It has been a roller coaster of a week for me as, I am sure, has been for a lot of us whose family dropped out of contact in a flooded Chennai. A week of unsuccessful, not to mention, frantic phone calls and whatsapp messages trying to reach the unreachable. A week of listening to ‘This route is not available, please try after some time’ in Tamil, English, Kannada, Telugu and other unidentifiable regional languages of India leading to the pulling of what little hair was left on my head.
News of reservoirs being opened to dump excess water, water entering houses to sweep away hard-earned belongings, cars submerging under water throughout the city, power outages everywhere….what was, just a week ago, an active and thriving city turned into a devastation of nightmarish proportion. To one who is averse to checking news of any form, Facebook was my one point of contact with the real world outside this past week. Pictures and news of the devastation poured in through the social media giving my flighty imagination a boost to soar high.
I imagined my aged parents wading in chest-high water trying to get in to a rescue boat that the army sent to evacuate the area. I imagined my mom losing balance and falling in the water. I imagined my Dad holding a knapsack of his important documents over his head trying to help my mom to the rescue boat. I imagined my sister and her kids all alone in a dark house that was slowly filling up with water. After reading a FB post that said 40 crocodiles had escaped from a nearby park, I imagined the rescue boats on the streets being escorted by crocodiles on all sides. All in all, I imagined way too much but that is nothing new. I have been known to knit a king size blanket from a 2 inch thread all my life. J
What my fertile imagination neglected to show me was the incredible acts of kindness shown by strangers throughout the state helping one another. Thanks to FB, I saw people opening up their homes to give shelter to those that had lost theirs, strangers cooking and distributing food and medical supplies to all they can, college students wading in chest high water to rescue people marooned in their buildings with no food or water. I saw humanity surface and stand tall against all odds. I saw the rich and the poor work together to save their city. I read stories of Hindus and Muslims and Christians and Sikhs working together to provide relief to those affected around them.
What is it about disasters that bring out the best in us, I wonder. Why aren’t we able to bond like this every day and break through the walls of religion, caste and language? Why does it take a devastation of a massive kind for us to put our differences aside and stand together?
This very moment what do I feel? What am I proud of this day? I am NOT proud to be a Tamilian. I am NOT proud to be an Indian. I am NOT proud to be a Hindu. This day, I am proud to be a part of the human race. It gives me incredible pride to stand with those that see the suffering of others and feel their pain. In today’s world of constant chaos, of terrorism and bickering, I feel hope watching a flood-ravaged city practicing the rules that Mahatma Gandhi lived by - tolerance, compassion and kindness. It gives me hope for the future.