120 hours when Nature proved a leveler( from December 1st. onwards) 25/1/2016

Chennai rains, Deluge in Chennai, call it by any name, we in Chennai   were victims of nature’s fury and man made folly, only difference was those living in some areas like Mylapore and Triplicane, famous for the Kapaleeswarar temple  and Sri Parthasarathy temple were lucky to have been spared  and they attribute  it   to the presiding deitiesthere. They  are also of the strong  opinion  that besides the well planned infrastructure that existed, the  absence of encroachments  facilitated excess flow of water to drain out without causing ‘floods’ as experienced in most parts of the city  during  the unabating  rainfall that lashed the city.

‘We residents of Alwarpet in south chennai went through a harrowing time during the floods  with no milk supply, no newspaper, no television, no means of communication whatsoever with most  landlines and mobiles not working, inverter batteries running  dry and the stock of candles getting exhausted. ‘It was like getting ‘marooned’ in an urban  land‘ remarked  an elderly gentleman I met soon after the deluge we experienced. He  is the secretary of his building association.’ I am sure you were not alone and  floods acted as a leveler ‘ was all that I could say to him. ‘Added to all these problems there  were the rumours floating  around, ranging from crocodiles escaping from the farm and snakes entering houses!   There was no way of checking these rumours or learning  how long  the rains would continue  and ‘for the first time we realized the importance  media played in our daily lives’, he said and I couldn’t agree with him more.

A  cross section ,mostly senior and super senior citizens relate their experiences.

MangalaKandur,(past seventy) a sprightly and sociable lady and a wide reader  lives alone in an apartment complex of   25 flats.

‘Once the rains started lashing and there was one foot water in our compound, our complex became empty as 20 families ran away’, she laughs.’ We were just five families who  were determined to stick it out no matter  how alarming the situation would get and began preparing for the worst. With no power to use  the motor, we conserved whatever water was left  in the tank   for our daily needs and since I am not fussy about food, I could manage with my stock of noodles, bread and biscuits for almost eight days until power was restored. During the day, I would sit in the balcony and catch up with my reading  and managed to finish all the books  I picked up recently. Before  evening dawned and the flat was plunged in darkness,  I would finish preparing   my dinner. Also my stock of scented candles  gifted by my friends during my visit to the U.S. came in very handy  until power was restored after 8 days. I would offer my prayers, and go to bed early not forgetting to keep my torch nearby.’’ Though we were five families left in the building, we felt like an  extended family providing  moral support  to one another’ she said.

However  another senior citizen(past eighty), Mr.Nathan living alone in a nearby apartment complex was not so self contained –‘ I  live alone and depend on a caterer to supply  my meals  for the day  because I  don’t know how to cook and the delivery boy couldn’t make it as the roads were flooded. My son who is abroad advised me to shift to a hotel but my problem was reaching  even the nearest hotel  on TTK road  wading through  knee deep water as autos were not plying. But people in  my apartment  complex saw to it that I didn’t go hungry.’

An elderly lady, Champaji  who is past 90 and her daughter  living on a higher floor said they literally went through ‘house arrest.’ ‘The elevator was not functioning,  stock in the fridge  had become  unusable and negotiating three flights of stairs  with my   age related problems and my daughter’s knee pain to step out for our daily needs was not possible or advisable. ‘Thanks to my daughter’s thoughtful friends who were seniors themselves for   understanding oodour  plight and readily came to our aid (without our asking them)  by sending  food and other requirements ‘ said she

The  experience of  an academician, Prof.Rao about the same age is something unique because he thought it safe to go without food for two days  not wanting to take any risk for fear of consuming food prepared with contaminated wate. His fears proved right when others in the family fell promptly sick!

Loses his prized possession

B.Anand, a senior Photographer with News Today, the only evening newspaper is, resident of Thangavelunagar, very close to Adyar river and he appears to have bore the brunt of the havoc created by floods.’ My neighbor called me around 12 o clock midnight to say water had come up to our flat, and I acted immediately moving to the first floor of the apartment along with my sister  grabbing important documents. Abot 3 a.m. we heard a loud thud and  it was the sound of water  entering our homes and the whole place was flooded. I had left the most possession of my life ‘my camera’ on the loft and  my attempt to retrieve it failed as the water level rose very fast and the camera was submerged. It was at such a trying time my neighbours came to my rescue helping me with food and water. Not a single politician, policeman or official visited our area but the NGOs and other volunteers  were of great help.’

Was it Apathy or deliberate inaction?

Strangely for no valid reason  those of us living in  the non commercial area of Eldams road, consisting of  some independent houses and multi storeyed buildings  got back power last, that is at the end of the sixth day, thanks to  the initiative taken by a band of youngsters  residing  in the large  high rise complex nearby. They approached   people in the neighbourhood  requesting them to participate in the dharna they decided to stage as the last resort for the concerned authorities to act. About 60  men and women, some  senior and  super senior,  and also middle aged gathered  in no time and stood  for hours across the road  in knee deep water   braving the rain  preventing traffic  to proceed  further. Word quickly  reached  the police and  electricity department, where authorities   ultimately had no option but to act  immediately realizing  the urgency of the situation.  Until then  whenever  they were  approached, they came out with   lame excuses saying  power was switched off  for reasons of safety so that accidents don’t take place due to  electrocution. Everyone  knew all along   this ‘information’ should be taken  with a pinch of salt.

I  noticed Kala and Kanta, both past 60, who  work as domestic help  in the neighbourhood, looking forlorn and helpless. They were proud of owning their modest one room ground floor flats built by the  housing board. Did the floods affect your homes, I asked. ‘We  have lost everything, our furniture, television and clothes, even the sari  and blouse(which looked ill fitting on their thin frames)  we are wearing is given by our amma we work for’ they said pointing to them. When I  sympathized at their loss, they smiled saying, ‘please don’t feel bad, as long as we have strength we can earn and buy the things we lost. ‘I admired  their display of self confidence  in times of adversity.

A cart dweller

Lazarus, is a ‘cart dweller’ who  earns his living transporting goods for people in the area. He parks his cart by the road side and is seen reading loudly from the Bible during mornings. How did he manage to protect himself during the deluge, I asked. ‘God is kind’, he says folding both his hands  as  a gesture of gratitude. ’This is where I stayed and he points at  the building behind him. I notice the glow in his  eyes when he pronounces  the name of the owner albeit with some difficulty  whom he thanks for  allowing him to use his premises. ’People coming by   vans, (not government people, he clarifies)  from Andhra distributed milk, bread and biscuits. Other times I would  buy food from a hotel nearby’

Trauma undergone with a bedridden mother

Totally different is the trauma  gone through a family residing in Kodambakkam where an immobile elderly lady had to be shifted to the first floor when the ground floor  of their house was flooded. Mr.Vasagan Arasu, a Tax Consultant and his family share it.

‘Our mother is confined to the bed, a hospital bed and moves around in a wheel chair  with the help of a woman attendant. Fearing water entering our house, we five of us shifted her upstairs carrying her on a plastic chair and   helplessly watched  her getting anxious about  water  reaching  her bed. Two days later water which was ankle deep rose to knee deep and our fears were at their worst when our neighbor said water in areas  just a kilometer away  has risen to 15 feet. But luckily  only our furniture and show case were submerged as water remained  at the level it earlier entered.

The next morning we went on a vigorous cleaning spree removing the layers of silt that  mercilessly  accompanied the water that entered and ruined our floor completely besides leaving it slippery till today’ said they taking turns to talk.

Summing up

Nature indeed proved a leveler  without discriminating between the rich and the poor, help came to  victims  of floods  from unknown and unexpected sources  which   proved a solace to them. They could discriminate between  those  genuinely concerned  about their welfare from  others  who cared  more for  publicity   and photo opportunity.  The, empathy  and   camaraderie  generally displayed    during   the   floods  proved the spirit of chennaiites was no less  when compared to the rest of India.



4 thoughts on “120 hours when Nature proved a leveler( from December 1st. onwards) 25/1/2016

  1. v.n.k.kumar

    Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. From Mysore it is difficult to understand the suffering of chennaiites. Your post with its empathetic portrayal of people’s distress gives us a glimpse of the situation.

  2. Mangala Kandur

    Atleast I could able to read your article Meera.first let me thank you for this article.At that time I had more rice,dhal,poha,rice noodles etc .even now I don’t know how I managed that situation gracefully.
    The interview with other persons is very nice.you interviewed all type of people.we all were sailing in the same boat.when we share with others,we feel light hearted.i Pray god don’t put us again in this situation.now I am 80 years.I don’t know if next time like this happen,I can capable of facing it.

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