Back to work, with quake nightmares frozen in mind

Leaving behind his ailing 100-year-old mother in their damaged home in Tsukuba, Shiba is back in Kolkata where he has a teaching assignment at the Indian Institute of Management.

The memories of the nightmare followed the 78-year-old professor all the way from home.

Shiba, a Deming Prize winner, is one of the world's leading experts on total quality
management and is the designer of the post- graduate programme for visionary leadership in manufacturing, being conducted jointly by IIM-Calcutta, IIT-Madras and IIT-Kanpur.

"I have come back to keep my commitment to my students, I don't think my students should suffer for my tragedy," Shoji Shiba, whose house has been damaged in the March 11 Tsunami-earthquake that ravaged Japan, told IANS.

At least 12,000 people were killed and over 16,000 are still missing after the magnitude-9 earthquake followed by a giant tsunami hit the coastal areas of northeast Japan March 11.

The time 2.46 p.m. March 11 will always remain as a nightmare in Shiba's mind.

He was in an underground Tokyo market picking up some cake for the family when he felt the ground shaking under his feet.

"It was simply the earth shaking! I ran towards a shop wall and sat down, holding to it.. I was so afraid that when I closed my eyes I saw my mother's face," Shiba, a father of two daughters, said.

"I was stranded at the Tokyo station from 2.46 pm of March 11 to 9.46 a.m. of March 12 without any water or food except the cake I brought for my family."

While sitting at the station, Shiba was touched by the way people bonded with strangers - all in fear. The feeling of togetherness in crisis touched him. All were helping one another in various ways anywhere he looked.

The calamity brought back the memories of 1945 when the Americans dropped atom bombs on Japan that ended World War-II.

"At that time I was merely 12, but I still remember how our family left the ancestral home and evacuated a city to remain safe from the effects of radiation," Shiba said, recalling his memories of Japan's nuclear tragedy.

"In 1945, I have seen hundreds of thousands  of people walking mile after mile. While returning to my home town in Tsukuba March 12, I saw it again - hundreds of thousands of people walking mile after mile heading to new destinations and hundreds of thousands were left homeless after total destruction and due to fears of radiation," Shiba said.

When he finally reached home in Tsukuba, Shiba found half of the building damaged by the wreckage. But he was lucky that the house was not washed away by the hungry tides of tsunami.

Tsukuba, the city located in Ibaraki prefecture, was also caught in the line of fear over radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plants.

"As I reached home I found my house was damaged partially and my wife was sitting outside. The roof had caved in and the top storey was destroyed. Before coming to India I had some time to fix it. But there's more to do. My wife is doing the rest," the professor said.

Shiba and his wife spent several days in their home without food, water and electricity.
Shiba also reminisced how his wife was against his coming to India when his mother was too old and bedridden.

"I convinced her how much important the trip is. I expect the news of my mother's death any time. I hope and pray to the Buddha that I can see her alive when I return," said an emotional Shiba, who is scheduled to be in India till April 12.

Asked what he would like to do for Japan as the land of honest and hard-working people faces its toughest times since 1945, Shiba said: "I am a professor. I want to improve the infrastructure and look into what more can be done to tackle similar disasters."

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