December 08, 2015

Finding hope 2015

Let me start by telling you a story, a story that happened not too long ago.

Once upon a time, Mother Nature decided to pay India a visit. India, her favorite place on planet Earth, India with its lush green fields, serene mountain ranges, well maintained lowlands , properly managed cities, a solid infrastructure capable of great progress, and most importantly, communal harmony and undisputed unity; this country had always prompted her to bless it in abundance.

However, times now were changing. She had been a silent witness to enough of atrocities occurring there. Farmers were committing suicide, grasslands were getting neglected, cement jungles were replacing wild forests, animals were getting stripped off their natural habitat, and as if this was not enough, there was dirty politics.
Mass lynching, unnecessary bans, religious divides, had been recently creating a political fervor throughout the country. India was getting polarized.  TV channels were being flooded with debates on intolerance. Social networks were getting choc-blocked with opinions both, for and against Award Wapasi. Ink was being used to stain faces instead of to write books. Abuses were being hurled abashedly. The past was being brought up to defend the present. There was mud slinging, blame games that involved celebrities, politicians, the general public, every one. No one was spared. Times had changed to being unsafe and sorry.
Mother Nature could not stand it anymore. She had been a silent witness for too long. It was time to take matters in her hand, she thought.
"How dare these mere mortals interfere with my laws," she fumed, her face burning with rage.

Frustrated by the petty outcry and bigoted mentality she saw hither thither, she now decided to put its citizens to test, she wanted to show them who is boss. The plan was simple. She'd pick up a city at random and express her wrath. That would show them what it meant to anger her. She'd rage and thunder at the injustice she had been made to suffer. She'd weep for the deplorable state they had pushed her favorite place into.
Pleased with her plan, she wasted no further time to bring it to fruition.
Now, she could have chosen any city. But on a whim, she started down south.

Sounds familiar, yes?
I am talking about the terrible deluge that has been flooding more than half of Chennai for over a fortnight now. I got  to first hear the news from a friend who lives there. My first reaction was to stifle a yawn. I, like the rest of the country was totally unaware of the situation, and had assumed that she was talking about winter showers. Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined then, that this news was to soon take the nation by storm (no pun intended).
It was only when the media covered the news that I realized the severity of the situation, and immediately messaged to check if she was alright.

Having been in Chennai for my post graduation studies, I share a close connection with the place. Ironically, I have experienced a huge spectrum of varied emotions--awkwardness, indifference, dislike, exasperation, frustration, attachment, before finally settling to love the city. I always say Chennai is an acquired taste.
In the short time I was there, I got acquainted to almost all the lanes and bylanes, learned to heckle with the Auto walas, grown to like Idli-Sambar and Kapi (extra strong), and found myself appreciating the authenticity of the people and their devotion towards their language. So, it was quite natural for me to feel sad when I read about Ashoknagar, Saidapet, Ekatuthangal, Kotturpuram being totally water logged. My heart literally sank.

December 2015 was a terrible time for Tamil Nadu. It was the first time in over a hundred years that Chennai was experiencing such a heavy rainfall (exceeding 300mm in a couple of days as compared to an usual monthly average of 390mm.).

Hospitals were getting water logged, homes were getting flooded, phone and other transmission networks had stopped working, animals and people were falling prey to water borne diseases, the list of atrocities was endless. The airport was closed. Railway services were brought to a halt. Power and telecom lines were snapped. While we were sitting blissfully unaware in our living room, watching our favorite sitcom over dinner, there was an entire city trying their best not to succumb to a natural disaster. People in safer areas were opening up their homes and hearts to strangers in need. Adults were carrying children on their shoulders to prevent them from drowning on streets. With neither network coverage nor way of communication, they had decided to face the storm together until help came in. Wedding halls, cinema theaters, restaurants and other public spaces were opened up to provide shelter, food, and whatever help they could offer.

Come December and news of #ChennaiFloods started leaking in. News coverage was finally being executed. Videos were being uploaded. Photos were being shared. People in the city were trying to reach us, and they had finally met with some success. As information started seeping in on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and other social media, prompt action was taken. While the rest of the country panicked and came up with ways to provide help, the Indian Army Rescue and Relief Fund distributed relief material. Indian Coast Guard dropped food packets and safe drinking water for stranded locals in the city. Medical teams were rendering essential medicine supplies. Banks were kept open on Sunday. Mobile ATM was allowed. The rescue efforts by NDRF was also accompanied with crowd funding by the general public. Help was being offered by celebrities. Stars like Dhanush, Siddharth, Rajnikanth, and Suriya who had families in Chennai tried to reach out and help in every possible way.

National measures were carried out in full swing. An aerial study was conducted by the Prime Minister to take stock of solution, and ex-gratia was offered to families who lost members to the deluge. Each one of us helped in our own way too. Every Facebook message, tweet, blog post counted. Every prayer made a difference. It seemed the fire of our intolerance was finally getting doused by the heavy incessant rains in Chennai. The water gushing into apartments was cleansing our souls of resentment. Nature had put us to test. We wouldn't back down. We were in this together.

Telephone companies did not charge phone calls for a week in the city. Power banks were being donated. Even 'The Hindu', a national newspaper, was not printed did not come in print for the first time in 127 years as an expression of support and solidarity for the flood victims.

We forgot our differences. Humanity became the only religion. People from various parts of the country were sending food packets and supplies to Chennai. Twitter was crowded with tweets from people offering help. Telephone numbers,contact addresses were being exchanged among random strangers without the fear of misuse. We were all fighting for a common cause, a bigger cause---flood relief. We were no longer South and North Indians. Previous complaints of alienation faced in Chennai were forgotten. What we remembered was the serenity of Marina Beach, the taste of Saravana Bhavan, the sanctity of the Kapaleeswarar Temple, and all the beautiful memories that Chennai helped us create.

Cut to present day: the freak rainfall is finally showing some sign of normalcy. After a tough ordeal that lasted for roughly a fortnight and took a toll of nearly 300 lives, Chennai is finally showing some signs of recovery. People are able to establish contact with their loved ones. Electricity and telecom lines have been restored. My friend tells me that the situation is improving, though some areas are still inaccessible. Airport and railway services have been resumed. Planners and city authorities are trying to analyze the problem areas and improve on the weak infrastructure. Things are slowly getting back to normal.

However, the #ChennaiFloods did teach us a thing or two about life. It taught us that no matter how bleak the situation, there is one thing we should never let go of until the end, hope.

The humanity shown by our society is proof that all is not as bad as it sometimes seems, that behind the facade of indifference and incorrigible apathy is a beating heart that still cares for our brethren, irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
I am aware that there can never be a bright side to a crisis like this. However, these tough times helped us realize the potential of technology (that helped prompt action at so many different levels), the fortitude of our fighting spirit, and the strength of our unity especially during adversity.

It's true, we are nothing in front of the forces of nature. But we can always stand for each other. At the end of the day, it is never our material possessions that count. What really matters is the support we can offer, the help we can provide and the lives we can improve.

Chennai floods 2015 proved no matter how dark the tunnel, there is always light...

We will survive!

The post has been selected  for BlogAdda's Spicy Saturday Picks (December 12th 2015)


Unknown said...

Hey doc, frankly I do not have anything extra to add or comment. Just a few things, taking a clue from your post (which is otherwise been very beautifully penned down and covered by you), I write, to express what I feel about the whole Chennai floods incident. With due credits to the enormous amount of relief work/ monetary and material support coming across from various channels and sources, indeed Chennai is slowly rising and getting back to normalcy. But on the hindsight, (completely a personal view, because you have themed your post as 'Hope') it is mainly because today a Human came forward to help a fellow human. It is very explicitly proven that, during the times of thick or thin, a friend is a friend indeed. Not bound by caste, creed, colour, religion or any so called discriminatory factor, Humanity has risen above all including the devastating floods.
I feel proud to be associated with this city. Moreover, I feel safe and 'dry' because of the untiring efforts taken by the fellow citizens. There is no denying that we all are deeply mourned/ moved by the great agony that many families especially the ones dwelling in the places equipped with slightly lesser prevailedged services or low lying areas went through. What consoles and humbles us is the fact that every citizen of the city, did the best he/she could think of doing (helping) instead of escaping. Kudos to the government, fellow beings to have made makeshift arrangements for food, clothing, shelter, medicine and more for thousands. Still a lot needs to done, but what needs to be appreciated is the fact the rescue operations began from Day 1. I would just end saying, inspite of knowing we consciously or subconsciously being responsible for this (by pollution/ deforestation and like causes) we united as a family and resurrected Chennai as new as ever. Time and Tide definitely waits for none, now it seems so that people have evaded the tide with all the time in their hand, for it (tide) to wait and subside for years/centuries to come.

Pri said...

@ Madhavi
I totally understand your sentiments. Chennai has earned our respect by standing strong in trying times.

As fellow Indians, we all are in this together!

Team BlogAdda said...

Congratulations! Your blog post was selected for Spicy Saturday Picks edition on December12, 2015 at BlogAdda.

Please find it here:

Pri said...

Thank you, Team BlogAdda. I am honoured! :)

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Pri said...

@ Edna Shirley
Thanks Edna. That sure means a lot to me. Do keep visiting :)

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