The Water Cooler
  • What makes earthquakes happen?

    Can you feel one?

    The panic in the second question has no answer. (The answer to the first, though, is embedded in the question.)

    In the one that hit Sikkim, Nepal and Tibet, tremors were also felt in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Delhi.

    (Yes, increasingly, our worlds are being cracked open by the earth’s activity, conjoining in ever hopeful grief.)

    Photo: Shonar JoshiEven though I’m from Delhi and have traveled to all of the above places except Tripura and Tibet, Sikkim singes as a very particular kind of emotional aftershock. Maybe because some of my growing up years were spent in the mountains, one knows what makes hill folk hardy (drinkers?), energy-conserving-genteel but an idiosyncrasy-tolerant lot and, most of all, perennially hugged by an over-the-shoulder peek at a peak. Anytime of the night you can find it here.

    (Like the rivers that were fairly perennial until we perennially started testing this.)


    But to know Sikkim

    Read More »from Tremors that bind - North by Northeast?
  • When in Sikkim, be a responsible tourist

    Sanjay Barnela

    Untitled from DUSTY FOOT PRODUCTION on Vimeo.

    When in Sikkim, be a responsible tourist

    This is a clip from our film on Sikkim, " Leave nothing but Footprints". This clip gives you a visual sense of the civic nightmare that  parts of Sikkim are becoming and how higher up, local efforts are making a concerted difference. A trekker's delight, this jewel of northeast India could do  with a (more) responsible profile of tourists. A model of tourism that follows the triple bottom line: one that contributes to local livelihoods, protects local culture, and the environment.

    Sanjay Barnela is a Delhi-based award-winning documentary filmmaker who specializes in conservation and livelihood issues. He is also an avid trekker. More information about his films is available at his website Moving Images.
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  • 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.

    Read More »from Smiling through the pain
  • 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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