The Chennai Floods 2016

Dear Family and my dear dear Friends,

1.I just found out that I have internet but no phone, so I am able to write and thank you all you dear and wonderful people who have been so kind to me in thought, word and deed. Thank you for offering to come and get me, in a boat if need be, and for all the prayers and concern that you have showered on me . Thank you. I love you all. I am truly blessed to have you all in my life. I am talking to you… and you… and you…..and you. Consider yourselves hugged and blessed as you read this .

2. I just saw the video of my friend and next door neighbour Rani Chada being rescued on the shoulders of a Military Jawan. I am devastated. We and our 5 dogs used to stay right next door to the Chadas when we lived at 208 Defence Colony. Aunty Thangachi and Uncle (General Abraham) lived in front of us. So happy to hear that you are safe and dry, Rani and Aunty Thangachi. So happy to hear of your escape Tasneem Ayub , Mercy and Thamby Silva, Sulu and Alex. Thank God that you are all safe. My condolences to the family of the couple who did not make it. Chilling to catch up on all the news now. God in His Infinite Mercy did not allow us these images on TV and internet when we were going through it all.

3. Sam is away in Kolkatta. I am glad that he is safe and dry. His track record of falls on slippery floors is not very good. He is trying to get back, but the Airport is closed and flights are cancelled.

4. Anish, Vidhu , Ashish and Rohan are safe and dry in their flat in Thiruvanmiyur. Mercifully,they are not marooned and have access to the basics. The kids have lost a lot of of school days. The novelty is wearing off I am told and I think they are ready to go back to school ASAP .
I missed my 200-Rekha-phone-calls-a-day.

5. Global Hospital, where I work was hit. Hard.
Patients were evacuated in boats, in time, averting a perilous situation that could have been life threatening.

6. We live at Bollineni Hillside, a 99 acre township near Shollinganallur. 1400 families share row houses, villas, flats and four roads from the OMR and the surrounding areas. All four routes were treacherously inaccessible and now yawn in disbelief at gaps of nonexistent roads.

Bollineni remained water logged and marooned for 5 days.
Waist deep water on the roads. Higher in some areas.

Snakes and scorpions out in the open, single and ready to mingle.

No electricity. Temperamental piped gas supply. No running water. No supplies. No TV. No Internet. No basics. Nothing we take so much for granted every other day of our lives.

Horror of horrors …no early morning coffee. The friendly Butler is away in Kolkatta.

Just an eerie stillness as the dismal, rain drenched days slipped relentlessly into starless nights.

Mercifully, No births. No deaths. No medical emergencies.

5. At Bollineni, all of us, strangers and friends shared all that we had.
Resources, food, water. friendship, comfort, apprehension, fears and hope.
Everything, with no holds barred.
The creed and the colour and the name didn’t matter. When I needed a neighbour, they were all there for me and they were all there for everyone else.
We are fine, safe and dry.
Unfazed, the Bollineni kids, oblivious to the carnage around enjoyed a long sleepover cum picnic .

6. Radha Sudharshan, Shuba Rangarajan, Jyothi Puthige, Arathi Puthige and Geetha Anand, you are all going straight to Heaven with no stops anywhere. Your Business Class tickets are with me. Thank you for everything. I could live with all this pampering and spoiling. Don’t stop when the sun comes out.

5. We can write a Digital Disaster Cookbook on how to cook, with only what is on the shelves.
A “Million ways to Potato” and some.
Food was resurrected in various forms and then reincarnated.
Have you ever tried a fragrant and intoxicating Asian Dhal with kaffir lime and lemon grass thadka ?
Have you stir fried Potato with Olives from a jar?
Or made piles of Pancakes with melting Chocolate Chips for an appreciative and cheering audience of kids ?
Did you ever think that cereal without milk could taste different, if you chewed it in slow motion on one side and then quickly to a beat of one, two, hup two on the other side?
A flood can hone the innovative skills you never thought you had.
I had a lot of stuff in the freezer that stayed frozen for a remarkable while . After Day 3, when they threatened to protest and flow out of the freezer, they went unquestioned into the Cookathon, to be shared.
Even a Done-in-a-hurry-Biriani made it to the Menu one day, as did many one dish meals.
A little fed a lot.

6. I lived with just a torchlight, water in buckets, no power, no shower, no AC and dry cleaned with a hand steriliser.
I was pleasantly surprised at how happy I was / am when I had so little. Never thought of grumbling.
I slept. I got up when I liked. I read. The hands on the clock did not mean a thing. I wasn’t going anywhere for a long while.

I missed the Internet. And my family and friends.

No Gomathy to help me around the house.
No Selvam to drive me around.

I played the piano. And yes, Jachin Sir, we need to tune the Piano.
I tidied my cupboards and got rid of stuff. Literally and proverbially.
I revisited places and people from my past , my present and my future.
Therapeutic Me-time.
Perspective with a big P.

7. When confronted by disaster the best and the worst in human nature come forth leaving you two choices. One, you morph into a Pity-me-Patty and revel in the pity parties you choose to attend.

8. Or, you evaluate your options and make the best of a bad situation.
The second option is less weary and tiresome than the first. It is also more sustainable. You cannot run away from what lies ahead. It has to be faced and lived through.
With God’s help you can and you will.

8. We did. And how.
There is a growing list of contents for an emergency box to be filled before the next flood . It will include batteries for flashlights, candles. paper napkins, paper plates and cups and rolls of tissue and toilet paper. Any suggestions from other survivors, Global and National and well wishers are most welcome.

9. On two occasions, a brown tanker delivered brown water, through brown pipes, to brown people in queues, clutching every brown bucket they possessed. Some carried these water filled buckets precariously, up several flights of slippery. Water sloshed stairs as the lifts were not working.
When the buckets ran dry as they did inevitably, rainwater was collected in buckets on terraces and balconies as it pelted ruthlessly down. Or they dipped their buckets into the floods. I presume all this aqua found its way to the flushes.
Can you visualise the potentially wet steps and floors that everyone was negotiating carefully on tip toe, terrified that they might fall and break a bone or two. There was water everywhere but in the taps.

10. An enterprising trader was selling portable gas cylinders when the piped gas supply was erratic, at 3000 rupees. The going rate on a normal dry day is 900 rupees. Families bought cylinders to time share and cook. The Muslim family cooked in the Brahmin kitchen. All is well in the world.

11. The shops in the township struggled to meet the demands of the hour as they could not ensure delivery of supplies. Ready to eat dry food, like bread and biscuits jumped off the shelves without a backward glance at expiry dates. The kids thought that Xmas had arrived early, as they did not have to whine for hither-to-forbidden snacks, with obscene names like Kurkure, Murmure and Churchure.

12. The aftermath, as the waters recede and evaporate, could be a combination of haphazardly strewn garbage, carcasses of dead stray animals and the smell of survival.
And more.

Sending this off before the lights do a blink on me,
Running water and electricity back.
TV Back.
FM Chennai Live back…

Have piles of washing to do.
Lots of wiped-clean-with-kitchen-towels-dishes to wash in running water and stash in the dishwasher.
Love you all,

PS…..Checked the scales . Haven’t lost an ounce.

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