Surviving the Praides

Graphic by Tejal Kawachi

Everybody was rushing about the Central Park of Connaught Place. Police cars were swarming around the park. One side of the circle was completely shut off. A building lay flat on that road.

The Central Park had become a shelter for the employees of the L.I.C building, the shops of CP, and everyone who was in CP before disaster struck. 

I was in the middle of the circle when it happened. I was clicking pictures of my girlfriend when the phone started shaking. Initially, I thought my hands had become tired, but then my whole body started moving. It was not my body moving,  it was the Earth.

I rushed to my girlfriend and put my arms around her. I was trying to protect her but I knew nobody can protect anyone from nature. Nature’s wrath is equal towards everyone. 

When the shaking stopped, the world around us had become humble. 

I looked around. 

The big flag that used to signify the glory of C.P and India was lying on the ground, suffocating in dust, metal, concrete, and soil. The LIC building was still standing but the top half floors were scattered on the road. From the park, I could only see some shops. The circle was not a circle anymore. There were empty spaces, a sign of a fallen building, between the shops. 

“What’s that?” Saki, my girlfriend, said pointing towards the sky. I turned my head around and saw horror. 

Far into the horizon, the sky was blood red and a volcanic grey cloud was rising. Soon afterward, we were breathing in a metallic taste along with oxygen. It was as if somebody had put a piece of pure copper directly on our tongues. 

A policeman arrived and handed us two masks.

“Put these on or you’ll suffocate to death,” he said. 

We put them on immediately and left with the policeman. He grabbed my right arm and I grabbed on to Saki. He took us inside a building on the side of the Inner Circle and told us to stay there. There were about a dozen people there. All were either covered in dust or blood.

“What’s happening Sanjay! Why the hell are we here?!” Saki asked. Silence. 

“Ma’am, please calm down. We’re all stuck together. Saying bad words won’t make the situation good,” a black shirt said. There were two other men in black shirts. They were probably the employees of the store that resembled the scattered clothes and hangers.

A woman sitting with her back resting on the wall looked our way. “It’s the Praides,” she said. 

“What?” Saki asked. I held onto her hand and hugged her tightly, trying to comfort her.

“The Praides!” the woman shouted slowly. She didn’t know what was happening but didn’t care.

“What the hell is that?” Saki shouted. She let go of me and moved towards this lady. The lady, who was wearing a white top with blue shorts and high leg boots, stood up and faced Saki now.

“A meteor, my dear,” she said calmly.

All eighteen eyes now turned towards her.

“What the hell are you saying? How could there be a meteor impact in the middle of the day?” I said. The people around us started chatting.

“Here, have a look for yourself,” she said and handed us her iPhone 13. 

It was a video of a meteor in the skies. The person on the video spoke Hindi. You could see a brownish ball falling through the skies, turning into a fireball, and crashing in a place not too far. 

“Gaye sab gaye,” the cameraman said in horror.

The meteor rushed across the sky and fell somewhere far away from the man’s house. I caught a glimpse of something like a white dome in the video. Maybe it was the Taj Mahal. The video might’ve been from Agra.

Realizing what had come, I called my parents. They didn’t pick up. Saki’s parents did. They were ‘well and good’ inside their villa. Praides couldn’t take their abode away.

We spent the next 24 hours stuck inside the store. We ate chips, drank cold drinks, and went to the bathroom. Luckily there was a good amount of water in the tank.

Then a van arrived. By this time my phone’s battery was on its last legs. I’d kept it on battery-saving mode. When we asked the van driver what he knew about the meteor, he said — “North Delhi is all gone. I rescued some students from Kamla Nehru College. All North Campus colleges are in the dust.”

Saki and I spent the rest of the journey holding on to each other’s hands.

After reaching the shelter, we finally had the chance to charge our phones.

I checked the news. 

“30 million died as a 90m wide meteor ‘Praides’ fell in Sonipat, a city 30 km from the capital of India. Millions more are either in hospitals or battling for their lives under the rubble. The meteor impact caused a 6.2 magnitude Earthquake, originating from Sonipat. The Prime Minister along with the President was said to have flown away to Mumbai just before the meteor hit. It is feared that more earthquakes …”

I closed all the tabs on my phone and kept it aside. There was only a makeshift bed, or whatever you call lying down on a sheet on the floor. I lay down and closed my eyes.

I dreamt of Saki and I traveling in an open jeep on the steep roads of Himachal. We stopped to take a look at the valley from the mountainous heights. We stood on the edge of the road. Before us, there were mountains covered in snow, a cloudy sky, and a far horizon. We held on to each other’s mufflers and were just about to kiss when … the world crumbled.

The ground underneath us started caving in. Soon, darkness took over. 

I don’t remember what happened next, but when I opened my eyes, I was flying in the clouds. 

She looked even prettier from the clouds. I can tell you that much.


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