It was the first day of the last month of the year 2015. The sky was heavily cast; it had been raining intermittently over the past few weeks. The previous month had seen 17 days straight of rain much more than the normal. No one in Chennai was in a mood to welcome anymore rains.
The sun seemed to be trapped behind the strong shadows of heavily laden clouds ever trying to break free and smile with its sunshine.
The rain which had started as a drizzle in the morning hours soon turned into a heavy downpour, gaining more vigour by each passing hour. By afternoon, the constant rain had caused water-logging on most roads and parts of the city. Unprecedented rain brought the city to a halt. Evening saw the rain literally crashing down from the skies with unforeseen rage and fury.
The rain that started on December 1 continued till December 2. By midnight land in more than 4km radius around the Adyar River, which flows through the heart of Chennai had got submerged under water. The situation was similar in most other parts of the city, especially near the overflowing lakes, ponds, and rivulets. The excessive rain caught many unaware, asleep and helpless. It became a struggle to stay afloat and safe.
Power and communication networks were down as most power stations were inundated with water. The only sources of information were the humble radio sets. Rain had broken 100 years record in those 24 hours. It was a dreadful night. Sound of raindrops had always been very soothing and calming to me, but the rain that night may have permanently ruined it for me. After the non-stop 24 hours, sound of the rain which was always musical for me, felt like harsh lashes on my eardrums. I had never seen rain in such a furious form. It was no doubt nature in one of its angriest moods.
Thousands of people were stranded, flights and trains were cancelled, streets were water-logged, flooded hospitals had to be evacuated, many lost all their belongings and had to move to temporary shelters. The destruction around was scary, painful and demoralizing. Normal life as we know it was totally thrown out of gear – No power, communication, drinking water, milk, food, fuel supply, lives lost, homes flooded, people stranded. Some had to gather themselves on the rooftops to save themselves from the raging water below.
There was a sense of gloom and despair all around brought about by nature’s fury. The rain darkened not only the city of Chennai, but also the hopes of its people.
But soon, the helplessness and despair gave way to courage and determination.
On the brighter side, nature’s most furious form brought the most humane side of Chennaites to the fore. People came together in most commendable ways- the Hindus, Muslims, Christians, rich, poor, north or south Indian all came together to help their fellow beings. The citizens rose like a phoenix from the ashes (here, water) to face the challenge.
Instead of waiting for outside help from administration or other sources and wasting critical time, almost everyone started doing their individual share by providing shelter, food, water, clothes, and medicines to neighbours, even strangers to save lives. Everyone worked with single-minded vision to help and rescue those who were suffering and needed help. The volunteers worked hard to reach those in need. The emotion of selfless service and compassion kept them moving in-spite of the bruises, cuts and swollen feet caused by being in stagnated dirty water for 18-20 hours. The youth of the city came out in large numbers to help; they risked their own lives to fulfill the call of their conscience.
All boundaries of religion, caste, wealth, or language were broken by the spirit of humanity. People were offered shelter and food in temples, mosques, and churches without any discrimination or bias. Regular people offered food and shelter to strangers they had never known before the calamity.
I can recount one such incident myself.
When we had only a litre of drinking water left, a neighbourhood grocer who had already run out of stock somehow managed to procure a can of water and provided it to us at 10pm in night, that too at the normal cost. He was not bound by any duty except humanity. He did not discriminate in helping even though we were North Indians or did not speak his language.
As a society, Chennaites came together and stood united to face the worst rains of the century. People who had networks helped others by contacting rescue teams and mass mobilizing relief efforts through social media groups. Relief camps saw common people in huge numbers coming out to volunteer for any help; forgetting and overcoming their own struggles, loss and misery.
It was the common unknown citizens who turned out to be the real heroes because they were able to overcome adversities and show courage. Their helping and self less ‘never-say-die’ spirit needs to be saluted.
The overriding all – encompassing emotion was of brotherhood and oneness of all, desire to help fellow brethren. The Only incentive was contentment and satisfaction in their hearts. At the end of the day, we are all humans with the inherent goodness in each one of us.
Some great stories of courage, humanity, selflessness and altruism were presented before the world during these times, which will forever keep us encouraging and give us hope in the coming future.
In today’s world, when we more often hear the stories of hate, violence, intolerance, greed, this display of generosity and compassion is highly reassuring and worth emulating for everyone.
Personally, this was a learning and very inspiring experience for me. Few of the practical lessons I will always remember from 2015 are:
1] To be resilient, adaptive, brave and face all struggles and challenges in life with courage and determination. My confidence to fight adversities has increased by learning from these brave hearts.
2] My hope for a better world has amplified. All is not gloomy. There still are good souls around us who care and have empathy for others. Let us all strive to encourage and increase this tribe.
3] My trust in fellow humans in my city increased manifold, thus helping to enhance the sense of safety and security I feel here. There is an assurance that I am surrounded by some good humans who will help if the need arises and not remain mute spectators. This also encourages me to do whatever I can for the benefit of the society.
4] To be optimistic. Even in the most difficult circumstances, one should not let negative thinking shatter one’s confidence and hope, leading to impaired judgement. In such times, keep yourself occupied in some constructive activity. Negative thoughts overpower us when our mind is vacant. You can overcome all difficulties and emerge victorious in life. Never give up hope. You can do it!
5] Respect nature. No one can mess with nature. We have to replan the infrastructure and stop the illegal construction which is wrecking havoc on natural water bodies. We all have to learn to live in harmony with nature. It is now not a matter of choice but urgent need and the only way ahead.
6] Not to have any sense of false pride or conceit. In front of Mother Nature’s fury, all were equally helpless. All the material possession or luxuries can’t give any true happiness and contentment compared to the satisfaction received by helping others. We should strive to remain connected with our inner core which carries the inherent goodness called the ‘divine spark’ in spiritual parlance, because what ultimately helped us to surmount all difficulties and overcome the devastating event were the collective basic human values.
I look forward to 2016 with renewed trust and hope for a better world where we all can co-exist peacefully in harmony with nature.
“I’m sharing my #TalesOf2015 with BlogAdda.”