Spirit of Chennai: Monsoonal Madras

Finally, the sun is out today and it is time to reflect. Chennai-vasis lost a lot in the current cyclonic storms— property, lives and livelihood. Sad! What we didn’t lose, was our sense of humour. Here is the proof: Pictures I received on WhatsApp!



Apparently, the monsoon made us take the words of the poet Tiruvalluvar seriously. He said “Idukkann varungaal naguga” or “Laugh in the face of adversity”! One other skill we didn’t lose was our capacity for Jugaad. Just look at the D-I-Y contraptions to prevent water from entering the exhaust of our vehicles!

The other positive outcome was the way the State and Central Agencies swung into action, leaving the Private Sector far behind. When it comes to Government agencies, I am a natural sceptic, but I was proved wrong. Despite the torrential rain, the Electricity Board kept the power up continuously. (They shut down power in some flooded areas to avoid the danger of electrocution through water; but that’s a different story). In comparison, my (private sector) Cable TV operator and Internet service provider could barely manage limited intermittent service.
The Police, Fire Service, Army and Navy were out everywhere, rescuing people. Top Cop Sylendra Babu (Additional Director General of Police) was in neck-deep water leading his men from the front. He is wearing a white swimming cap in this picture.

Railways never ceased service — running the trains at slow speeds over flooded tracks! See this picture sent by a friend, taken near Basin Bridge.


And wonder of wonders, 4 flyovers were inaugurated by the CM over Video Conference by remote, exactly on the day when the cyclone was its worst. The next day, the traffic was substantially eased in those locales. We have come a long way, baby!
Where was the proverbial grumpy Madrasi? He was sitting in the Opposition benches. The Opposition Parties blamed the Government for all the cyclonic damages, quite forgetting that they had done far less when they had opportunities. Chief Minister Jayalalitha defended herself saying that in natural calamities you must expect …. well, calamities! Oops, the usually wily machiavellian CM made a faux pas . The opposition jumped at it with glee and said she was grossly insensitive to human suffering. What did the public think? Here’s the public sentiment doing its rounds in WhatsApp.

1st Frame: Kalaignar TV (owned by the DMK) says “It is the Government’s complacence that has resulted in the disaster”.
2nd Frame: Jaya TV (owned by the CM herself) says “Thanks to the emergency measures taken by the Government, people are rejoicing over the rain”.
3rd Frame: Common Man says “Compared to the nuisance from these channels the storm seems very benign”.
Surprisingly, the National TV did not take sides on this issue at all. Mostly because they were busy ignoring the entire event. (See Sanjiv Pinto’s column in The Deccan Chronicle dated 18-11-15). This is a pity, because highlighting the calamity in a factual manner would help in getting more relief quickly. Probably they were busy covering more “important issues” like infantile controversies stirred by their insolent anchors!
Oh, one private sector company —Ola Cabs— made a late entry by announcing (and delivering) free boat services in flooded areas. Many people faulted Ola for going off the road on the crucial day and then creating a pretense of social responsibility after that.


I would be more circumspect in judgment. The average Ola cab is owned by the driver and he depends on this single asset for his livelihood. How can I fault a petty businessman for protecting his only source of revenue? So, even if it is belated and bloated with ego, I say: “Thank You”. If there is one thing we learnt in the past few days, it is stoicism and tolerance!


Jugaad = simple work around (often innovative and not as per conventional science)

D-I-Y = Do it yourself

Pics Courtesy

The Hindu, The Deccan Chronicle, and of course my friends through WhatsApp!


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