The Water Cooler
  • Living on the Edge

    Sarikah Atreya

    A man sits amid the rubble of a building which was destroyed REUTERS/Stringer

    Over the past few decades, buildings have mushroomed all over the hills of Sikkim and Darjeeling without any consideration to building norms. Or the fact that these areas fall under seismic zone V. Should an earthquake measuring 6 or more on the Richter Scale hit us, the consequences could be devastating. One in these areas was long overdue, seismologists have been warning us for a long time. The question is not when it will come, since earthquakes are relatively unpredictable and inevitable – but when it comes, are we really prepared to handle the catastrophe? Earthquakes may or may not kill; but poorly constructed concrete structures surely will. In many ways, we have made matters worse for ourselves.

    Indian seismologists have in the past suggested close monitoring of the movement of tectonic plates and of the faults considering that the Indian Plate boundary has seismically become very active. The Indian Plate is one of 14 major plates that are locked onto the surface

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  • Are we prepared? A personal perspective from Kathmandu

    Tanya Pascual

    It is amazing, that after a terrifying experience of an earthquake tremor hitting Kathmandu, how quickly life goes back to normal as if nothing had happened. All the talk of the impending big earthquake that is due since the last one hit some 70 years ago; seeing how the fault lines are cracking and approaching, first Japan, then Burma, and now Sikkim – is this the one or is the big one yet to come? Paranoia is acute until time passes and you just get back to doing what you do – working and living in a city with a challenging infrastructure, buildings going up left, right, and centre; chaotic traffic with very few pedestrian pathways.
    An injured child receives treatment in Kathmandu REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
    A few months back I managed to fracture my ankle getting out of a bus, my foot fell into one of the many potholes in the city and crack, that was it for two months, laid up with the addition of two screws in my ankle. Once I started walking my paranoia was eyes fixed on the ground to see where I was walking. However since the rumble last

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  • Smiling through the pain

    Cartoonist Pankaj Thapa captures the pithiness of the Northeast psyche with his hilarious cartoons. Even as Sikkim endures its worst nightmare, he finds time to etch a laugh line.


    It is no secret that Sikkim's connectivity with the rest of India depends heavily on one highway, and that thanks to the efforts of the Border Roads Organisation and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. The region's isolation became embarrassingly obvious when it took relief teams up to 72 hours to penetrate disaster-hit areas. Thapa's tongue-in-cheek reference to National Highway 31 and the price of potatoes drives the point hard.

    Bollywood is an enduring theme, even in farflung Sikkim where water woes plague the lives of the locals.

    Pankaj Thapa is a cartoonist who often publishes in the Sikkim Express, a local daily. These cartoons are from the section 'Quick Quips' in Sikkim Express. Pankaj also teaches English  at the undergraduate level  in Gangtok.

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  • Postcard in the time of disaster

    Guru T Ladakhi

    “Amidst the talk of El Nino and  global warming
    a Sikkimese man sticks his tongue out
    in a token grimace of fear.”
                            - the Sikkimese

    After the cable news withdraw their spotlight from Sikkim to chase other ‘breaking news”, we shall once again be relegated to the back-of-beyond on the national conscience, living as it were on the margins of a nation’s memory. Sometimes, it takes a disaster to remind the rest of the country that an India exists that defies the general image -- we look different, speak broken Hindi and our landscapes are crested. For those who have been guest to our part of the world you must fetch a reality that is beyond the picture postcards.

    Nevertheless, lessons will not be learned, we will continue to break rules, build badly designed infrastructure, and live on dole from Delhi. We make token gestures because of recent devastation, but our public memory is short and therefore our vision stunted.

    Imagine, a capital of a state serviced

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  • One (long) night in Gangtok

    Sarikah Atreya

    Gangtok on Monday woke up to a cold and wet morning.

    Scared to death by the 6.9 magnitude quake, most Gangtok residents spent the night outside. In spite of the biting cold and incessant rains. Any open space around the capital became the most sought-after place for shelter. Moms tightly clutching onto their handbags with whatever valuables they could gather before fleeing their homes. Babies wrapped tightly in blankets, elders assisted by family members, young children pacified with chips and cola drinks and men generally shepherding their families throng MG Marg, the heart of the state capital, through the night. Rumours of another major quake hitting the area anytime getting louder than people’s heartbeats.

    Gangtok was slowly closing down for the day after an uneventful Sunday when the massive earthquake hit the town at 6:11 pm – shaking multi-storied RCC buildings like they were made of cardboard, accompanied by the loud chasing noise of crockery falling off the

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  • Earthquake 6.9: Fault lines of Relief and Rescue

    Kishalay Bhattacharjee

    A man sits amid the rubble of a building which was destroyed by Sunday's 6.9 magnitude earthquake at Rangrang village north of the northeastern Indian city of Gangtok September 20, 2011. Air force helicopters flew rescue workers to a remote Himalayan region on Tuesday in search of survivors of a strong earthquake that killed dozens of people in India, Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet. Most of the casualties were near the epicentre of Sunday's 6.9 magnitude quake that bucked roads and knocked down houses in the sparsely populated India state of Sikkim, popular with trekkers for its Buddhist monasteries and spectacular trekking. REUTERS/Stringer (INDIA - Tags: DISASTER)

    Having been born and brought up in a seismic zone I am familiar with earthquakes.

    Having worked across the Northeast for a little more than a decade in the same area prone not only to conflict but natural disasters, I have done the drill. But I have never had the opportunity to report the aftermath of an earthquake.

    Watching the reportage from a ‘capital distance’ has allowed me a perspective and an insight to the disconnect that geographical distances can affect.

    For someone who has been lamenting the disinterest of media in areas like Sikkim I must admit that the reaction time of the Sikkim coverage and the manner it has sustained is quite significant.

    The Richter scale has certainly shaken the media, bringing home pictures and stories of the disaster on the hour. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to negotiate that highway from Siliguri to Gangtok and then to Mangan. It must have taken hours of patience to overcome the landslips and broken bends

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