This post should have been put up yesterday but I am struggling with my own severe back pain issues again but more on that later.
There is a reason why I don’t write much about Chennai, a city that I consider my home. This is the city I have known all my life and this is the city that has made me who I am today. Although my parents come from Andhra, this is the city that showed them a way to start their life and bring up our family. It is not our relatives, who have come to us in times of need but the many friends that this city gave us, who have stood by us and are still standing by us. I love Chennai madly and everything that comes with it. It is for the fear of not doing it enough justice, I don’t write about it. Today, Chennai has a new meaning for me and I have a new found respect for the people of Chennai. Its high time I write about it.
With incessant rains for the past twenty days and the unfortunate floods, the city started drowning at the start of the week. I am not here to blame the government or the lack of proper preparation for the floods – we will have more time for that later. On Monday night, when I logged into twitter (that has very very few followers), I saw some retweets about a pregnant lady going into labour in a flooded locality. When I just wondering aloud to S on what a few retweets would do, I saw the retweets go alarmingly high on that tweet in a short span of time. In about half hour, there was another tweet that the lady got help and was safe. That’s when I realized the power of social media and how a lady going into labour in an interior flooded area in Chennai could be saved through retweets. Ever since, I saw the facebook and twitter flying with flood related shares, finding the necessary help. With the good heart of a few people, soon a website chennairains.org was up and crowdsourced information was sorted into different tabs by good souls.
Nature has its own way of teaching us that it sees no discrimination – from the poorest families to the richest families, irrespective of their caste and religion – everyone was affected by this nature’s havoc. When one of the actors’ house started flooding, instead of going into safety, he came out to help others in need. Actor Siddarth’s timely action urged many other common people to leave the comforts of their home to help the needy. Together with RJ Balaji, volunteering activities started in full swing. Many of Chennaites opened their houses for those stranded. It takes a big heart to let strangers into your home. Soon malls, cinema halls, marriage halls and office spaces followed suit. Unfortunately, most of Chennai was out of power and mobile networks were going down. Inspite of many of us actively sharing stuff on FB and twitter, physical presence in the flood affected areas was of utmost importance. On ground volunteers looking out for rescue and relief operations were the need of the hour. When one of the bridges was overflowing with water – the river at this full intensity, it felt as if Chennai was drowning fast. Humanity of Chennaites, however was not. Fighting the heavy rains and floods, volunteers were the first to start rescue/relief operations.
I am not going to talk about the media. In my opinion, all the media did was to show their perspective of the flood story. For a person, sitting far far away from home – all it induced was the panic. With no mobile coverage and with no other means to contact family, worry loomed over our heads. The media houses were concerned only about bringing in their exclusive videos or asking a few Chennaites to parrot their script. I don’t want to see an exclusive 4K definition video from their special drone, showing how badly Chennai has been flooded. All I want to know is if my family is safe. While many of us cried over the National media ignoring Chennai floods, what help does it do now that they have covered? The media houses in South India themselves did the best to cover the Capital City Chennai but what about those cities that are worse than Chennai getting zero coverage? Media houses thrive on/for TRP. Period.
In the end, it’s the people of Chennai who helped each other. From faraway lands, people sent over 100s and 1000s of non-perishable goods, with no questions asked – with the only hope that it would reach the needy. Yes, not everyone is noble – I hear you. There definitely were people trying to make some quick money even at such tough times. My sister on her way to office had to get down inbetween (with most of the roads in waist deep waters). Feeling helpless to cross the road, she asked assistance from an auto driver to help her cross the road and he had demanded her 300Rs. Just to cross the road. There are stories about Ola boats asking for 500rs per trip and some private boats charging as much as 10K-30K per trip, especially in the IT belt. But this is not my city is all about. It is about that auto driver, who agreed to take my sister to the other side for 30rs. It is about those people who rescued their neighbors with nothing but plastic covers filled with plastic bottles as float. It is about all those people, no matter how far they were, helped their bit by donating food and water through online portals.
Although I knew my family would be safe, it almost killed me not knowing their whereabouts. When I heard from them after almost 30hrs, I was washed over by relief. I cannot even imagine the plight of those stuck at first/second floors and terraces with no one to reach to. Thankfully, rescue and relief operations are going on in full swing but no matter how much ever food/water we have, it’s not going to be enough.
On TV today, I saw a lady, who had cooked meals for 50 people in her locality for those who lost everything. No help is small. Her only plea – don’t sit in the comfort of your home. Come out and help people. How true is that?! Relief essentials like bread, biscuit, clean water, sanitary napkins, diapers, medicines, milk, bed sheets, pillows, mats, blankets are being sent from neighboring states. There is one such effort going out from Bangalore tomorrow and I am going to keep contributing. Please please help by donating big or small (by tomorrow esp if you are in Bangalore) and Chennai would forever be grateful to you.
PS – thank you so much for your concerned mails, comments and messages – my parents, in-laws and friends are safe in Chennai.