We’re not that city people talk about often. We’re not that city that’s constantly on the news. We’re uneventful. Nothing newsworthy ever happens here. Except, maybe, Rajnikanth’s birthday. We’re a calm bunch that sip our filter coffees and obsess over the neighbour’s daughter’s office hours and new boyfriend. Our lives are calm.
But not today. Not this past week.
Dear Mother Nature,
I get it. You’re feeling hurt. Perhaps, a little betrayed. We’ve become those people we tell the world we hate. We made promises. Big ones. We told you you’re beautiful. We took pictures of you in so many different moments. We told you how much we love you. Promised to protect you. Promised to cherish you.
Some of us did. But it wasn’t enough. Because the majority of us forgot. Not just the promises but we forgot how much we need you. We turned our backs on you. Materialism and comfort caught up to us. We did things knowing it wasn’t the best of decisions for you. We did it anyway. We became selfish. Self-centered. Uncaring.
So you became the crazy ex with a need to kill. And kill you did. I have never feared for my life until the night of 1.12.2015. I saw the water rise and found myself unable to stop it. I was Rapunzel stuck in her tower with no way out and I’ll be the first to admit – It’s not as magical as it sounds. I was terrified. But I’m still here. I’m alive long enough to tell you this. But so many aren’t. And I’ve heard it’s about to get worse.
I’m not ready for worse. My city is not ready for worse. We’re not ready for your fury. We should’ve been. We’re the reason it exists. Maybe if we’d been more careful, more attentive to your needs. Maybe if we’d kept our promises. Maybe you’d have spared us. But I’m asking you today. I’m begging you today. Stop the wrath you insist on shoving upon us. We’re not prepared. I can’t watch one more person die at your hands.
We may not all learn from this. We may not all learn our lesson. Some of us have seen what you can do. We’ll behave. We’ll keep our promises. Not for the fear of you. But for the lives of the others. We’ll protect you. But Mother Nature, forgive the ones who don’t learn their lessons. We’ll make up for it in years to come. Forgive the ones who continue to build houses where the water needs to flow. Forgive the ones who dump plastic when the world insists on cloth bags. Forgive the ones who’ll criticize you from this day forward. Forgive mankind for the flaws we’re born with.
You are called Mother for a reason.
With all my love and promises I intend to keep,
I remember waking up on Wednesday morning and demanding coffee to my mother like it was my birth right. I remember mentally complaining about not having an espresso machine. I remember wanting to go buy a few outfits during the weekend.
Then it all changed.
I happened to live in one of the most affected areas and I watched my city drown. I heard screams and cries all through the night as people missed a boat, a chance to get to safety. My neighbour drowned and died in the water while going to check on his brother.
I’m a hydraholic. I love the cold weather. I’ve never been more afraid of the water. I’ve never prayed harder for the sun to shine.
I’ve ranted numerous times about the lack of humanity in this world. This past week, I’ve seen enough humanity to last me a lifetime.
My hometown is filled with unsung heroes.
The night this began, I watched people open their homes to strangers and drain their batteries on their phones to protect the ones they didn’t even know.
Srilakshmi, Sriram, Kavipriya, Sindhu JP, Mahesh, Bragadeesh, Uma, Nandhitha, Prason, Deepak, Sharada and all of The Chennai Bloggers Club – You have brought so much happiness into my life over the past year and the past week, you’ve done the same for so many across this city! I feel blessed to have you in my life.
My jaw dropped at Swarnamalya Ganesh and her mother’s desire to help people who were stranded on our streets – the watchmen, drivers and maids – with food, water, tea and coffee. She walked in 5 – 6 feet deep water to give biscuits and water to a Tribal school.
The other family in her apartment. I hate to bring this up at a time like this, but I have to. For anyone that bullied Islamic people and judged them all by the actions of ten – here’s a newsflash for you. The man walked in neck-deep water to rescue older people stranded on lower floors and gave them a place to stay in his house until the water drained. How’s that for an incredible soul?!
A part of me wants to curl up and cry with trauma every time I’m in my room again. The smallest of sounds make me jump wondering if people are crying for a boat again or if something’s wrong or if someone’s dying.
The other part of me wants to cry with gratitude every time I see a volunteer. Chennaiites have brought this city back to life! I’ve seen a side to my neighbours I’d never known before. My judgements were thrown away as they lugged buckets of water from our terrace so I didn’t have to. Every little help counted.
And for all the nights I’ve complained about the lack of aircon, I spent 4 days without electricity. Books kept me company. Ellen Degeneres’ Seriously.. I’m Kidding made me laugh on a dark evening. I lived with candlelights. Food wasn’t for taste. It was for staying alive. Water wasn’t to waste. It was for necessities.
Today, someone told me that I’ve survived. That I have lived to tell the tale of how I made it through a natural disaster. But the truth is, I haven’t survived. I’ve been lucky. I had a stable roof, decent food, a loving family and the kindest of souls around me to keep me safe. I didn’t have to survive because I was lucky enough to not be in danger
But the rest of my city can’t say the same. And if it wasn’t for every volunteer, every Government worker, every human being that decided to help, we would have not risen in a week.
Thank you aren’t words enough for you.
Today morning I woke up and I asked my mother for coffee. I ensured I added a please. I sat on the swing, looking at the dry road and the shining sun. I was grateful for coffee. I was grateful to have clean clothes again. I was grateful to be alive and breathing fresh air inside the comfort of my house.
And deep within me, I knew normal would never mean the same again.
But we will survive. Because we’ve got each other. Like no city will ever know.