On 30th November, 2015 I posted this photo on Instagram.
It was raining for a whole month and the schools were closed for almost the entire month. It was a chaos. Little did we know what was in store for us the next day. (You can read all about it here)
On December 1, 2015, it rained as never before. If you know of Chennai, then you would know it’s a very sunny place. It rains, yes, but most of the time it is sunny and cheerful. 2015 November was a gloomy one, and then December 1, 2015, threw everyone into a fit of depression and desolation. The situation was so bad, that The Hindu did not have a December 2, 2015, print edition(You can see it here). And no day begins without The Hindu. That is to say since The Hindu was founded on 20 September 1878, 2 December 2015 was the only day that they didn’t publish the print edition. One day in 137years!!!!
It got worse. Rains battered the city through the night. People were woken up in the night to find their floors were wet with water coming in from the streets. Cars alarms were ringing waking up neighbourhoods, where people came out to see their vehicles being submerged, inch by inch, even as they watched. The waters rose rapidly, but definitely to those who saw the water rising, it would have been inch by agonising inch.
Trains were cancelled as the tracks were submerged. Flight services to Chennai were cancelled as the airport was inundated. People were stuck in the airport with no way out. Nightmares haunted everyone, no matter if they were homeless or the richest person in the city.
Overall in the state of Tamil Nadu 421 people died during that monsoon. It took lots of efforts to repair sink holes, homes and roads that were washed away. It took even more effort to build lives back. People lost their homes and all their possessions. Destitute and desperate were the cries for help.
What then happened was nothing short of magic in my opinion. In Chennai, the entire city came together. Celebrities and citizens took to the streets distributing food and necessities. People invited their neighbours whose homes were inundated into their own homes. There was a unity in thought and charity in deed.
All through this one would think all was good. But politics still happened, drunkards abused and harassed volunteers, especially if they were female. People who exhibit such behaviour even in the most desperate of times need to be given an award for consistency.
Today, the schools have been declared closed on December 1st and 2nd as a precautionary holiday because of cyclone Nada. The news of this cyclone brought about mixed reactions. But the fact that the dates coincide, and that the schools have declared a holiday do cause a shiver.
There is hope. The rains are going welcomed, as a relief from the droughts. The rains are going to make everything around us nice and bright & shiny again. It is going to be like the world around us has been refreshed. And that is how we need to look at it as well.
Those faded memories will remain, but we need to keep fresh the memories of the city coming together and helping each other. We need to acknowledge the fact that in the toughest of times, do our truest personalities come forth. We discovered that we cared for everyone around us, even if didn’t bother to smile at them on a normal day. And no amount of gratitude expressed can be considered adequate for the personnel who were involved in rescue and relief operations.
Chennai is a city that showed its spirit last monsoon, and this year it still looks forward to the coming monsoon, knowing that the people of Chennai have its back.
I know that Chennai was not the only city to be battered by the rains last year. But since I am a Chennaivaasi, and I love my city I write about it exclusively here. The other places what were affected likewise have shown similar resolve and bounced back to normality. Here’s hoping that we do not have a flood like last year, but more than enough rain to satisfy our farmers, our citizens and the earth that we stand on.