The Earthquake by Ruskin Bond is a short story covered in many of his short stories collections. This story talks about the famous earthquake of Assam and Bengal which took place on 12 June 1897. Surely, Ruskin wasn’t born then, but this story is about his grandfather and his father was a child then. His grandfather is in the habit of spending unnecessary time while bathing in a tub. Sometimes, he will sleep there or splash water like a child for hours. On the other hand, grandmother always expresses concern over his bathing habit, and instinctively she was sure that if the natural calamity strikes anytime then the grandfather will be found in the bathroom.
When earthquake jolts the earth and buildings and dams and other thatch-roofed houses tumble down to rubble, grandfather runs for his life from the back door, since the front doors are obscured by furniture, thatch, bricks, etc. This earthquake causes much damage to the property and many lives are lost. Though its center was Shillong, but it was such a record-breaking high in intensity that its effect was seen till Calcutta and Bhagalpur. Even trains were overturned and derailed.
Grandfather takes the family under a wooden cottage which surprisingly didn’t come down in such havoc-causing earthquake. People were running here and there and after the earthquake people slept alfresco for many nights. They were terrified. Somehow grandfather along with his family manage to move away to Calcutta. Though Calcutta was far away but still the cracks on buildings and mansions were evident. And soon it is going to be the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and for that the proposal of sixty guns salute was mandated. Well, grandfather was against it because he thought that that much firing may bring many of the cracked buildings down. On the other hand, salute to Queen was also important. The guns were duly fired and nothing happened to Calcutta – it remained standing.
Written in simple style! It is the beauty of this author that a dreadful event like earthquake he penned down wittingly with grace and substance.