Weatherman Lotus In The Fest Of Humorous Treats And Theories

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Needless to say, Sonum Lotus’s flip-in-stance added fuel to the fire by raising suspicions amongst Kashmiris active across social media platforms. So did the letter from the Indian Air Force.

ON Tuesday night, exactly at 21:40:29 IST, Srinagar and adjoining areas were jolted by what many call a “sonic” boom. People rushed out of their homes to find their panic multiplied by a noisy confusion around the reason behind the large thud.

Social media was flushed with Kashmiris posting about the unsettling shake, trying to find the meaning behind it all. Speculations about it being an ‘explosion’ found validation in a recent missive by the Indian Air Force through which it had announced that it was conducting a massive demolition practice of 100 to 120 kg bombs in Srinagar.

Tensions and rumour-mongering compounded when the Director of Srinagar’s Meteorological Department, Sonum Lotus, spoke to a news channel saying “It could be anything, but it is not an earthquake.”

Interestingly, after the first 45 minutes of panic – virtually and otherwise – that followed the inscrutable shake, Sonum Lotus declared at 10.25 PM that it “was an earthquake”.

“FRIENDS IT WAS AN EARTHQUAKE,” he sent a one-line message through his official WhatsApp account. Along with that, he also provided the Earthquake (EQ) Parameters – Magnitude: 3.6; Date: 22.09.2020; Time: 21:40:29 IST; Latitude: 34.15N; Longitude: 74.70 E; Depth: 5 Km; Region: Srinagar, J&K.

However, people across the virtual world – Kashmiris in particular – managed to make the most out of this brief period of uncertainty as they filled these spaces with creative memes, videos, and satirical writing.

Surprisingly, even a day after the official declaration about how the jolt originated from an ‘earthquake’, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram kept the conversation about it alive. This was largely because most of the tweets and posts were probing into recent declarations and current affairs to calculate the timing and reason behind the ground-shaking thud.

Needless to say, Sonum Lotus’s flip-in-stance added fuel to the fire by raising suspicions amongst Kashmiris active across social media platforms. So did the letter from the Indian Air Force.

But, suspicions apart, laughing at the hilarity of the commissioned official’s inconstancy, Kashmiris indulged in some dank humour and inside jokes.

Some of the people’s favourites were –

 

There were few exclusives for the trending ‘chief(s)’ –

 

In any way, a pool of participants imperative to this digital exchange was of people using the ‘earthquake’ as a metaphor to highlight the increasingly totalitarian doings of the current official setup in the Valley.

 

 

A basic search and five minutes of scrolling showed any viewer that an overwhelming and virtually-noticeable majority of Kashmiris had rejected the administration’s and Lotus’s (final) version of the episode. This mass rejection by Kashmiris on social media had also grabbed the attention of many.

The less skeptic Kashmiris were quoting an alert from the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC). It is an independent scientific organisation founded in 1975 based on a recommendation by the European Seismological Commission. Its official handle had tweeted at 10:20 PM that “shaking was reported” in Srinagar.

Before this tweet, however, the handler of EMSC’s account accidentally but comically wrote that the shaking lasted a total of 20 minutes in the city – spinning a web of reactionary retweets and replies.

Around the same time period, the independent body also made an effort to rationalise the counter to their ‘earthquake declaration’ by mentioning from their access to eye-witness accounts that ‘shaking’ is mostly caused by earthquakes. But it also admitted to the possibility of some ‘military jets’ being responsible for it, as it drew a parallel between the Srinagar boom and the tragic explosion at the Beirut harbour in its tweet.

So, do we take Sonum Lotus’s ‘technical’ statement before his WhatsApp announcement as a careless – but massive – oversight/Freudian slip or just as plain incompetency?

Maybe he was right the first time or maybe he wasn’t. Everybody is in the wait for more reports and expert findings.

Meanwhile, we are wondering if the EMSC was misinformed about the most recognised and used script in the Valley. Its account usually tweets region-specific alerts with a hashtag for the word ‘earthquake’ in the region’s native language.

In their (misplaced) enthusiasm, not only did they tweet with a major typo but also spelt ‘earthquake’ as ‘bhukamp’ in the Devanagiri script for a Koshur/Urdu-speaking Kashmir.

Even the newly-passed J&K official languages bill, that is yet to be a law, has not hinted at the superimposition of one script in its text so far.

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Sanika Athavale

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