Wednesday, December 30, 2015

KINDNESS IS THE BIGGEST THING

Nice connecting with you all after a long time. I hope the rains that went by, treated my Chennai friends with some kindness and I really wish that each of you are back to your normal rhythm of life.

After having to vacate home twice during the floods in Chennai, we got back home just a few days before Christmas. Staying at a make shift place, we had waited for two weeks to slip by after water had been pumped out of our colony. Christmas this time was pretty dull. I did not even push myself to put a star even though my wife had requested me twice. Putting up the Christmas tree was out of question as it was already the 21st of December. I believe my sister portrayed more spirit as she put up a star at the ground floor of our home. My wife also never gave up her tryst with baking cakes. I tried to liven up things on Christmas day by playing the Gunter Kullman Christmas Choir numbers for a while and it seemed to mollify the situation a little. Thus Christmas this year slipped by without a big impact.




As was the normal practice, we shared the Christmas cakes with our neighbours. And this time we gave it to a more number of them, because the floods brought a connect with a few more neighbours. It is a popular observation that if we have the habit of smoking or consuming wine or whiskey, it's a great leveling platform where irrespective of position and class, many times people seem to bind while they are into these. Calamities offer another leveling platform bringing together people from different levels in the society to enquire and help each other. Thus our cakes found their way to more houses this time.

The floods gave me a true picture of the unity in diversity, right there in my colony. We had a huge community of Muslims who went all over the place offering food and clothes. They even opened the mosque for anyone to stay. Many Hindus and Christians stayed there for days. Looking at the social circle that I am in touch mostly, I have to admit that other than my few relatives and just three individuals from my huge church community, nobody really called up to enquire about our state. This church is where I go to every Sunday and it is for this church that I sing in their choir. I don't blame them. May be they have called up more worthy friends. Probably our colony does not feature in the so called elite list for being considered worthy enough for a call. We Christians have always been ordinary people claiming extra ordinary things. We get too worked up worshiping God and singing for Him, that we forget our neighbour. This is the picture that I see. May be I am yet to see a better picture of the Christian group around me. It is not that we expect all our friends to wade through the water and reach us. At one point, we were running out of ideas on how to move my father out of home after the water levels had gone up and vehicles were refusing to come inside the colony. The main road was a good half a kilometre away and the vehicles would only come till there. Friends could also help by giving ideas. I have to ask myself if I would also have behaved the same way. However, I did hear about our church extending help to several flood affected families.

That apart, the person who played a key role in evacuating us the first time was my driver, a core Hindu, who offered to walk all the way from his house through the hip level water and then again wade through knee deep water in our colony. He could have always told us that he was not in a position to move out of his home. We had a tough time convincing an ambulance driver to come into our colony due to the deep water level, but it was our driver who called up and convinced the ambulance driver to move into the deep water to take my sick father out of our home to a safe place. I truly consider it a great help that he did. The second time when we evacuated, it was another uncle, a Hindu converted to a Christian, who helped us in the rush hour to pack all things and keep them at an elevated level in our ground floor and then leave on time. It really helped to save a lot of damages. He was the same person who bailed us out of the tsunami in Velankanni in 2004, driving all the way from Chennai and braving an accident en route. We also had a person from the hospital where my sister worked, who came to our make shift shelter almost every day and provided us with essentials.

My college friends with whom I am connected in Whatsapp, frequently enquired and kept my morale high. Some of them really ventured into helping people in distress. Coincidentally, all of these good humans were mostly Hindus and Muslims.

Besides these good angels, two atheists called up and enquired. One of them called up daily and gave me very accurate indications of the weather forecast. It really helped me to plan in advance and take drastic action, while also giving me to time to convince my dear ones. This friend even went to several places to rescue people and carry out relief efforts. Sometimes atheists are much more better humans than the ones like me who scrupulously follow religion. I am not sure if I would venture out in the same fashion.

Sometime after we got back home after the first evacuation, I noticed while standing in my car porch, that a family staying on the street opposite to our home , about ten metres away, were all looking towards our first floor roof. I wondered what was there that attracted their attention. A few moments later, one of them walked up and requested me for a few coconut branches for their religious function. I opened my gates for them and they went out happy with what they wanted. There have been many Hindu friends who have come with similar requests and we have always made it a point to give them. 

A few days past Christmas, when I was sitting with my father in his bedroom, I noticed a white hat suddenly appear through the small opening that the curtains left near the window. It made me cautious as we were always careful about strangers stepping into our home, although we just left the gate with a latch that could be opened from outside. This opening action of our gate, always gave out a loud sound and so we would easily get to know about anyone who entered. But I had not heard anyone enter as yet.I waited for a while and again the white hat appeared and moved aside. I called out to enquire who it was. My sister hearing my call, went out and saw a young Muslim boy standing near the window and calling out "Aunty". She tried to understand what he wanted and then gave him whatever he was looking for. He was looking for some nice stiff bamboo branches and this was for his teacher in the mosque to whack students like him when they failed to learn their Quran lessons. He went home with a warm smile on his face and with a handful of bamboo branches. A few days later he again him with his few friends and they took some more.  Days later when I was accompanying my sister to a nearby shop, I heard a boy call out "Hey, see that cane stick Aunty". It was the same boy Mohammad Nazir telling his friend. We waved at him.

More than being a Christian, it is this co-existence with people from different beliefs, that I love. This period of calamity gave me that picture, that belief, that in many humans, whether an atheist or a person pursuing a religion, there is that inclination to do something good. So I believe we don't have to really debate whether God is there or not there. Kindness exists and that is the biggest thing. How does anything else matter?

16 comments:

Sri said...

Roy..excellent. You have written what is there in the mind and heart of most chennaites

BK said...

Simply excellent stuff and it comes out so much authentic than forwarded msgs when this is personal and straight from a know person's heart.

Marq said...

Very nice write up..

PM said...

Thanks for the good article. This flood brought us closer to God and helped us to spot the real friends.

ajucherry said...

That was hands on experience of reports of “tOgEtheRnEsS” coming out from Chennai in that days of floods. Liked the way you used….Whiskey and Calamity...giving leveling platform.
“Kindness exists and that the biggest thing”….whether Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Atheist but sad when people ‘scrupulously follow religion’- as u say, forget this in name of religion…or do the religions in these days make us do so….?

Raj said...

Yes we can see the humanity in this crisis situation than during any other situation. Great Roy.

Selva kumar said...

Reading ur article after long time.. Good write up and example for all of us to realize ....

SM said...

Good one Cherry

AP said...

It takes such bigh calamities for people to understand that religion is hokum...... better late than never...

PM said...

Dear Roy,

I can very well imagine what you and your family went through especially with your aged and to some extent infirm Father having to be evacuated. Yes, I too am guilty of not having come to help your family. I don't want to offer any excuses.

There was this short video in Facebook which was shown to me by a friend on his mobile. It shows a person offering money in a temple , but refusing to look at a person begging for food. Just then a ‘ good Samaritan ’ appears, admonishes the person who offers money to the idol of a God, but refuses to accept the hunger of a person. He says that God never asked for money, but you give all that you want. But when someone who is hungry approaches you you refuse to accept that. The ‘ good samaritan’ asks him what kind of religion he is following. And lo this man is forced to re-think of what the ‘ good Samaritan ’ said and then goes and gets food packets for this hungry man and also for the other hungry people sitting in that lane.
It was Karl Marx who said that " Religion is the opium of the people". To a great extent it is true , but you run the risk of being labelled an 'atheist'.

It is better to be a more ‘ humane’ human being than being a highly religious persons with no humane values.

However the three days ( Dec,2 nd – Dec, 5 th) of living without electricity, rationed food, no telephone service, no mobile service brought better interaction amongst family members. We were taken back in time to pre- August, 1975 days. And why August, 1975 ; because that is the date when Madras Doordarshan started black & white TV transmission for just 2 hrs. From there we have come a long way, enslaved by all kinds of devices, which originally were thought of ‘ aids’ in our daily life , but we transformed them to be our ‘ Masters’. So as days go by we will loose more humanism and become more ‘ sophisticated’ , ‘ in keeping with the times ‘ , ‘ tech savy’ , etc., etc., And if you choose to be different, you are a ‘ freak’ , a ‘weird human being’ .

Hope things have returned to normal , but the scars of your misfortune will take a long time to heal. May the Lord / the God give you the fortitude to cope with all this.

Best Regards,
PM

Roy Cherian Cherukarayil said...

@Sri, BK and Marq..thnx for reading through this post in WhatsApp. Thanks for being with me in the middle of the crisis.
@PM..thnx...there is a lot of truth in your conclusion
@Aju...yes..it's the excessive jingoism towards religion that makes us behave like this..especially are very over expressive about it.
@Raj and Selva...thnx...hope I never went into an advise mode.It was just an outpour. I am happy if there are realizations that one can take from it.
@SM and AP...thnx..yes...a journey through this period opened up many realizations for me.
@PM...thnx so much for your passionate feedback. Yes..our focus should be to be a more humane human. Very well said.

Yuvarajan said...

Hello sir, that's really a wonderful write up.. It's true that in every bad thing there is something good.

Roy Cherian Cherukarayil said...

Thanks Yuva...yes a silver lining is seen always :)

Maya said...

Oops. I didn't know you went through such hard times.
Hopefully everything is back to normal now.
Just running the daily chores - work, client calls, family, cooking keeps my plate full most often.

I m sorry I didn't reach out to you earlier. Now that I have your number it easy to contact.

Your driver saved the whole family. Hope you rewarded him in a memorable way.

MP said...

a nice one uncle.. which is so true ...looking for more articles uncle..

TM said...

Read your blog, that Religion is called Humanity. Sorry to hear the travails that you had during the Chennai floods. Even am guilty of not enquiring about your safety, but had the good fortune of doing some relief work working out of a Hindu mandapam packing food for 2 days.

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