natural disaster

In pictures: A mysterious earth crack appears in Manipur hills, damaging homes, displacing hundreds

While there were rumours that it was caused by a dormant volcano coming to life, scholars believe the recent bout of heavy rain was the culprit.

For the last week, Manipuri papers have been carrying regular updates on a mysterious “earth crack” in Kankpokpi district in the hills. It appeared on the morning of June 4, leading to a panic about possible landslides. A resident of the area described how they felt a sudden “earth movement” and their house nearly collapsed.

The crack originated below J Songtun village and then spread towards Kalikhola village. By June 5, 11 houses had collapsed while 19 others were on the brink of destruction. Angry fissures also passed through surrounding paddy fields and roads, destroying them too. By June 8, the crack had widened and affected structures in a five kilometre radius, damaging water pipelines and electric posts. Two water bodies had formed near Kalikhola village.

About 250 people have been moved to relief camps, where they have to make do with scanty water and electricity. After a visit to the area, Manipur Tribal Development Minister N Kayisii provided Rs 3 lakh in financial assistance to those displaced by the fissure. After principal secretary, relief and disaster management, inspected the fissure, along with other Kangpokpi officials, Rs 20 lakh was sanctioned as relief.

The causes of the crack are a mystery. A team from the Geological Survey of India also went to study the crack. Briefly, there was a rumour claiming that a dormant volcano in the Koubru range was showing signs of life, causing the ground to shift. But the story has since been dismissed: similar rumours had floated up in the state assembly after landslides in 1989, this report claims.

Chunks of earth dislodged by the fissure descend on the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Road in Kangpokpi district.
Chunks of earth dislodged by the fissure descend on the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Road in Kangpokpi district.

According to Th Ranjit, associate professor at a science college in the state, it was a result of the recent bout of heavy rains in deforested hills with rich soil cover. Earth cracks have appeared in several parts of the world before, in South Africa and Wyoming and the middle of the Arizona desert. At times, it was attributed to the shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates. Some were called sinkholes. In Arizona, it was believed that the withdrawal of ground water had left a void which made the earth cave in.

Meanwhile, the geological curiosity had drawn hordes of visitors from nearby villages in the Manipur hills. The district administration may impose Section 144 to keep them away from the hazardous area.

Earth cracks spread to the recently constructed Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Road.
Earth cracks spread to the recently constructed Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Road.
The road has been swept away towards the river.
The road has been swept away towards the river.
Sinking paddy fields in Kalikhola village.
Sinking paddy fields in Kalikhola village.
Angry cracks run split apart paddy fields.
Angry cracks run split apart paddy fields.
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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.