Friday, September 30, 2005

Of Quakes and Quake Experiences

Believe us, Sovi Vidyadharan is certainly not having fun in Uri.

There are no mobile phone towers, no cyber cafes, no shops in the quake-hit regions - virtually cutting off the disaster correspondent from the rest of the world, as he strives to source stories amidst the devastation all around.

The only cyber cafe in Baramulla and those in Srinagar shut shop at 6.30 pm and for Sovi, who returns from Uri and adjoining areas late at night - these are of little help.

The rare sight of an STD/ISD centre on the way may be welcome, but the long queues of quake victims and army jawans waiting to talk to their folks back home is an unsettling one.

The only option - dictate stories to someone in Delhi over the phone (after coming back to areas which can boast of a mobile tower).

"I am practically celebrating Ramazan with the locals," says Sovi, pointing out that he hasn't had anything to eat since leaving for Uri at 8 in the morning.

The Dravidian lad's also caught a cold from staying out in the chilly winds and that's only made matters worse.

A back-breaking journey of several kilometres in a hired Tata Sumo, the barely there roads to Uri and Tangdhar are a cliffhanger of a test for even trained drivers, who manoeuvre with dangerously little room to spare.

Add to that the clouds of dust which swirl up and sneak inside the vehicle at regular intervals - "I have only had dust for lunch," says Sovi.

His only other companions - the myriad army trucks which pass his vehicle at regular intervals - are not something he looks forward to on the narrow roads.

One inch here or there, and one could go tumbling down into a cavernous gully. Sovi can certainly thank his lucky stars he seems to have an experienced driver.

Our message for Sovi - Hang in there buddy! You are with us in our prayers.

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