(Thanks all for the well wishes and thoughts.The scribbling below is my way of saluting the spirit of Japanese, which kept self and family retain our sanity and some of our humor, caught as such in the midst of this mega tragedy)
The earthquake was bad (8.9 that lasted for over 3 minutes; even the aftershocks were many and over 7); but the people, place, processes and technology were prepared to take it on and not buckle under (however unprecedented this particular one is). Amazed to see how almost everyone was calm, going about in an orderly manner while evacuating and taking the whole experience in their stride.
Daughter was in her piano class, her teacher held her tight while she continued playing (ironically – ‘Row row row the boat, gently down the stream’).
Most soothing and reassuring were our owners – who called Neeraja and Hema down for tea and cake, saying ‘its ok, relax, stay indoors, the house is well built and protected’.
All this while I was having a swinging time 30 floors above in Ybesiu Garden Place Tower, with my colleagues – whose smiles i returned for the first 1 minute (used to the experience, knowing that the building was one of the safest in Tokyo); and then was one of the first to dive and duck promptly under my desk – knowing it cdnt be business as usual. From swinging, the building now swayed and shook wildly, I dialed Neeraja to check their whereabouts then switched off to save them from hearing the screams and such in the background.
After what seemed like an eternity and apocalypse – seeing comps strewn, desks swept clean, printers toppled and presentations mixed up; the seasoned heads suggested we march down 30 floors – alternatives for me being waiting to be airlifted or the floor to acquire the properties of an elevator with no stops in between straight to the terr(or)firma.
Keeping a smiling face, stopping politely every two flights down to wait for few people who were climbing up clutching their laptops to complete the remaining stuff to be sent across to clients isn’t an easy task but it was done and all the 30 floor down. No rushing of feet, or stomping of ground, no racing through or overtaking, just good old saunter down as if going down for a quick steaming cup of coffee. Mine, I guess, was the only voice – making wise-cracks about going for earth-cake; or getting Richter by selling my first-hand experience to some gullible publisher..and the likes; more to mask the ffffffffing shhhhh**** scared b(l)eating heart with-in.
Outside everyone was gathered in groups looking up at the still swaying building, posing for pictures (the all recognisable V-sign flashing, signaling the Kawaii (Cute)-ness of the situation and that everything is Genki (Well)). After a 30 minute exchange of notes, and cracks on situation and frustration over not able to reach loved ones over the airwaves, I headed home while some of my inimitable colleagues prepared for the 30 flight climb up, to tie-up loose ends on the JTBD (Jobs to be done)
Phones didn’t work, a small glitch in an otherwise extra-ordinarily efficient disaster management system. Had to work for a while with no taxis stopping, apparently another part of the drill, to keep the streets/roads clear for fire engines, ambulances, police cars and buses (which didn’t charge) to ferry people home. I took one, reached home; slightly assured that the family is safe (net worked (and how), checked neeraja:s message on facebook) and fearing the worst for the precious possessions (TV, Ipod, Tolly/Kolly/Bolly/Holly DVDs (in that order)).
And what a sight, when I reached the building!
Owner (Akaishi-san) opened the door, smiled benevolently in his typical fatherly manner; bowed politely and said, ‘come come come, the tea is hot; and we have got cakes from Holland, which you will like. Hema chan likes them very much’). Inside the only sign of all the drama outside (which was still unfolding as we did not yet hear about Sendai and the second disaster (not) waiting to hit Japan), was the swinging chandelier, and the excited and reassuring voices of wife and daughter chattering first to Mrs. Akaishi-san and then, rushing to me and rattling off their adventures on the day, which will forever be etched in our memories afresh – Both for:
– the zen like demeanor of Japanese amidst such a huge disaster (However the Tsunami was one that no one could prepare for – 10 meters high traveling over 500 miles an hour stretching over 10s of kilometers; and that is a real tragedy of epic proportions – destruction and consequences of which are yet to be realised); and
– the realisation that if at all there is a place on earth that I want to be with my family and friends (current and extended), when (god forbid) such a disaster ever struck again; then it is this country Japan.
Back in our home, one flight up from the blissful state of tea sipping and cake chomping; save a few books that fell off the shelves, and few photos that fell off their perch, things haven’t traded places and life returned to normalcy. We all said our respective prayers – Neeraja went to make coffee, Hema tugging at my sleeve asking me to recount for the 1000th time – some story about an unbearably cute blue train called Thomas; me counting my blessings and reaching out for the remote.