Thursday, February 25, 2016

THE BATTLE WITH SEEMINGLY STILL WATERS- THE MID THRILL

I settled down at my make shift place and started working for a few days out of there. Drinking water and food were the only things for which I had to venture out everyday and prices were slowly climbing higher and higher. Ayanavaram in many ways was a God blessed place, with water, power and internet  for use, available all the time. There was no water on the roads there and the huge storm water and sewage canal that had been cleaned up and maintained by the Railways just before the floods, was in full cry, filled to the brim and it kept moving all the water.

Every time a huge downpour came down and kept going for a while, the water level in the garden in front of my make shift place, would rise and come up to the steps of the house and that would raise our eyebrows and accelerate our heart beats. My daughter and me would work with the pointed end of an old umbrella to remove the leaves clogging the drain and then wait for the water to rush through this. Once it went through, all the water would disappear and that would give us all a temporary relief until the next downpour. At least five times in a day and sometimes at night, I would step out and walk up to the canal and see the situation of the water.

I had done heavy recharges for calls, messages and internet 3G as soon as I had indications of the water level going up and so there was enough balance left. I had a helper from the hospital where my sister had worked, to help us move canned water on his cycle from wherever we could locate it. I had gone on a hunt with several shops and got rice and wheat flour wherever I could spot them, paying the rising prices.  Besides this, we also stocked noodles, biscuits, bread, eggs and bakery items. We had milk supply coming in from a shop nearby. We avoided any fresh non-vegeterian purchases and just used up what we already had. 


We could not take everything while we had rushed out of home. So I went back alone on three occasions to get several things like the hard drives, USB drives, cameras, camcorder, clothes, books for my daughter and other things out of my home. Walking through the water each time, for more than a kilometre, both ways, was an experience. But the water did not have strong currents like what South Chennai faced. It was pretty still and only had the little waves that people like us created while moving around. I noticed a lot of people leaving our area for safer places, probably anticipating another bout of heavy rain. Ministers, officials and politicians were all over the place at the entrance to the housing area. Firemen on several fire engines, water pumps and boats, still kept working day and night to pump out the water and to move people. Their state was really sad as they did not have any rest.


I saw a lady compel her daughter who was not keen at all, to pose for repeated photo shoots, while in the middle of the road flooded with water. A lot of people were walking around them, both ways, but that never perturbed her. Many times we see comedy scenes like these sandwiched between layers of tragedy. The main road to the housing area had been dug up on one side, for about 100 metres. This was to drain the water out from the housing area, to a point, and from there it was to be pumped into the main drain, the top of which had been opened up by digging up one side of the main road. All this was a sight..a real pathetic sight.

My father and sister had already gone back to our home after cleaning up the ground floor and getting all the furniture, appliances and other things back into their places. It had taken about six days for the water to be pumped out by the administration, out of the housing area. My friend Magesh was my rain consultant and he gave me fairly accurate indications for the next three days at any time. It really helped me plan and take evasive action. Magesh had warned me about the possibility of another BIG rain and so I had tried my best to dissuade my father and sister from going back. But they did not relent. In fact we had arguments and finally I had to give in. We had damages on the doors, cupboards and furniture at our home. The smell of the flood water still remained, in spite of all the cleaning that was done with lysol and other solutions. After a few days, we tried burning frankincense and that really helped to a big extent, but still, the strange smell wafted out of the rooms whenever the breeze blew.

After working for a few days out of the make shift place, I started going to office from there. Me, my daughter and my wife, decided to hang on there for a few more days, till my daughter's school re-opened. I had taken Magesh's advice and left office on November 23rd along with him on the first company bus at fifteen minutes to 6.00 pm. We were sitting next to each other and viewed the sky to gather signs. "Not that ominous", is what we thought as the bus took off. The drizzle started as we moved further and then there was steady rain. In almost half hour we were up on the Koyambedu flyover. The steady rain stopped and the drizzle took over and after sometime a swap happened and this kept going on and on. Somewhere ahead, a huge downpour had sent the traffic amuck and we were stuck on the flyover for almost an hour and a half. This weather behaviour was different from what Magesh had predicted.

We were in a quandary as to whether we should remain inside, or get out of the bus and find another way of getting home. A lot in the bus were in the same situation as we were. I saw a few girls take a decision and step out and that made us hasten our decision making process. Finally Magesh and me stepped out with the decision to head for the metro station. I had an umbrella and a hat with me. The burden of carrying the laptop was killing. We walked down the flyover and reached a point where there was about two feet of water, but the points closer to the divider were still clear. So we kept walking along that path and at one point we removed our shoes and had them in hand too and rolled up our pants. Magesh compelled me and took over the laptop from me. He carried it all the way up to the metro station.

We took the metro from the Ekattuthangal station with a sigh of relief that it was all over and in fifteen minutes the train took us to Koyambedu. This was my first ride in the metro and it was ironical that I had to do it with bare feet and a wet attire. We negotiated through the huge crowd standing at the station and then stood in the bee line with the shoes still in hand at the automated exit path of the station. We then slowly made our way out onto the main road, only to find that we had stepped into a frying pan after having run away from a fire. There was water almost to the level of our hip on the roads and no autorickshaws were plying. The traffic was so pathetic and we knew it would be foolish to get into any vehicle and get stuck. And so we chose to walk again along the foot path which was at a higher level and had about a feet of water over it. We did not know what all we were encountering below the water as our slow moving feet kept feeling, spotting and carefully finding their way through the projections of the broken concrete slabs and the steel rods of the same, that were jutting out. But we kept moving and both Magesh and me kept looking out for any loose slabs or man holes and kept warning each other. We moved forward and cleared the area where water was deep and got onto the middle of the road and kept walking further.

As we got closer to the main road, I called my driver and asked him to wait beyond the point where the traffic started, so that he would not get stranded getting into the traffic while coming to pick us up. So, we planned to take an autorickshaw to reach that point. We walked forward and met driver sharks who told us their exhorbitant rate of Rs.350 for a drive of hardly two kilometres. We tried negotiations, like two drenched crows, wet all over and desperate to get back to our nests. Having no other choice, we relented and got in and with the rain taking off with another heavy stint, we moved ahead and inched through the traffic. It was about 10.30 pm when I spotted my car. I dropped Magesh at a point close to his home and then we made our way to the make shift place. This encounter with an aggressive Mother Nature and with a friend who was always by my side, is something that will remain etched in my mind, forever.

You may read the next in sequence at:

http://cherryspace.blogspot.in/2016/04/the-battle-with-seemingly-still-waters_14.html

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