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“It’s 12.1 and the epic centre (epicentre) is Afghanistan,” yells a middle-aged man inside the Delhi Metro train even as the entire north India was getting aftershocks of a massive earthquake in Nepal. He is constantly staring at his smartphone screen drawing the interest of the entire crowd in the middle of the Metro rail coach.
As the reports flood in and the notifications pop up, the man screams the numbers “7.1; no no, it’s 7.2. And the epicenter (now he got it right) has moved from Afghanistan to Nepal”.
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Another man snaps, “How can the epicentre move? Yaar mujhe samajh mein nahein a raha hein“.
Everyone pulls out their smartphones eager to answer his question. They are sure that the Google can handle it. It’s just the number and the location they need to make them sound intelligent. I can hear the storm of notification jingles of various news apps every other minute. The report refinement is going on. But all they want is just a number and a location to prove the other person wrong.
Phase two: Alerting the loved ones at homes.
As the panic goes viral, responsible fathers and worried husbands pick up their phones calling half of their contact list and updating the Richter numbers. Some, I see, even taking efforts to explain what Richter is. “12.1, matlab, bahut bhari and bhayanak (huge and dangerous)”. And the ambiguous news is jumping across the networks crossing cities and states probably.
By now the decibel levels seem to undermine the Richter scale in the coach.
As the metro stalls at a station, you hear the melodious prerecorded message ” Is yatra mein thoda vilam hoga (There will be a slight delay in the service)…”. Half the crowd gets on the platform, and the rest of the passive lot is inside the coach, busy on calls or earphones plugged in scrolling through their music playlists on smartphones.
Now the final phase begins; discussions and analysis. Probably the best GDs happen here, all that they miss is important facts. From the Gujarat earthquake to the recent devastating quake in Nepal, everything is discussed and, of course, a ‘by-default’ couple of cuss words spared for the government’s inability to handle the situation.
As the panic simmers down slowly, and now that the final reports have come out, the story says “7.4 earthquake hits Nepal border, shakes whole of north India”. The news is clear, but what is unclear is how correct were the initial panic reports which crossed the borders through phone calls.
And then the jingle in the metro follows; doors close behind me, and things fall back in place.