The “Shaking Kashmir” earthquake

The original headline in the newspaper.

This morning when I read the headline “Prepare for earthquake 8.0 & above”, my whole life flashed in front of my eyes. I cherished the things I have done and regretted the things I am yet to do, the places I want to visit, the books I want to read, the food I want to eat and so on. Life is so deceiving, I thought. The next thing that flashed before my eyes was the earthquake scenario, where would I be when it strikes, how will I run out, how will I make sure my things are safe if the house falls. It is ok if I die in the earthquake, but I don’t want to be trapped alive in the rubble, even the thought of this suffocates me.

I pushed away these thoughts and switched to read the other headlines and a few minute words below this headline (read danger sign) caught my attention. Just below this danger sign was a line in smaller font size that read “The Governor writes to CM, seeks time-bound steps to reduce JK’s vulnerability in case earthquake strikes”.

Huh! The news is that the Governor has written to CM to take steps to mitigate the damages if an earthquake strikes and that terrifying headline was probably an excerpt from the letter. If we go through this whole news item, the probability is negated because the quoted headline is nowhere in the text. The desk has just assumed. The governor has asked to prepare for the earthquake, the magnitude 8.0 has come up as an assumption. What is not in the news is written in red on black, and the main news is written in small fonts in grey on black.  In the game of headlines of red on black, the subhead, which is written with black on grey, is the actual news.  If I had some vision defects, I would not have seen it at all. Chances are that I would have started to prepare a quick list of things I want to do before the earthquake strikes.

Red and white on black! It is such an attention grabbing colour combination. By the way black denotes mourning and red is danger, so technically this morning we all considered ourselves dead and mourned it too. And those undulating lines above the headline, what were those? The Richter scale graphics or the pulse of a normal Kashmiri that lost momentum this morning when they read the news- I mean the headline. This headline was so scary that people were about to set up bonfires to set ablaze the jeans that brought the September 2014 floods and the scooties were about to be seized!

There is no doubt that Kashmir is on a ticking bomb of earthquakes, but the choice of words and colours of such news stories is only disturbing. The thin line between being alert and panicked is blurred with such words. (I have a cousin who rushes out of bathroom like anything, not because she is quick, but she wants to make sure that she is out of the bath in case an earthquake strikes. She isn’t alert, she is panicked).

To put it crudely this newspaper is just adding to the milieu of voices saying “bunyul ee.. wayn kya bani”. The newsroom of this newspaper is creating such a drama out of a prospective earthquake that it should be renamed to “Shaking Kashmir”. For God’s sake, it is simply a letter where the governor has asked the Chief Minister to take steps to minimize the loss in case a disaster occurs. What possessed the newsroom when today’s paper was being edited and designed?  May be tomorrow the governor writes a letter to the CM telling her to ensure the road safety. Can you imagine a headline in that case? Yes.

                               “Prepare for multitude of road accidents’.  

Anyways, the headline of this morning seems to be inspired from Star Plus for all the drama and suspense. The plots are cut pasted in such a way that it seems that the protagonist will die in this episode but when the show is aired it is about all the same old drama. They do it for the TRP’s, but why does this beloved newspaper need to do it? They have hooked a good readership. Please don’t scare the already terrified lot.

Mirza Ghalib is maukay pe ek shair arz karte hain ki “maut ka ek din mu’ayyan hai neend kyun raat bhar nahi aati


Sana Fazili is a journalist based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. She has worked for Hindustan Times, Kashmir Life and Kashmir Reader. This article was first published on her blog.

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