The sky knows no bounds

The sky knows no bounds
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Today is Blog Quake Day.

It is also the day that the UN is holding an international donor conference in Geneva to dicuss relief operations and aid the victims of the earthquake before a “winter without pity” sets in.

Last week, after writing this post about the October 8th earthquake that hit areas of northern Pakistan, Kashmir, India, and Afghanistan, I felt so helpless and in dire need of mental relaxation that I did what I do best: I stopped by the local park on my way home from running errands.

Getting out of my car, I glanced in the direction of the playground and realized that there were an inordinate number of adults and children present. Some kid’s birthday celebration. Not the best place for respite, after all, but my head and my heart hurt and I really, really needed the swings. I hesitated about whether to keep my sunglasses on (something I’ve never done outside the car), but then mentally shrugged. I hadn’t wanted to see people; if I kept my sunglasses on, it’d be as if they weren’t there. And if I kept ’em on, it’d be as if I blended into the background and perhaps no one would unduly wonder why this 24-year-old was venturing into the swing area. And, of course, if I cried, no one would notice. It’d be like sunglasses with superhero powers.

I slammed the car door shut, defiantly shoved the sunglasses further against my nose, and stalked across the playground, head held high, mouth tight, eyebrows furrowed, looking straight ahead. I couldn’t tell if anyone watched or not. I dropped my bag onto the sand and clambered onto a vacant swing with only a cursory glance at the giggling little girl occupying the next one over. Only when my legs were swinging high was I able to breathe deeply for the first time all day.

But even with my superhero sunglasses on and my face sternly set in a squint against impending tears, I watched people, as always. A little boy, no more than four, sat astride a tiny, training wheel-equipped bicycle and peddled happily along the concrete paths winding throughout the park, followed by his mother in the distance. I turned to watch him with a slight smile as he continued peddling behind me. Just as I did so, he turned the bike handles abruptly, upsetting his balance. Both the bike and the boy tumbled down, crookedly coming to a rest half on the concrete pathway, half on the scratchy bark that lined the playground.

I sucked in a breath and slowed down my swing, but even as I dug my toes into the sand and his mother watched from yards away with only the merest, mildest hint of concern on her face, the little boy, lying face-down at a worrisome angle on the concrete, let out an unexpected, high-pitched peal of laughter. The pain around my heart eased up a bit. I felt an answering smile on my face, and, shaking my head, watched him wriggle around, jump up to his feet, and try to raise his fallen bicycle. It took him several minutes. I quickened my swing again and marveled at the fact that children are so resilient.

It is inconceivable to me that the same sky that spills sunshine in California will be soon sending snow onto the heads of those in the mountains of Pakistan and Kashmir, that the survivors have barely had a moment to mourn the loss of their loved ones, focusing instead on digging bodies out of the rubble and trying to make it through the night. Numbed by grief and cold, they wait for aid so that they can erect tents and make it through the winter.

Like Basit, I, too, have bought a pile of used books recently, with money that could have instead gone towards relief efforts. Actually, I’ve bought quite a number of things in the past few weeks: books, numerous bags of groceries, a pair of sandals, a shirt, some earrings. And every time the register rings up my purchases, I wince and think to myself, “Okay, for every dollar I’ve just spent here, I’ll donate one towards earthquake relief.” Because that’s a lot of dollars. It’s always hard to remember that once I get home, though. Or once I wake up the next sunny morning after tossing and turning in my comfortable bed and wondering what those without winterized tents are doing.

I’ve temporarily given up music this month in deference to Ramadan, listening to nothing but Quran recitations in my car these days. And for the last eighteen days, all I’ve been doing is compulsively playing the recitation of Surah al-Zilzalah, the chapter entitled The Earthquake, on repeat. I never thought I’d be able to recite those tongue-twisting lines myself, but I’ve got the first three down by now:

Idha zulzilatil ardu zilzalaha
Wa akhrajatil ardu athqalaha
Wa qalal insanu ma laha

When the earth is shaken to her (utmost) convulsion,
And the earth throws up her burdens (from within),
And man cries (distressed): ‘What is the matter with her?’-

Think about how long these last eighteen days must have seemed for those affected by the earthquake.

DesiPundit has taken the initiative in organizing this Blog Quake movement to raise relief funds. As I mentioned previously, a small list of relief organizations is available in DesiPundit’s post. You can also directly help relief efforts by buying hella slick tshirts through Chapati Mystery.

Here are a few ideas for donations:

one: The Association for the Development of Pakistan (ADP) has a Long Term Earthquake Relief Fund, which will “fund redevelopment once the immediate needs have been met.”

two: The Edhi Foundation is “undeniably the most trusted NGO in Pakistan with a large operational network throughout the country.” They accept credit card donations through this site. If you reside in the United States, you may also mail them checks at:

Earthquake Relief in Pakistan
Bilqis Edhi Relief Foundation
4207 National St
Corona, NY 11368-2444

They are a registered charity, Tax ID 11-345067, phone number (718) 639-5120.

three: Hidaya Foundation is an organization in the Bay Area that I know well and trust. Don’t you want to help them help these children?

also: Baraka at Truth & Beauty has a creative list of ways in which you can help, and Sister Scorpion has posted everyday, practical ways in which we can cut back on our personal budgets and send the saved funds towards relief efforts. You can so do this.

The earthquake-related death toll has already hit 80,000, and will definitely reach still beyond that, as survivors in turn fall victim to the perils of cold weather, limited medical attention, and malnutrition. An entire generation of children has already been lost in many of the villages and towns rocked by the earthquake. Those people who’ve been lucky – or unfortunate – to survive are in dire need of blankets and winterized tents. In two weeks, it will begin snowing in the mountainous regions of Kashmir, and the nearly one million survivors who still have their lives to rebuild are lacking adequate shelter. A second wave of deaths has already begun.

The UN has said, in regards to this earthquake, that they have never before seen such a logistical nightmare. The photographs I’ve seen so far, and the articles I’ve perused, are breathtakingly shocking and heartbreaking. Please take a minute of your time to donate towards relief and reconstruction efforts. Help those who are struggling for relief and aid.

[Technorati tag: blog quake day]

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