very lucky.” What she meant was that Simi was lucky that
she wasn’t in Dehradun and did not have to wake up early for the Army Parade.
But what her mother had said was partly true.
“We have to.
You hugged the fridge after saving me. We have to.” Simi said stoically.
“You must be
hungry. Have the tomatoes.”
Simi looked at
the dusty red objects – unwashed and dirty but they looked scrumptious. Five,
barely red but mouthwatering tomatoes surrounded by a dry pond of spilt milk,
stale curry and some sauces. She picked up two and moved gingerly towards Lisa.
But the floor beneath Lisa started to fall or that is how it seemed. Realizing
the unstable trait of the barely holding floor she tossed a tomato at Lisa and
slumped back in her corner. The girls enjoyed their meal but did not dare to
drink water despite being parched.
The two girls
kept staring at the sepia and grey dilapidated space that was once a room and
talking in monologues for hours. The stuffiness of the corner had escalated. The
paucity of air had been served with a dash of dust. Without a watch it was
difficult for them to tell the time but they were sure night was going to make
them wait for long. Simi must have dozed off due to boredom, because her
thought train was not stuck at the last words with her mom anymore, but on how
cold were January nights in Gujarat. The sun had surely set as it was cold
again, ruthlessly cold.
clad in woolen sweaters and having hot masala chai at Dhir Bhai’s Tapri
(shop)”. Lisa said after she saw Simi shivering with cold.
imagination always helps!” Simi’s irritation had reached the peak of self-pity.
“Would Dhir Bhai have survived this? His shop is a small shanty. If our
building is all dust, his shop would be lost underground right?”
“We will figure
out after we are rescued.” Lisa said with a feeble smile.
“How are you
doing this? How did you not sleep? How are you still hopeful? It is night and
no rescue has come. I didn’t even hear a sound from our own building after the
quake; a building of fourteen families and twenty Paying Guests!” Simi asked.
“You did have
some conversation with your mother before all this. I haven’t talked to mine
since day before yesterday.” Lisa said. “And I can’t sleep because I fear we
would miss the rescuers when they come. If we miss them, they won’t hear us,
they won’t be careful and all this would be for nothing.”
Simi could see
the determination behind Lisa’s pain. Most people in her situation would be
withering with pain, screaming and sobbing. But Lisa was not most people, she
had never been one. When Simi had met Lisa, she was a rebellious girl, hot
headed and ‘the guy band’ chick, but she was also the most genuine person Simi
had found in the campus, most eligible for being her roommate. Lisa never spoke
with her father, Simi never asked why but she did regularly call up her mother
though those calls always ended abruptly. She had heard Lisa shout on phone a
couple of days back and since then Lisa had abandoned that machine.
She had to
live. They had to survive.
The small talk
with Lisa had restarted Simi’s memory quest for the last thing her mother had
The cold wasn’t
helping Simi’s situation anymore. Night grew and so did the chill. They were
trapped in rubble, engrossed in darkness, under a blanket of dust and dirt,
then how had the sultry corner become a chilling one? Simi wondered, diverting
herself from her thoughts again. She was desperate now. She had to pee, but was
too embarrassed. She had quenched her thirst by just staring at the broken
fridge door but still as nature has its way of everything; it had made her a
puppet too. First the quake, then the unwashed tomatoes now this, for Simi the
grey day was getting weird and never ending. She had OCD, mainly related to
cleanliness but now she had two ways for going crazy. She looked at Lisa, whose
chin was resting on her folded arm, face muddy with cement, dust and blood, and
eyes were blankly gazing at the never ending darkness.
“How are you
holding?” Simi went crimson. She knew she had. But was relieved Lisa could not
see her flushed face.
“Didn’t I tell
you some hours back?” Lisa asked, baffled.
holding. I..I want to pee.”
and refused to stop till the pain got unbearable again.
“I already did
it. Didn’t tell you because it was weird. But guess when you are confined in a
cage of walls, or what were walls, you don’t really have any option.”
“Hmm, I will do
when I can now” Simi chose to shut up for a while, planning on the ‘when’ part.
When she finally let go of all her inhibitions, Lisa and Simi gobbled up the
remaining tomatoes and water from the only fridge door bottle.
Day and night
meant nothing to Simi anymore – it was all grey, charcoal grey. She had lost
track of time but knew hours had passed and still nothing had changed. Lisa was
lying in front of her, not sleeping, not unconscious either, but barely moving.
The refrigerator was still on Lisa’s legs and on a part of her back. The
merciful machine had spilt milk on the ground - that was now uneven and broken,
some tomatoes too - five of which were at less than an arm’s distance from
where Simi sat, and rest had found solace in the newly built cracks of the
floor. The fridge door was detached from the main body, and had a half filled
bottle of water and a broken jar of jam. Eggs were broken and were on the
floor. The door was peacefully warming up right next to Lisa. Everything else
was lost in the dusty, bricked and cemented background.
hours ago, or so it seemed to Simi, Simi was fighting with her mom. She thought
about her decision that had led her to this situation. Simi had moved to
Ahmedabad for her MBA about a year back. Terrified by the chronicles of the IIM
A hostels, Lisa and she had chosen a cozy flat for two years. Simi’s mother had
called today to wake them up early morning. Hailing from a Punjabi army family,
sleeping past sunrise on 26th January was a criminal offense
according to Simi’s mother, and she had made sure the two sleepyheads were up
on time. It was around 8:40 A.M. when her mother had called again to howl at
her for not going to the City Republic Day Parade and that was when the fight
had started. Simi tried very hard to remember the last words her mother had
said before the call ended abruptly but all she could remember was the rumbling
of the concrete land that had drowned those words.
She had lost
her balance, had noticed Lisa scream, “The corner now!” and then was being
dragged towards the corner - laterally opposite to the fridge and a wall which
never held any significance for her. By the time she could voice out her
realization to her mother, the cordless in her hand had no tone. Lisa paced
towards the fridge to get something – a bottle of water perhaps, and the room
was split into 2 already - the other part crumbling under the pressure of the
cement sarsens falling from the floors above. The rumbling discordance was then
pierced by Lisa’s painful scream. The kitchen cabinet had fallen, which she had
managed to dodge with a small cut on her head and was checking something on the
ground with a bottle of water in her hand. But the thoughtless Fridge could not
hold its ground and fell on her, and with that she reached Simi’s corner,
sliding. Simi completely oblivious to the fact that the ground where she was
now sitting had tilted and random things in the room where trying to reach her
wall which was half its original size now. The door of the open, sliding fridge
hit the walls during its short descent and slowed down the refrigerator’s ride
but Lisa had lost her bottle, which vanished where some part of the wall used
to stand. And it was all silent after that.
okay?” was what broke Simi’s perplexed trance. She looked at Lisa, who was
pinned under the fridge and boulders of someone’s ceiling and wall; she was not
sure any more about whose walls had stopped the fridge half way. Lisa had
bruises on her arms, a deep cut on her head and she was asking if Simi was
alright; it was amusing to Simi.
bleeding.” Lisa said, painfully.
“So are you”
Simi replied, and the girls started giggling. Not happy chuckles, but that is
all they could think of doing – chuckle.
“Simi, stop. I
can’t laugh anymore. It hurts” Lisa said, pain clearly ringing in her voice.
acknowledged Lisa’s request and embraced silence once again. She realized the
crumbling building had not spared her completely, as she thought a couple of
minutes back. She could feel her damp
hair, although it was not perspiration but blood. Her arms and face were also
etched by the falling rubble. But all she could wonder about was how one minute
of the earthquake had destroyed their house of one year, beyond recognition.
The one minute
was the only time she remembered now. Hours had gone by, her stomach was
rumbling, but the terror of the minute still gripped Simi and Lisa’s condition
had numbed her completely.