Some Seismic Sense Sought

Assam-Type House
The earth quivers and hell descends on earth. We may blame the forces of nature for the devastation. But it is human nature, as I mentioned in my last post, which is really responsible.

My neighbours across the lane are adding two stories to their home. The construction began hardly 10-12 days ago and it’s more than half complete. I was surprised to discover that there were no pillars, only brick upon brick and no supporting columns. My colleagues tell me that many houses in Delhi are constructed this way; it saves time and more importantly money. What about safety? Eternal optimists, I presume.

The British having learnt their lesson from the 1897 Shillong earthquake took extra caution in constructing buildings in the seismic active far eastern India. The Assam-type houses, a common feature in both the hills and the plains of the region are not only easy on the bank balances but quake proof of a very high order. But then the common man discovered RCC. Common sense gave way to rigidity; the sense of aesthetics also got a little wayward. No new Assam-types are being constructed and the existing progressively demolished. Land prices have become directly proportional to the altitude of the buildings.

When the earth trembles, I don’t worry about my parents, I know that they’ll be safe in an Assam-type cottage on the hills. About me, I don’t feel very secure within the confines of modern architecture.