Can it get any geographically punnier than this?

Timmy : I’m Hungary,.

Mum : Why don’t you Czech the fridge.

Timmy : Ok, I’m Russian to the kitchen.

Mum : Hmm…maybe you’ll find some Turkey.

Timmy : Yeah, but its all covered in Greece. Yuck !

Mum : There is Norway you can eat that.

Timmy : I know, I guess I’ll just have a can of Chile.

Mum : Denmark your name on the can.

Timmy : Kenya do it for me?

Mum : Ok , I’m Ghana do it.

Timmy : Thanks, i’m so tired Iran for an hour today.

Mum : It Tokyo long enough.

Timmy : Yeah, Israelly hard sometimes !


The world has been witnessing with awe and shock the devastation caused by the massive earthquake, the Tsunami that followed and the fears of nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan. The reality horror show, live on TV with its mind numbing images must surely have left a mark on millions. The helplessness of one of the most advanced nation in the wake of natures fury must also be a humbling experience.

However, while millions of images have flooded our TV screens, the one footage that has had me completely mesmerised, and petrified, has been the one where skyscrapers in Tokyo What reaction does this video evoke in you? For me, there are two. One is that of amazement at how the skyscrapers withstand such intense tremors even as they sway. And secondly, and more importantly, the technique that is behind such construction and the apparent seriousness with which all building norms must have been followed.

The thoughts that followed these reactions, however, were not amazing. Instead, they gripped me with fear. These are the thoughts about the way buildings are constructed in our country. As I repeatedly have been saying during my posts on commonwealth games linked construction activities, we are a master at cutting corners and bypassing building bylaws. In fact, even the investigative agencies found that most of the quality certificates for games related construction were forged. It was little wonder that stadiums leaked on the day of their inauguration, or bridges fell days before their inauguration. It is all due to our chalta hai attitude combined with a corrupt builder/babu/politician nexus that makes us circumvent every guideline, with impunity and care a hoot for consequences.

And if the games related construction is scary, spare a thought for the National Capital Region of India that includes areas such as Gurgaon and Noida, two of the fastest developing areas of India. Both these areas together would perhaps now have more high rise apartment blocks than the rest of the country, including Mumbai. And the number is going up all the time.

Please remember, India, thanks to its sub-continental plate driving into Asia, is exceedingly earthquake prone. Based on this, the country has been divided into four seismic zones with the least vulnerable being zone 2 and most being 5. Delhi lies on a very high risk zone 4 that makes it highly vulnerable to large tremors. But do you think even for a moment that the private builders in the area would have seriously followed building norms to make the buildings safe for you and me to live in and feel secure in case the area was hit by a huge tremor?

Going by experience, it impossible to believe that anything would have been done the right way. In fact, the more I look at the video footage shared in the beginning, the more scared I am. If there were a fixed video camera capturing footage of our skyscrapers during a large quake, it would not be an amazing sight, it would be a horror story.

We cannot hide behind the oft repeated explanation that we are a developing nation and that Japan is not the right example to compare ourselves with. If you remember, there was a devastating earthquake a year ago in Chile too. The capital Santiago too was rocked, and according to residents, so strong was the tremor and such was its duration that people had time to run downstairs in the open, but still had to crawl for it was impossible to balance on two feet. Despite this, the loss of lives due to building collapse was minimal. I remember speaking to my friend who is the Indian Ambassador to Chile as to how so few buildings were damaged. He said matter of factly that Chile may be a developing nation and the way people work may not be much different from India, but when it comes to following building norms, they are brutal. There are absolutely no compromises. We need to learn a lot.

And while we are at it, please spare a moment for Indias twenty nuclear facilities as well. Although I am willing to believe that the contractors involved in their construction are not in the same league as those involved with other civilian construction activities, but given that we are masters at cutting corners, it would be great if an earnest assessment of what they are capable of withstanding is done, and immediately. For, if a disaster were to strike there, it would be far more catastrophic than anywhere else in the world.

As the Japanese experience shows, none can take on nature, but with proper planning and perhaps compromising less with norms, we can save a lot more lives.

by Rajesh Kalra

Originally at

Here are some interesting, but true facts, that you may or may not have known.

The Statue of Liberty’s index finger is eight feet long.

Rain has never been recorded in some parts of the Atacama Desert in Chile.

A 75 year old person will have slept about 23 years.

A boeing 747’s wing span is longer than the Wright brother’s first flight (the Wright brother’s invented the airplane).

There are as many chickens on earth as there are humans.

One type of hummingbird weighs less than a penny.

The word “set” has the most number of definitions in the English language;192

Slugs have four noses.

Sharks can live up to 100 years.

Mosquitos are more attracted to the color blue than any other color.

Kangaroos can’t walk backwards.

About 75 acres of pizza are eaten in in the U.S. everyday.

The largest recorded snowflake was 15in wide and 8in thick. It fell in Montana in 1887

The tip of a bullwhip moves so fast that the sound it makes is actually a tiny sonic boom.

Former president Bill Clinton only sent 2 emails in his entire 8 year presidency.

Koalas and humans are the only animals that have finger prints.

There are 200,000,000 insects for every one human.

It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery had in it to begin with.

The world’s largest Montessori school is in India, with 26,312 students in 2002.

Octopus have three hearts.

If you ate too many carrots, you’d turn orange.

The average person spends two weeks waiting for a traffic light to change.

1 in 2,000,000,000 people will live to be 116 year old.

The body has 2-3 million sweat glands.

Sperm whales have the biggest brains; 20 lbs.

Tiger shark embroyos fight each other in their mother’s womb. The survivor is born.

Most cats are left pawed.

250 people have fallen off the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

A Blue whale’s tongue weighs more than an elephant.

You use 14 muscles to smile and 43 to frown. Keep Smiling!

Bamboo can grow up to 3 ft in 24 hours.

An eyeball weighs about 1 ounce.

Bone is five times stronger than steel.

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