Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The panic persists

It has been almost five days since the land called God's paradise convulsed. Hopes and dreams still lay interred in the cataclysmic turn of events. Rescue and relief work is going on at frenzied spree. The scale of devastation in Kashmir and Pakistan has been super-colossal. Nothing that this region had known of in ages. The stories of human misery are slowly becoming evident from across the line that divides the two Kashmirs. A quirk of fate seperated this himalayan state close to sixty years ago. A nation was split at its belly. It took a devastating earthquake on the Saturday morning to uncork some of those past demons.

Mutual distrust and acrimony in both countries -- India and Pakisntan -- have thus far meant that no planes from Indian Air force have flown over Pakistan airspace in years. Such has been the nature of our relations. The quake changed it all. India airlifted on Tuesday the first consignment of 25 tonnes of relief material to quake-hit Pakistan in what is considered to be the first humanitarian assistance from New Delhi to Islamabad. Pakistan is still wary of allowing Indian relief teams to cross over to the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir, to attend to the villagers, who are more easily accessible from the Indian part of Kashmir. The ghosts are too strong to be forgone so easily. Politics goes in parallel to the pain.

At a more plebian level, people continue to suffer. Our relative, the lady teacher in Muzzafarabad, who went missing the other day, as she left to teach has been found dead. Her fountain-pen tightly clutched in her hand. One of the 40,000 estimated people dead. This capital of Pakistan Kashmir of 0.2 million is no more a city of the living. It is almost a graveyard now. Bodies can be seen everywhere, on roads, streets and under the debris of devastated buildings. In Balakote, Pakistan two school-schildren were pulled out alive after four days.

Extra-ordinary tales of individual courage and determination swells the heart with pride and forces a tear out. Ordinary folks with bare hands and extraordinary courage doing the impossible. The UK and other countries have been helping in the race against time and life. US cargo helicopters are flying extra sorties and rushing medical aid and food to the needy in the far-flung areas of Tribal Pakistan. Ironically the Americans are hated in these badlands. In Indian Kashmir, Indian Army and civilains, who have a hate-hate relationship, are helping each other. Indian Air force choppers have been air dropping food packets and shroud cloth in the high reaches of Kashmir. For once, no one is an enemy. I still believe that all of us are humans in the first place.

My heart sobs. I pray for Socale.

sameer bhat


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