As I drove up the twisting roads to Shimla in the foothills of the Himalayas on 11th March I learnt of the severe earthquake and the tsunami in Japan. I also learnt of a relative who was in Japan to attend business meetings. It was two hours to sunset and my aim was to reach the Shimla before darkness fell. I didn’t want to drive uphill on the mountain roads in the dark. I drove with only a 5 minute break for a Limca and reached the hotel as the sun slipped behind the hills.
Over breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant the next morning I watched the news on BBC World. I learnt of a rumoured nuclear leak from a power plant about 150 km from Tokyo. I SMSed my relative stuck in Tokyo so he’d redouble his efforts to get out. Unaware of the electricity situation and to help conserve the battery of his cell phone I didn’t call. The delivery report of the SMS was enough.
On the Ridge in Shimla children enjoyed joyrides on horses, people licked ice-cream and had their photos clicked with the Church in the background.
As I climbed up the steep slope to Jakhu temple, in faraway Japan, the threat of a nuclear disaster loomed big upon the small nation struck by the earthquake-tsunami. I looked at the scenic Himalayas and wondered if they were rumbling inside. The Himalayas are in a highly seismic zone being one of the youngest mountain ranges. The thought refused to bother me.
I climbed up the steep slope calmly huffing and puffing while the monkeys pranced lightly on the trees. I felt tranquil and the monkeys didn’t appear to be threatened by the Himalayas, either. I wondered how the situation could change in a flash and devastation engulf us. Yet, I just enjoyed the invigorating mountain air which brushed my cheeks, ruffled my hair and rustled in my ears.
Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away in the Fukushima nuclear plant 200 operators stayed behind to mitigate the effect of the nuclear disaster. With clothes probably seethed with radiation their last ditch frantic efforts are for the benefit of not one person but for all the people who might be affected by the nuclear radiation. Maybe they hum, under their breath, Everything I do, I do it for you.
The ‘Fukushima 50‘ are the living embodiment of the Bryan Adams’ song, Everything I do, I do it for you. The answer to the question, Who’d be affected by radiation, is blowin’ in the wind. The direction in which the wind blows would decide that. As BobDylan sang, ‘the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.’
There are others like the ‘Fukushima 50.’ Here is what my relative told us upon his return.
The earthquake struck while the visitng team from India was in a meeting with a Japanese firm. Initially taken lightly, the smiles turned to fear and then to resignation when the earth didn’t stop shaking for a few minutes. The meeting resumed 45 minutes after the earthquake and ended sooner than planned. The drive to the hotel took 3 hours instead of the usual 35 minutes because of the heavy traffic. They were driven by a senior official of the Japanese firm they’d been meeting. Even though he had no information about the whereabouts of his wife and daughter the Japanese official felt it his duty to first drop the visitors safely at the hotel before looking for his family. The night in the hotel was spent in the lobby. Nobody wanted to sleep in rooms many floors above the ground. The hotel staff provided blankets, tea, coffee and dinner. The next task was to get to the airport. An Indian, a business associate, who’d been in Japan for 40 years, took it upon himself to see them off safely. He arranged taxis and didn’t leave till the boarding passes were in their hands.