One year back, on 11th of April (2012) I was sitting for an exam. I was blaming (only in my other parallel world) the uni officials for arranging the exam on this particular day before the New Year, where I had to cancel all my plans of going home for the new year vacation. The question paper scheduled was not a very difficult one, and also it was an open book exam, where you can take any number of books or documents to the exam hall and refer when you are writing. To make sure that I don’t get anything wrong, I even took a leave from office and collected and arranged all the notes I had. I was totally fit for the exam, it was scheduled from 2 to 5 in the evening. A 3 hour question paper.
Exam started at 2 ‘o clock and I was writing and writing and By 3 ‘o clock I had covered almost 2 Qs and feeling quite ok, thought of giving some rest to my aching wrist. (u know.. the most aching part of of your hand when writing fast is your wrist, true..) I was totally focused on the exam, forgetting everything apart from the question paper. As I raised my head I saw some 2-3 girls walking away from the exam hall with the phones in their ears. That was a marketing exam, and i knew it for sure even for a marketing guru it is not possible to finish and leave the hall in 1 hour. God.. this was an open book exam, but wondered whether suddenly they have allowed to use mobile phones also in the exams.
2- 3 minutes later the chief examiner shouted ‘if anyone needs to make any call you can go outside, and you will be given an extra 5 minutes’. I thought: ‘wow.. call-a-friend option.. I also can get someone to confirm some answers – this should be allowed in every exam..!’
Everyone started chatting with each other forgetting this is an exam hall. I was secretly asking a friend near me, ‘machan.., what’s this rush is all about?’ he replied, ‘didn’t you get the message? There has been an earthquake somewhere in Indonesia, they say that a tsunami is going to hit the coast sooner’
I was like :O. a t-s-u-n-a-m-i..?
All that time I kept my phone off as it is not allowed in the exams. I took it out and turned it on. There were a lot of messages loading in to the inbox – the messages from many news stations. 1 said that there was an earthquake near Sumatra, of 8.2 in magnitude created the tsunami and is travelling towards Sri Lanka and will hit our shores around 4.15 pm.
First thing came to my mind was I could finish it before the wave hit the uni.. 🙂 but something triggered me that i need to choose between exam and hmm.. L-I-F-E.
Everybody was calling their families, friends and loved ones in a hurry.
Darling get the kids to the upstairs. Don’t come down for any reason..
Thatha take the grandpa and run to the temple on the hill.. Hurry.. Don’t wait a single second..
I tried calling home, but failed, the network was damn busy I couldn’t connect. A lot of people faced the same situation, and some were even blaming the telephone companies also.
A little later our examiner asked, ‘students, do you want to continue the exam or would you like to stop it here right now?’
We were like . Even though the exam was not that hard, there were people who had relatives at coastal area and were really worried. Nobody could take a decision. A few mins later the examiner announced that the exam will be stopped and asked everyone to leave as soon as possible as the govt has ordered to shut down all offices in the coastal area.
Everybody got panicked.. Forget tsunami, Now what will happen to the exam..? Do we need to sit for it again..? Or will they count the answers and give marks for what we have already written? Someone suggested they can give marks as in Duckworth Levis method – As we do it in cricket, when the game stops for rain. 🙂
I was able to call home in the meantime and amma, she was at Bandarawela and she said that something strange had happened an hour ago and she thought some earthquake has happened. I told her the news I got, she was still not aware of it and got terrrribly upset and she wanted me to come home as soon as possible.
We tried to come out from the uni but the roads were flooded with traffic. Can’t get a vehicle on the road – all were stuck at junctions. There were a few friends of me and we thought of staying for some time till the roads get clear. Also there is a 3 story building where we thought we could climb in case the tsunami hits there. We were having the radios on to get the latest updates and one news said that a wave of 17 cm is travelling and can be dangerous when it’s near the coast in the shallow waters.
There were some girls waiting for their parents to take them home and they started crying after hearing the news. None of us could get a call due to the jammed network. The situations get severely worse when you don’t know how to tackle crying girls.
Later it was announced that the earthquake was a horizontal one (not a vertical, which does biiig damages) and not going to be that serious and the tsunami alert was lifted off later. If it has gone vertical, then it would have been a different story.
Though it didn’t hit this time, people in the coastal areas were well prepared to face an emergency situation. Everyone was trained and aware of what to do where to go in a situation like here. We have learnt the lesson from the previous disaster (In 2004) and I don’t know whether it is the inner fear or something else, everyone followed the lesson rather running here and there causing trouble for everyone. The tsunami alert system (installed in deep seas) was functioning well and gave the message in advance and all the emergency services were activated to face any havoc.
If the tsunami is to hit the coast, a disaster would have been inevitable. But the damage it could make is minimized with the vigilance and the pre preparation of the public. It is very important for a country to have a proper plan to face a disaster and that the general public is aware of a possible situation and act accordingly to save lives and properties than getting panicked afterwards.