Refugee

                                                                        Day 6
                        Third flood, Chennai

                                    

I am Rajarajan. I am a doctor, a radiologist. I earn sufficient to live in excess. And I am a refuge, in my own place for sixth day now. This is my story. And I am sharing it only with the belief that relief work is over and rehabilitation is next. I hope the rain that has been threatening us since yesterday won’t cause any devastation.

  Writing from water logged chemmancherry with still no access to current.

Coming to my story….

In the month of November and December, I was made a refugee at my own place twice. The first flood left my area water logged, and I was made a refugee for first time. It was a kind of experience for me - taking friend out from his water logged building, providing food for people kept in church, seeing the receding water level at my house and a two day halt from my work. My work place was affected badly then. The effect of flood was not felt in entire Chennai as it did not affect Chennai on the whole and the city recovered in just two days. I, being a refugee was also able to find good shelter, food, water and all major access.

Second flood….
A week of weather forecast over a bad rain, continuous and heavy rain from night of 30th Monday. On Tuesday morning, December 1st, the current was stopped at my house and my hospital was hustling nothing but rains. By afternoon the mass hysteria about flood started, and the videos and photos that came in created panic. By 5pm in evening I came out of my hospital (my hospital has two water bodies adjacent to it, ‘Perumbakkam Lake’ and ‘Sithalapakkam Lake’). By evening the rain didn’t stop and water is already logging in streets. Current at my home was still not seen and is understood that in no time I WILL BE REFUGEE FOR SECOND TIME IN MY OWN PLACE.
I and my friend, planned to evacuate and shift to better place, but unfortunately my bike got struck and I was in road and he got stuck in his office. I found shelter at 10.pm on Tuesday night and even then I couldn’t realise the depth of devastation. The next day the busy OMR streets were like war zone and in my residential area people were being evacuated with boats. I was informed that there was neck high water at my house. Helping around rescue workers there (mostly fishermen arranged by locals, no police or fire officials), by evening I went and repaired by bike and visited make-shift shelters for people from east side OMR slums. This is the second day of Flood and situation was getting worse. Current has gone, no ATM, no petrol, our only access outside was continuing to taramani – adayar and reaching santhome. Crossing water logged taramani I found ATM at RA-puram and fuel at central. With money and fuel, I got courage to do whatever, night I helped around people in make shift shelters, and my friend was still stuck in IT company.

The third day was worst. The water level didn’t recede as expected, more people came out from buildings and everybody wanted to exit OMR. Transport was cut off still at many points. And both side of roads we can see people walking like refugees. IT students, college boys and girls all walked, took trucks and exited OMR. The access to CMBT was then only via metro train from Madhiya kaliash. Current was switched off for preventive measure. Phone network began an issue now as many tower generators were submerged. Food and water became an issue and to arrange food for 500 people in Thoraipakkam school we found it difficult. I had cash with me but I can’t find food to arrange. Taking a local alongside we finally arranged food and at that time, fourteen IT girls were in roads waiting to exit. They were searching for food and all they could find was 10 chapattis, for fourteen girls. They were sharing that food right in road.

Richer or poorer – Both were refugees then and both needed food first. The roads were mostly clear by that night but residential were remained water logged. Joined now by few friends we started feeding the dogs and we started location services for friends and relatives, all those we located were fine. On Day 3, December 3rd , Thursday night we had first access to Saithapettai, it was one of the worst hit inside Chennai and it looked like a war zone. No current, no water, no food, “Take this route you can reach there”, barricades and police were everywhere, it was a perfect calamity zone. One could see even in pitch black darkness the might of flowing Adayar and the washed out slum homes alongside the river.

From the next few days, till now Chennai is recovering slowly. From day 4 accesses was easy and slowly power was also restored and issues of essential commodities was sorted. Help to stranded people also came in sufficiently. We are now a team and we are helping people wherever needed from Saithapettai to chemmancherry. Still half the IT residential of OMR has exited and the streets are deserted. Chennai as a city will recover to one hundred percent in probably five days. Life of those people in water logged house of chemmancherry, those in make shift schools of sholinganallur, make shift shelters in Thoraipakkam will least take a month to recover.
I got my first day of current and sophistication yesterday. First Day of assess to TV and news channels and proper internet also yesterday. After watching the TV, I/ we felt hilarious and we felt that it was better that we didn’t have access to TV. Be it news channel, be it political parties they try to score with calamity.

News x arranged relief in 30 minutes’ - NEWS X. The area they are talking about is mambalam and they time they spoke all this there is 1/3 leg level water. – That is rescue and relief.
Sun TV – bravo they show news as if we are isolated and living in some island.
If DMK was on rule they would have been with people – DMK spoke person. Why was not they on ground and not working with people now?

Ok, then is it right to comment badly about them all? Is it right to sit and curse them in social media?
Yes, the situation is/was bad. Yes the politicians are bad. I didn’t actually see one MLA, MP or senior politician in road functioning with people. Local councillor in my area came in one fortuner, un-wet with one person to hold umbrella behind his head, I am pretty sure his house, his family, his relatives all well stocked and kept safe. If I didn’t see one AIADMK person in road, I didn’t see one DMK or say any other party caravan of relief (least in my area.) too. Wherever they can, they tried to score. Clean white shirts, un-wet dhotis and they distributed materials with big Amma banners.
But the first line of rescue also, though came from those local men; they arranged boats, and they arranged rescue operations. They are unfortunately part of various political parties and off-course they wanted to score. Be it any party, the local persons always tried to score. On day 2 and 3 we are arranging food. The food we brought was served by some local in that area; off course he created a scenario that he is distributing those foods. Yes, the white shirted politicians, the amma banners, the amma stickers in the food packets, the opposition who tries to score this in next elections is all bad and ugly, but not only these form our governing body.

Our governing body consist of urban or rural local bodies. Inside a urban body there are town panchayat, municipalities and corporation. All these local bodies have set of powers an all these have local heads. All though the local politician is part of some political party they are just one among us and in areas of calamity they are the first to serve.

Believe me I have seen it on ground. The relief we collect and send in from other cities in day four and five, the media that reaches the stranded areas in day 3, the political parties that banners themselves or even the NDRF that comes in day 4 are not the rescue and crisis work. The locals and local head who organize rescue boats, open schools and colleges for makeshift shelters, arrange food 3 times day for over 2000 in one area alone are the real rescue. My area was one among the worst hit too. Most were rescued in day 2 and make shift shelters were ready in day 2, the crisis that we have to manage was food, water and sanitation then. NDRF came in my area on day 4 and rescued people who choose to stay inside their houses on initial days.

So respect those men who worked for you on first hand in ground; the ones who took you from houses, who sheltered you. I have seen fishermen tirelessly working all day and rescuing people. These men might belong to some party and yeah they might try to score, let them score also. But beware of those that are white shirted, and also those that are holding mike and speaking ‘It is we who covered entire Chennai.’ The news channel do they part. But they exaggerate.

Milk they said was 100 rupees, maybe in some part of Chennai it was and may be some vendor sold it so. Milk was not even available in major areas till day3, we never complained. When it was available, it was sold at 30 INR maximum. The tea shops never closed. Many hotels functioned in rain and flood and served food, yes they did business but the served too. Many shops which sold jerking, essentials were open, yes they did business but they served. The corporates stumbled and their work stumbled because their employees fled (It was actually better), but not the public for men choose to work, they choose to cross waters run shops, run autos, tempos, run buses and made sure least some essentials were available.

Imagine if they all fled ????

The local youth, so many local NGOS, some IT parks in my areas (Pavan IT park which allowed people to stay in), temples and local Jamats were all seen in streets serving and feeding, respect them all.

The negatives:

  1. Flood showed us we are not prepared for any calamity. Even after first calamity we didn’t learn.
2. It showed us we lacked vision and planning.
3. It showed how we think for the moment and not for next hundred years.
4. It showed the ugly political parties – amma banners (Banner and stamp entire Tamilnadu if you want), the ugly opposition, be aware that the opposition is DMDK (and they were not seen also), the trying to utilize DMK.
5. The trying to score news channel .

The positives:

  1. First hand rescue by locals – it reduced loss of lives to greater extent.
2. Rescue work and efforts by fishermen
3. The youth who worked at so many places tirelessly all day.
4. The people who didn’t flee and continued routines of life –hotels, t-shops, departmental stores, garment shops, even chains like coffee day(yeah they served the affordable), auto men, tempo and truck drivers, bus drivers and conductors and even the mechanics.
5. The fire and police department who organized rescue in many places.
6. The local water body metro which ensured continuous water least in some areas.
7. The local government officials who ensured basic medicines were kept available, PHCs kept open, who arranged for water in make shift shelters.
8. Unity of people and the brotherhood in helping each other.
9. Care from other cities, districts and state
10. The work of NGOs and organisations.

All is said and done, for those of you stranded without current and network; or for who those of you who suffered financial loss, or for those of you who had lost access to food and water for 3 days – the greatest suffering that you might have faced and will face is this. And your life will begin back its routine probably in maximum two days. But for those in make shift shelters, for those who lost their home it will take least one month for recovery. And for those who lost their loved ones life the situation is worst.

But are we going to remember this all?

Once our life resumes we will begin back our work. We will have current, our ATMs will dispense money in seconds, we will have access to fuel in excess and we will waste it. Our homes will be furnished back and our kids will go back to school and we will not worry about the people in make shift homes and their kids. Rehabilitation, we don’t care and the 1940 crore will never reach. We will continue buying plots, flats, villas in marsh lands, we will continue causing the extinction of various other species. We will continue to use and demand electricity, construct roads in between marsh lands and cut them off. FOR THIS IS WHAT WE ARE AND THIS IS WHAT WE ARE EDUCATED FOR. For the next few days we shall play blame game and we shall tell stories of flood. And in next few days we will speak about movies and plan about New Year celebrations.
We have to evolve and learn. We have to respect nature and work on crisis level to conserve it. Do you know OMR marsh lands was initially around 1400 acres? And now we have only about 780 acres announced as reserve and protected areas? The okkiyamm madavu where my house is situated is right where the excess water from marsh drains into Buckingham canal. Then why water won’t flood there?

All that is done is done. We were not educated then, we tackled polio, education and population issues then. Now least it is time for us to work on other things. Blaming on government won’t help, because poor are they, as we are not educated they were not educated too.
We send relief materials, how do we send it? Segregated in plastic bags!! All these are again dumped in water way and it clogs. Do we think? How we send water? – Water packets!! Wow. Our attempt is to send relief materials. If we send relief materials we are happy. We don’t think beyond that.
Same with our government, they wanted to eradicate slums, they did to extent and how? They constructed buildings right in lakes and along canals.

But will it change?

Will we change ourselves? When we dispose waste, will the waste segregation be followed?
Will the thinking for keeping house clean and not care about roads stop?
Will the usage of plastics be reduced and banned?
Will the government and public collectively participate in nature preservation?
All that is dream….

I am Rajarajan, I am refugee in my own place for six days. …………

 

TheCritics

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