People move out of their apartments and compounds to an open area following an earthquake, in Ahmedabad, on June 14, 2020. Image Credit: PTI

It was not in jest. I meant it when during an informal gathering in our housing complex the other day, I suggested to my co-residents to go to bed properly clad. I told them, “Earthquake comes unannounced. You never know when it might drive you out to an open area.”

Rushing out wearing minimal clothing might cause embarrassment in a mixed gathering of men, women and children. I said I was saying this because of the frequency of tremors that have been jolting people in various parts of the country — from Jammu & Kashmir in the north to Punjab, Haryana, Delhi; Rajasthan, Gujarat to Maharashtra in the West. It hit Mizoram in the east four times in a week, once with a magnitude of 5.6 on the Richter scale. Otherwise, the tremors have fortunately been of low to moderate intensity, causing little damage.

The fact that the quake occurred 17 times in a month (June 2020) continues to raise apprehensions bordering on genuine fears among the people. Nobody knows what is in store for the morrow. So better be on guard always.

The year 2020 is half-spent in counting the horror stories of all kinds that continue to bombard us, sending chills down our spine every now and then. However, during the light-hearted conversation, a young neighbour wondered what he would do if he were in the loo during an earthquake.

Earthquake is a serious matter, but sometimes, it creates comical situations in high-rise buildings.


As we sat imagining and smiling at his predicament, he shyly disclosed that during the last quake sometime ago, he was literally caught with his pants down in the washroom. As the building shook suddenly, he was in a bind; to rush out in ‘as is where is’ position or move out after completing the ablution process.

We all laughed out loud and despite requests to tell us what eventually happened, he refused to disclose the state in which he came out.

In earlier times, earthquakes did not evoke much concern. This was because most dwellings were single-storeyed and had expansive courtyards to rush to. There was no pressure on space. And the two or three-storeyed ones were in most cases conjoined with neighbouring houses insulating each other against the tremors. But today’s multi-storeyed structures, notwithstanding architectural safeguards, have their own merits and demerits.

Comic tragedy

Earthquake is a serious matter, but sometimes, it creates comical situations in high-rise buildings. I am reminded of one night when our building started shaking and rumbling at 2am. Those living on the first and second floors did not have any problem but others faced awkward moments. So many persons, old and young, coming down the stairs with the speed of a youngster, presented a typical scene. But the cynosure of all eyes was a person who kept struggling hard to tie up the lungi (a long piece of fabric worn as a loincloth) around his bare body in the midst of the crowd.

Another male neighbour, clad in his bare essentials, clutched his toddler in his right arm and held his wife’s hand from the other one. This must have been a tough exercise while rushing down the staircase from the seventh floor. It was only when they reached the lawns, where everyone had assembled, that he realised he had forgotten to wear clothes.

more by the writer

Another lady evoked peals of laughter even in that situation when she came down wrapped in a bedsheet, which she hastily picked up from her bed. Obviously, there was little time to get properly clad at that unearthly hour. The embarrassment was writ large on her face but later even she joined in laughing with us.

Later, I learnt that in one apartment, the quake had made a housewife lash out at her spouse for disturbing her by recklessly shaking their bed at that odd hour.

It seems that earthquakes have become the order of the day the world over. It makes all sense to be battle (quake) ready all the time — day or night.

— Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.