I am in Chennai and I am safe!! I say am blessed and so are we at home here. The area around our home was flooded but not our street alone!
December 1: By chance, I drove to work instead of taking the shuttle. Two of my friends came with me. The downpour had already started. A few of the places on the way were water logged. I had to take a particular road to get on to the highway, wherein I felt like I was steering a ship. Worried about the water around. Little did we know this was nothing! Reached office safe. After a few hours, many leads asked people to leave if they could. I ask mine & his response classic! (Did you ask the onsite manager you interact with? – who happens to be in Chicago!). We manage to leave and two other girls ask to be dropped off on the way. Two of the girls worked out of another building. They were prevented from going out and had to sign release letters saying they were leaving on their own risk! We finally started. I was worried about getting the girls home safely! As I got out of our office, the water was flowing on the road like a river with huge rocks being carried. They were hitting the bottom of the car. After slow driving, we did reach the highway. I did manage to drop the girls off safely. Had I reached even five minutes later, I would not have been able to take the road home as I pass through a low bridge over a rivulet that flooded that early on and was closed! Blessing!! Miracle!! By then, there was no power at home. The UPS was on. My neighbour asked my father to get some ration from the nearby grocers before they close up. We did along with some basic veggies. [The grocer sold almost a month’s sale on that one day! Veggies were being sold at a premium as expected] By the time dinner was prepared, the UPS ran out and we plunged into darkness. The mobiles lost network.
December 2: Rain poured. No clue what was happening in the world outside. It kept pouring! We managed through the day rationing use of water wondering when the rains would stop and when the power will be back on.
Following days: News started trickling in about flooding in various areas. I was worried about what I would do once water levels rise and if it entered our home. How do I manage my mum who is bedridden? What about my old father and A? I had an emergency bag with basic documents packed and ready. Was planning on how I will either take my mum upstairs or how I can get a boat if it comes to that…
Still no power, landline also got severed. So totally cut off now. Our street was still dry. We went back to stone age. Thanked the building contractor who insisted we have a well in the house. We drew water from it with a pulley. The water was soft & clear. So, we could boil and use it for drinking! Our neighbours also used the well thanking us! No mixer grinder, meaning we used the roller stone for grinding. Yeah the taste was better! :). Sweeping and mopping – no vacuum cleaner. Candle light & oil lamps lit our homes. We woke up early to get things done, went to bed early without needing to catch a program on TV or that last minute social media update. Dug out the old transistor radio and found that there were helplines being set up. The way people were being rescued. Neighbours told us about how badly nearby areas were affected. Milk being sold at exorbitant prices (Blessing again that our neighbour was a milkman and was still supplying the fresh cows milk as usual). We finally got to see and interact with each other on the street. Honestly, felt good to be away from technology (yeah people around were worried…still…back to old age was good)
Rains stopped for a while. I was standing out with my father & A talking to some people! I find a schoolmate riding on his scooter. He came all the way to check if we were alright at home as we could not be reached! Another friend came the next day when it was raining!!! Here I was thinking if I disappeared, no one would bat an eyelid! Hit me as to how grossly wrong I was!!!
Saturday early morning: power was restored. Only my mobile came back to life (patchy though). Managed to send word that we are safe! Astounded by the number of people who were trying to find out if we were fine especially being in a badly affected area. Blessed is an understatement!!
December 6, Sunday: A turned 11. Low key! All his friends had left Chennai as their homes have been affected badly. One of his best friends sends a birthday message and calls in saying he is in Bangalore. A is thrilled to see the messages. It took a while for me to respond to all the queries of if I am alive! 🙂 . Realisation of how much we depend on the phones was sinking in (also how we did manage without them too!).
Slowly realised life was back to normal. By Tuesday Dec 8th, I was on my way to work on the office shuttle. Relief work still going on high steam in horribly affected areas.
Life goes on…. (another realisation. Not just for me who was hardly hit but even those who lost their homes.)
The autowala I use in the morning said he lived on the second floor but his auto was submerged and there was about two feet water above his auto. It took him almost a week to get the auto started and repaired to make it ready to get his livelihood. My maid said the water had reached the roof of her home & they were evacuated to a relief camp in a school. Simple things…she said she was given a saree, no blouse/ in skirt. She asks how do I wear the saree? A’s school is badly damaged – the library, the offices, the dining spaces, accounts department – pretty much everything on the ground floor all under water. My friend’s homes have been affected. This flooding has spared very few! Regardless of how rich or poor…
It saw people just pouring in to help. Mood was not why? but what can I do? even if it is in a small way – what do I do? Those who themselves were affected jumped in to make sure the city is back on it’s feet. No fanfare, no hey am busy doing so much…. Those who could be on the ground were there, those who were away coordinated with the givers, those in need and those who went to supply. It seemed to work as a well oiled machine. In most places now, it looks like life is back to normal. Relief work has moved to rehabilitation – people talking about how we can help for longer (& self) sustenance. That said I was just amazed at how from my friends to the autowala first inquired about how I was, how things were at home.
Yes, all this was not without hitches. There were instances of how goods provided were being sold in the black market. Instances of relief being done only for the show & name ( well we take them in cos they still do something! 🙂 ). Politicians failing (no surprises there).
Lessons learnt. Though we as a city have risen, with loads of help from outside, it is clear that we lack disaster management (keeping apart whether it was natural or man-made). All are worried about how we are going to manage epidemics, the garbage being collected with all homes being cleaned out. What next? What do we do? How can we help – really help? Relief work happened haphazardly. The army came in with no clue where to go. Volunteers poured in and reports of the same area being helped came in. People donating stuff without much thought into where and how it is going. All good yet lacking thought. Instant gratification is what we all are looking at. Finding people not wanting to wait and see what more needs to be done, some not even realising that we should move on from relief, find out what the government is going to do further (if they are as they are supposed to) so we can pitch in where it is not or help where it is needed.
This calamity has brought people together and hoping that it stays that way. People were being patient on the roads, without the incessant honking. Though, now as a sign of normalcy, they are back on.
Irked by those who want us to keep wallowing in the disaster. We are moving on and getting to semblance of normalcy while doing what we can to help those in need (without selfies, photos splashed on social media and any other fan fare…..). This comes along with us wanting to get into the festive mood of Christmas which comes along with giving that we are doing. So shoot us those of us who now appreciate more of what we have and could have while you supposedly play the messiah!! [Of course I am going to rant about the few who have managed to push me off the edge while appreciating the scores of people quietly being awesome. One bad apple!!] –Rant!! Sorry!
I told my grandma that now I believe in miracles. I believe I must live my life to the fullest while I can. Don’t know how long this will last before I am pushed into depression by something/someone!
I am thankful I am there for A [ this is a totally different reason not related the flooding, may be will write a post & may be not!]. I will strive to make him feel as happy as I can.
PS: Didn’t realise I was going to write such a long post and I still have another in mind!!
PPS: This is entirely my experience. It is not harrowing just felt like the rains would never stop. The shockers were meeting and hearing stories of how they were affected. Proud of how they just are looking ahead and don’t know if they are spiritual when they say, those are just stuff – we are alive!