26 Dec 2015 21:39 IST

You have the power!

Lessons from #Chennairains: The great initiative displayed by both affected people and volunteers alike

In the days following the massive rains in Chennai, the city was literally stopped in its tracks. Most places were under water, infrastructure was crumbling, power was shut off in many places as a safety measure, telecommunication and data connectivity started to fail, and so on. Pushed to a corner, people discovered that the power to survive and fight back was ultimately within them and not derived from any external source.

Many families watched the water slowly creep into their compounds and then start to rise up to their residences. Between the fear and confusion created by this situation, they decided to act instead of waiting for someone else to resolve the issue. Most families started shifting their important belongings to the first floor and, in many cases, had to move again to the second floor when the flood water continued to rise.

Didn’t wait for instructions

In one instance, a group of people marooned on a building’s terrace, had food dropped from a rescue helicopter. Unfortunately, the food was spoilt. These people made a make-shift sign using material they could quickly get their hands on and held up a message that said “Food spoilt”. This ensured that the rescue helicopter came back and dropped food that was edible.

One of the biggest challenges was getting water to drink. Although most parts of the city were under sheets of water, people marooned in flooded areas had no clean drinking water. This was overcome by many through rationing and some even used innovative measures to fill rain water in containers which helped them survive.

Volunteers who rushed out to help did not wait for someone to give instructions or directions. Most of them started helping out wherever and whenever there was a need. One of the messages on social media claimed that the Army and NDRF personnel had remarked that there were more volunteers doing great work than those from the Army itself. Whether the statement is authentic or not, it is reflective of the great initiative displayed by the volunteers in rising to the occasion


This sense of initiative and self-empowerment need not be limited to handling rescue and relief. This needs to become an ingrained habit in everyone, especially management students. This is simply because all corporates look for and value the trait of being a self-starter and showing initiative.

There are two major benefits a person can derive from being a self-starter and taking the initiative. First is that this enables individuals to manage any situation and work towards a positive solution instead of getting bogged down in frustration. Second, the reality that most successful people tend to be self-starters and self-motivated and ultimately display high levels of initiative. As such, anyone aspiring for success needs to develop and demonstrate initiative at every step.

A relevant quote in this context is: “God, give me the power to change what can be changed, the courage to endure what cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference”. Initiative should be tempered with common sense and the wisdom to know when it needs to be demonstrated and when it needs to be kept in check.

To read more from the Out of Syllabus section, click here .

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