Chennai Rains

This week the only thing that I can write about is the rains in Chennai and nothing else. Dear Mother Nature,This is a letter Prayer to you from Chennai

This week the only thing that I can write about is the rains in Chennai and nothing else.
Dear Mother Nature,
This is a letter Prayer to you from Chennai. After nearly a month of continuous rainfall we are thankful that now you have taken mercy on us and stopped, but Chennai is devastated. Not that you are to blame in the first place. We all knew that November and December are peak monsoon months for Chennai – but we were unprepared for what hit us. When it rained heavily in November and places were flooded we thought that it will be like the 2005 flood where certain low lying areas will be disturbed and we went back to our lives. We were complacent and extremely selfish.


It was human greed that promoted us to build houses over dried up lakes and marsh areas without considering an eventuality like this. We threw plastic garbage all over the city which clogged up drains and complained when the government was unable to clean it. We kept raising the roads, each time it was laid; we kept the rain water harvesting tanks to minimum. We tried to change the course of rivers and canals to suit our needs.We cut trees recklessly to create more apartments and covered every bit of visible earth with cement. We drove a number of birds away from their nests, cats and dogs from their homes and fed newspaper to livestock. We were stupid, greedy, selfish and forgot to see the “bigger picture”.

I understand that as “Mother nature” your role is to keep us humans, in check. You have a duty towards all species and not just any one of them. That means, sometimes you have to take drastic action to safeguard the environment. Yes, you did give us a warning a few weeks back but we didnt grasp the situation properly. I realise that its a fool’s errand to request you for one more chance – to change, to learn and to evolve. Judging by history, it is most likely that we might not but we are all not bad.

This rain – highest in over a century caused a lot of damage – people and animals drowned, many patients could not get medical help or even oxygen after surgery and are dead, many people are homeless, sick and cold in temporary shelters, poisonous snakes are in the water, many houses are irreversibly damaged. Lakes broke, airport and railway stations are under water, pets died, bridges collapsed and cars drowned.
But, it has brought out the real nature of chennaiites. People have opened up their hearts and homes to strangers who need a place to stay or food or drink. During the first flood, when most of were busy in our offices, a food chain called Kolapasi prepared and distributed food to a large group of people. This started a ripple effect and during the second flood, individuals, hotels, industrial kitchens, NGOs all came together to cook and distribute food for Lakhs of people over 2-3 days and are still continuing it. People are rushing to pharmacies and bakeries to buy supplies for the rescue mission. Actors have lent their SUVs for transport and their fans are volunteering. Children are coming forward to donate whatever pocket money or piggy bank money they have to the volunteers to continue buying supplies.

People are bringing in food from Coimbatore and Bangalore, clothes from the US and its overwhelming. People are travelling from other parts of the country to Chennai to work as volunteers. Many are jumping into waist high water to save animals on the street.Without thinking about religion, caste or region, Chennai people are pitching in – Muslim brothers are cleaning up temples, Sikhs and Christians are cooking and distributing supplies together and Hindus are coordinating all their efforts. Both the rich and the poor are together in rescue camps mourning over their houses and lost possessions. Marwaris, kannadigas, Gujarati, Telugus, north Indians and Tamils are wandering the streets together rescuing people. Yes, mother nature you have equalised us in your own way.

We learnt that ” Self help is the best help” – and we should help each other instead of waiting for the government or God to come rescue us. We realised that social media – can be used to do so much “Socially useful productive work” if we so desire.

Having no power (current) for 3+ days and as a result having no water, no cell signal, huge business losses and food going bad really fast, we realised how “powerless” we are without power. We ate simple food with gratitude as soon as it was cooked. We played games as a family and spoke to one another about life experiences in the absence of power without being buried knee deep in our smartphones or TV serials. We also learnt that by going cashless we aren’t really going anywhere. Even the money we had was worthless – with people willing to pay even Rs.1000 for a packet of milk for a baby or Rs.100 for a single sanitary napkin but they were just not available. We were less bothered about the media reporting what happened and more bothered about logging on to FB (particularly Chennai shopping group) or twitter for a few minutes which was a lifeline that coordinated all rescue efforts.

We will mourn for all we have lost shortly, but now we salute our heroes – all the good hearted volunteers, our Police and our army who are assisting the flood affected people – physically, emotionally and monetarily!!

Mother, as we hear disturbing news about more rainfall coming our way, we are frightened and we doubt our ability to fight and survive once again. But we will not panic nor lose our way. So Please help us; allow us to recover. In the midst of such catastrophe, and survivor’s guilt mounting in me, I can only think of a prayer that I learnt at school as a child.

“We, your children are not without faults; Pardon us for our sins and deliver us from Evil”

PS: * Update Many are writing to me to ask about donations for flood relief – Please visit this well curated Online Chennai website to see how you can help Chennai – Thanks !!

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