10 December 2015 12:52:16 IST

A foretaste of ‘Pralaya’

A change in perspective during the Chennai floods

I hear a cock crowing. I wake up to realize that it is the alarm that I have set up on my mobile with a cock crowing ringtone. It is 4 a.m. I switch on the bedside lamp. It is not working. It dawns on me that there has been no power for the last four days because of the unprecedented rains in Chennai. I grab the torch light next to my bed and get up to do a survey. It is pitch dark outside. And there is an eerie stillness, broken intermittently by the ‘chorus’ of thousands of tadpoles in the knee deep water surrounding my house and my colony. They are celebrating the rains not knowing that in a couple of days, when the sun comes up and the water level recedes, they will be extinguished! They are making merry before the sun shines!

I am on the first floor, using the bedroom in my son’s portion of the house, as my space on the ground floor is flooded. I am one of those millions in the city who had to go through the ordeal of living without power, phones, TV, internet, and other daily necessities for three days, completely cut off from the world and under house arrest. Nature has not spared any body this time - rich or poor, people living in huts in low-lying areas or the well heeled living in fancy apartment complexes or bungalows built on river bodies. Nature is a great leveller. At least I have a roof over my head and a support system to keep me safe. I have survived the ordeal with minimum collateral damages. I thank my Lord for that.

After the inspection of the house, I go to my workstation and realize that I cannot use my PC. But I didn’t want to waste the brahma muhurtham time between 4:30 and 6am, when my creative juices are flowing, looking for an outlet. So I decide to light up a candle and write this piece using candle light. If there is a will, there is a way!

Though the rains have eased, the administration has not switched the power back on in many parts of the city, as they are still waterlogged. All the lakes and all the rivers are overflowing, resulting in the entire city being flooded including many so-called safe areas. Is it a display of Pralaya in the Kaliyug that our epics predict? I wonder!

There is water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. People living in ground, or even first, floors in many areas have lost everything in the floods. Even in the fancy apartment complexes on OMR and many other areas, there is water up to 12ft or more surrounding the complexes, submerging the entire car park area and the gensets. While the automobile garages are going to make a killing post the rains, the insurance companies are going to cry foul. One man’s meat is another man’s poison!

While the administration with the help of the Army, Navy and NDRF teams, is trying its best to face the crisis, it is heartening to see the way the common man, especially the youth brigade of the city, both well heeled or otherwise, have risen to provide succour to the needy. Many of them working round the clock, risking their own lives are trying to help affected people reach safer places or distributing the necessities personally. Hats off to them! Thanks to social media, which is accessible to people after the restoration of power, help is pouring in from all directions.

Adversity, very often, brings out the best in people. Thanks to the crisis, people are discovering their own neighbours, in new lights. The youth, which was glued to technology and living in a virtual world, is discovering the joy of facing real life challenges and the world outside the smartphone. But the affected people are losing patience. Many of them are venting their wrath on ministers, politicians, councillors and civic officials -- justifiably so.Even the volunteers venturing into the slums for providing relief materials are mobbed and man handled, as it happened to a young team two days ago. This is not justified.

We still have three more weeks of rainy season left for this year. And the weatherman is predicting more ‘heavy to very heavy’ rains in the next one week. Chennaites are worried. Even a harmless drizzle sends a shiver down their spines. The challenge of rehabilitating people who have lost everything in the rains is even more daunting. But I am sure that the resilience they have shown so far and the ‘never say die’ spirit that they are displaying should see them through this worst ever crisis faced by the city, in a century!

Personally, during the four miserable days, when I was stuck at home, I read two books and wrote two articles. I wished I could lend a helping hand to the youngsters in their stupendous relief efforts. But alas, as the saying goes, “Though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak”. All that I can do is to pray God to help Chennaiwasis recover from their miseries fast and start leading a normal life soon.

(The writer is a veteran ad man)