As my train halted at sleepy Anand station, I got down hurriedly and looked around to see if something has changed. I was coming back after around 3 months but it looked likes ages. I spent good time in this small town, where I got my first job, and it was so dear to me. Many trips were done from this station.
I checked the time and realized my father’s train will take another hour or so to reach. So, decided to wait at station itself. Noticed that book shop was getting open on other platform, so slowly walked towards it looking around and wondering about the contrast between Mumbai and Anand- former never sleeps and latter being so quiet. I was thinking about that quick decision I made to move to Mumbai for my dream job leaving this town.
As I reached book stall to meet known face 'Patel Bhai', he wished me 'Happy Republic Day' and I reciprocated. Its so good to meet people, who still remember you, after long time. I told him that I have moved to Mumbai and after 3 months I am here now to shift all my belongings from here to Mumbai as I have rented an apartment there. I told him that my father is coming from hometown to help me shift to Mumbai. I told him that I could have shifted on my own with help of my friends here, but my father always wants to be with me at any key milestone of my life. Moreover, if any article is not needed in Mumbai, he will rather take it to my hometown. After-all in Mumbai, houses are much smaller as compared to what we have here in Anand, so cannot accommodate everything what I have in Anand in my new Mumbai home.
As we both were taking about how movers and packers are getting costlier these days, my father’ train also arrived. I rushed to that other platform and was so happy to see my father after 3 months. We took a taxi to go to my dear friend Lalu Francis’ home. As it was early morning, roads were almost empty. Lalu was residing in Anand for many years and his younger brother also moved in recently to live with hm. Lalu’ house was a venue of many parties/get together and I was so excited to meet him.
As we were sipping Lalu’ special masala tea, I could see that my father was visibly tired. He never gets good sleep in train. So, I advised him to get some sleep and that I will get ready and go to my apartment along with Lalu to see if all is fine and settle no dues for Movers and Packers to be allowed entry to the premises. He agreed to join me there after few hours.
Lalu is one of those people who are always full of energy – wherever and whenever you meet them. As we both were walking towards my apartment, he was cracking all sort of jokes. He is also one of those who are good in observing small things, which people tend to generally overlook like why somebody walking slow, fast and why they look different at different times. I asked him to walk fast as its already past 0830 am and Movers and Packers would come soon, so little time left.
I was standing outside that building with a sense of nostalgia, looked up to see my apartment from there. Lalu was busy making observations about people – this time about that security guard. As we were about to enter building, Lalu shouted aloud hysterically – “Run Vishwas, Run”. I thought its a prank but as I looked at his face realised, it not normal. We ran away to around 100-120 meters from building and was astonished to see that building was shaking, no-no- it was swinging.
It was something out of the world. That’s building, that house where I lived was swinging and that lucky me was watching it from outside. Then I turned my head around to see how all other buildings were swinging. That’s one of the scariest scenes, I have witnessed in my life, so far.
Yes, I am talking about that worst earthquake, India has seen on 26th Jan 2001.
Within a minute all inhabitants of that building came out rushing in whatever state they were in – some in towels as they might be in bathroom, some in night dress of all sorts (since it was a holiday, most were sleeping till late) . All known faces – all my erstwhile neighbours, rushing out in state of shock. Some close friends were surprised with earthquake and at the same time, how/why I chose that day to be in Anand.
Fortunately, building did not collapse neither came down like pack of cards and all made it out safely.
Me and Lalu hugged each other thanking god that we are safe. It was all so overwhelming and happened in just few minutes. We started talking to people around – all in state of shock.
Suddenly Lalu looked at me and said “My house!! that building is not as strong as this one.” Now my head was revolving as my father was there along with Lalu’ brother. We both started running to his house. No one can imagine what I was going through at that time. Lot of What Ifs. We both were just running frantically. With my mother’ face in my mind and those words of my father – I will see you shortly, I was almost crying and running.
It was more than a kilometer run and as we reached close to his house, I was relieved to see from distance that building was standing intact. But still fearing the worst, covered those last few meters to see a huge crowd of people in state of shock and anxiety. As I was searching for my father, heard a voice – Beta, I am here. Turned around to see him standing in one corner. I cant tell you I was never so happy to see my father as I was at that moment. We hugged each other tight.
Sitting on a bench close-by for few hours that day, we kept hearing of stories of destruction, pain and agony pouring in from various part of Gujarat. While thanking god that we were fine, wondered that I came all the way from Maharashtra and my father from Madhya Pradesh to be in Gujarat that unfortunate day. No one knows what destiny has in store
These encounters when death is so close, leaves us wondering that the string of our life is held by someone else and we hardly have any control.