When the earthquake struck at 4.40 AM last week, the glass windows rattled loudly and we leapt out of bed in unison. However, this reflex action had little to do with an immediate awareness that tectonic plates were high-fiving each other kilometres below the earth’s surface; it had to do with another instinct that had been set in place a few days earlier.
The week before, the sound of crashing glass had brought us to our feet early one morning. It didn’t take long to ascertain that an over-enthusiastic paper-boy, no doubt using his daily route to practice for the shot-put event at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, had hurled a rolled-up newspaper towards our first-floor balcony with great exuberance. Since it isn’t a very deep balcony, and since most morning papers are getting fatter and more unwieldy by the day (no correlation with a rise in quality), the overall effect was that of the comic-book super-villain Mr Glass coming to a messy end right in our living room.
The boy ran away before we could spot him, but he showed up an hour later to apologise. After giving him a minor dressing down (“the Games are still three years away”, etc), we instructed him to henceforth leave the paper outside the door of the flat. Things have been less noisy in the mornings since then, though we’re always afraid that one of the neighborhood mongrels might mistake our daily harbinger of world tidings for a protein supplement.
But to return to the point, which is that where we are concerned, the Nov 26 quake was surprisingly benevolent compared to certain other daily incidents. In fact, given that it resulted in no casualties and hardly any damage to property, I’m tempted to designate it The Ideal Quake (as far as quakes go).
For one, the time of the thing was a near-perfect match for the sadistic water-supply timings (3.30 AM to 5.30 AM) in our block. Every alternate day, I have to set the alarm for 5 o’clock and then force myself out of bed in bits and pieces to put the booster on for half an hour, but this once we were out of bed in a flash, and even after the rumbling was over, there was little question of wishing to go back to sleep. Which in turn was good motivation for the performance of the Early Morning Walk, an apparently healthy ritual which we had discussed often, but which laziness had prevented us from putting into practice so far. It turns out that sunrises really are quite aesthetic.
In short, this quake was better than any wake-up call. You could argue that it was perhaps 20 minutes off the mark, but even the natural world must malfunction sometimes.