POSTCARD #24 Delhi: It’s colder here at this time of year. No fans, no ACs, people have their windows open and you can hear TVs, the clatter of dishes, cooking pots, ding, and bits of other people’s conversations. A child crying, a dog barks, somebody calling a person’s name in a language I can’t understand. It dwindles down as everyone settles in for the night, silent breathing in all the labyrinths of rooms and apartments that surround us here; people asleep on the floor, in beds, in cots, in hammocks. That’s how it was last night, then just after midnight, there was an earthquake.
Jiab wakes up, gives me a shake, ‘earthquake’ she says (Jiab is a linguistic minimalist). It takes me a moment to realize the house is trembling, bed is shaking, floor is like a sheet of tin stretching out from here to everywhere, connected with all other houses in the community… and the uneasy sensation of it undulating slightly; a flexibility, like the surface of the sea – a terrestrial ocean. Voices of neighbours outside, shouts and kerfuffle.
After a moment it settles down and the urgency passes. Trying to be mindful but I feel like I could go back to sleep maybe, just lying there, waiting to see what’ll happen. Then there’s another tremor, and we’re back into the unstable feeling again; louder shouts of voices, and more commotion outside… hmmm, the idea of death just going to arrive one day, anyday, could be a Tuesday, for example, or a Thursday, yes, nice if it were a Thursday.
Falling into a half sleep; there’s that Donovan song ‘Jersey Thursday’… did he mean the pullover or the island? Another tremor rocks the bed slightly and the gentleness of it helps me to drift off a little bit more. The day I die will be an ordinary day, nothing different about it. The moment after I’m gone the next moment will come along; that’ll take place, and there’ll be the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year.
No more holding on to ‘me’, the identity; who’s who or which is ‘what’ and ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ and ‘why’… particularly WHY? How to answer that? It’s M’s favourite question, she’s only 9 years old and has this curiosity about everything. Well, it’s just the way it is, you know? It’s all happening for it’s own sake, the inevitability of circumstances – things moving along of their own volition and whether they continue or discontinue doesn’t seem to be a question. (M looks at me: ‘… yes, but WHY?’) It’s like a story that I may think will, one day, come to an end… the final curtain: THE END, but it starts again and the period of ‘ending’ becomes a defining characteristic of it all: it ends sometimes and then it begins again. More like an epic anthology of short stories: ‘as old as we are able to imagine’ and going on forever, the panchatantra, the great cycle of it is always there. All the way out of this tiny space and knowing I’m an integral part of the whole universe.
It’s 4am, can’t sleep, get up and go through to the front room. Start up the laptop and google ‘earthquake’… amazing, the news is there already: ‘Four earthquakes (in Delhi) within a period of 4 hours, measuring 3.1 (12.41am), 3.3 (1.41 am), 2.5 (1.55am) and 2.8 (3.40am) on the Richter scale respectively. No reports of any casualty or destruction of property received so far.’ [reports: NDTV]