3rd October 1993, Killari, Latur
Keshav stomped through the debris as the landscape of rubble that was once his village began to shake beneath his feet. The last standing ornate mirror, the pride of his Sarpanch kaka’s home, came crashing down, the splinters simulating his fragmented heart.
The tremors stopped as they began. He knew it was the aftershock of the massive earthquake that hit his village on 30th September. Trying not to gag with the stench of decaying flesh and gore, he tried looking for the location of his humble home.
The home where he had spent his childhood playing with the wooden baton prepared by his baba, the best pair of hands in Killari. The home where he had sobbed when rejected by the village belle, Rekha. The home his tai had been bid adieu after her marriage. The home that resonated with his mother’s beautiful ovis rendered every dawn…
The loud megaphone jerked Keshav out of his reverie.
‘Everyone move over to Omerga panchayat school-ground quickly. The tremors are still felt here, and it’s dangerous….’
Keshav swiped his cheeks as rage overwhelmed him. How could this happen…? The entire village flattened and his family among the 10000 dead?
A year earlier:
“Baba, I am leaving for Mumbai tomorrow…” Keshav declared as he threw his clothes rapidly into his rexin bag that had seen better days.
“But Keshava, the new factory just confirmed your position as the accountant. The pay is decent too.”
“Baba, Mumbai has better opportunities…”
“What have we lacked, Keshava…?” his baba asked, distraught while his docile aai wiped her eyes with the corner of her saree pallu.
“Baba, what do we have except for that locked aluminium trunk? Why don’t you give me that money or whatever you have hidden there?”
“Keshav, that trunk contains my prized possessions. Go to Mumbai if that’s what makes you happy. Please call your aai once in a while…”
Keshav had left Latur with a heavy heart, vowing never to return.
As Keshav turned to leave, his eyes fell on something familiar, gleaming, reflecting the fierce noon as if holding his attention. He lifted the rubble surrounding it, ignoring the cuts on his palms. It was his baba’s trunk. He dragged it out and used another stone to break the fragile lock. What was so precious to his baba?
The dented lid creaked open, and the sunlight shone upon Keshav’s old broken baton that he had thrown away, his rusted ‘silver’ medal he had received for a village athletic event when he was 12. There was a tattered doll he remembered his sister played with for as long as he could remember. His old diary that he maintained for a long time, filled with his tiny poems and his old school uniform that had faded, its yellowish tinge mocking him….
Fervid grief engulfed him as he wailed, his howl joining the cacophony of hundreds of others who lost more than loved ones in the fateful macroseism.
The 1993 Latur earthquake struck India at 3:56 am local time (UTC+05:30) on 30 September. The main area affected is the districts of Latur and Osmanabad, including the Ausa block of Latur and Omerga of Osmanabad in Maharashtra, Western India. Fifty-two villages were demolished in the intraplate earthquake. It measured 6.2 on the moment magnitude scale, and approximately 10,000 people died, while another 30,000 were injured. (source: Wikipedia)
It was the deadliest earthquake in the state of Maharashtra.
Aai: mother in Marathi
Tai: older sister
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