The Fall of Shivalik

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 21-03-2015

After I joined at Calcutta in July 1994, I wanted to join a club for tennis. Calcutta is known for its clubs and there are many which provide good facilities for the game, the South Club of Calcutta being considered the best, as it has produced many national level players. I used to watch tennis in this club from the balcony of my friend’s house during my visits to Calcutta prior to my posting and always entertained a desire to play there. This wish of mine was fulfilled when a friend arranged for me to play there soon after I shifted to Calcutta. That friend himself, though bulky, was a good player of tennis and we soon developed a liking for each other.
My friend used to live in a five-storey building called “Shivalik” which was located in central Calcutta. His flat was on the fifth floor. Being somewhat bulky, he usually complained about it as the occasional climb up was arduous. l always advised him to look at the positive features of the flat and to accept gladly what providence had provided him. From the viewpoint of location and layout, it was a good flat and, therefore, he had all reason to feel happy. He, however, never took my word as seriously as I wished him to. The matter ended there.
After about a year, one morning, the newspapers of Calcutta carried the headlines about the sudden sinking of the “Shivalik” building into the ground. The news did not give a clear picture about the inmates and only mentioned that efforts were being made to rescue them. This created great anxiety and we tried to enquire about our friend. After sometime we learnt that he had been successfully rescued along with his wife and daughter. His only son also survived as he had left for IIT, Chennai, only a few days back. This gave us tremendous relief though it was eclipsed by the fact that all the inmates of the other flats died and it turned out to be a great tragedy in the city. The newspapers carried the news related to this mishap for many days. In due course, the builder was also arrested.
When I met my friend after the mishap, he had not fully recovered from the shock, but showed great respect towards the advice I used to give him about the flat. It was only because his flat was on the top floor, that he had survived the mishap. That was the only floor which remained above the ground, while the other four sank completely. Subsequent enquiries revealed that the foundation of the building had not been prepared properly which was why the soil had given way. Due to commercial reasons, undue haste was also shown in the construction of the building. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation became more alert when sanctioning building plans after this accident.
I thought over this event from two points of view. One was the providential escape of my friend which changed his attitude greatly. The second was about the role of the foundation in the construction of a building. If the foundation is not prepared properly, there is always a danger of its falling. The same is true for nation-building. When I see the falling values in our nation, I always feel that, perhaps, something has gone drastically wrong in its very foundation. Therefore, there is a need to take corrective measures, otherwise the day may not be far away when its collapse will come like the fall of the “Shivalik” building of Calcutta. No purpose will then be served by complaining about the weak foundation. We must, therefore, learn appropriate lessons without any delay and start taking corrective steps. No beginning is too late. Our nation is great and has survived many a crisis in its long history because of its strong foundation. Now that the entire nation-building is on a weak foundation, the collapse is a very distinct possibility. 
The same logic is applicable in the case of individuals, families and societies. If the very foundation of development is faulty, how can we think of a healthy development? In all these cases, it is the character which acts as the foundation. If we want strong and durable nation-building, there is no option but to have a strong foundation for the national character.

About The Author

Rakesh K Mittal IAS

Sri Rakesh Kumar Mittal IAS (Retd.) had been an administrative officer in Uttar Pradesh state cadre for about 35 years. He is a spiritual man with high moral values and a selfless heart. He has founded 'Kabir Peace Mission'. He has also written several books on positive thinking.