All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am. I learn from my past, remember it, but don’t carry it as a baggage. I don’t want to be weighed down by my past. But sometimes, when we least expect it, our past saunters towards us and like the magic mirror in Snow White’s tale, depicts selected scenes from yesteryears. This is exactly how I felt when I saw him– the boy with his curly and unkempt hair, wearing a worn T-shirt and trousers, a few sizes big. He looked emaciated and tired and reminded me of the photos of Somali refugee kids.
A few weeks back people of Tamil Nadu were alerted about the oncoming cyclone, which had been named Nada. Schools were given two days holiday, and people queued up in front of grocery stores. Like everyone else, I too took all the warnings quite seriously and stocked up groceries, clean water, kept all the mobiles, power banks and laptops for charging.
Next day Nada arrived. We received rains, and strong winds. But there was nothing very fearful about it. Maybe people who travelled in two wheelers experienced something more.
On December 11th, 2016 came the warning of yet another cyclone, Vardah, approaching Chennai. By evening, schools had been given a holiday and my WA was flooded with messages advising caution. A few also mentioned that this time Chennai and a few other places of TN will be within the eye of the cyclone Vardah. As usual, I stocked up on groceries, clean water, charged all the gadgets. Since we had been warned that power supply may be affected, I even kept ready many board games and story books to keep my little one entertained. But none of these warnings prepared me for what I experienced the next day.
The next day, we all woke up early. It was drizzling with wind blowing. By 9 o’clock wind was slowly picking up speed. But we still had power supply, though I came to know from WA that many areas didn’t.
By 11 o’ clock stronger winds were blowing, and we lost our power supply. We kept watching the news through internet, and realized that Vardah had not yet entered land. Wind was gaining speed steadily. The dish of our dishTV connection was blown off.
By 1 o’ clock we heard loud thuds – the falling of coconut leaves. We peered out to see violent gusts of wind. Enveloped by the howling winds, and strong rains, we remained cocooned in our house. By 2:00pm, a deafening sound made us rush to our balcony window. We saw an entire tree had uprooted and fallen. Very soon another tree near our house also fell. It was very scary and my daughter started crying and then somehow controlled herself and started praying. There stood another tree exactly in front of our house, swaying menacingly unable to resist the powerful winds. It was by God’s grace that the tree somehow withstood the force of the wind.
We had lost our internet connection too, and even our mobile phone was not detecting tower. All the cables had been torn apart by the wind. Only our good old BSNL landline was working and we used that, after a really long time, to allay the fears of our dear and near who stayed in other places – the most advanced gadgets all lying useless.
I looked out at the fierce winds – the cyclone Vardah – surrounding us, and moving in a rhythmic way. I was awed, frightened and humbled witnessing the power of nature. Humans had been able to predict the coming of this cyclone, its speed, and even the exact places where it would affect, and the time it would enter land. We had been able to evacuate most of the people who would otherwise have been affected badly. Yet, fury of the winds left us all helpless and scared.
By evening, the wind speed had reduced. We spent the night in the company of oil lamps, like the old days, before electricity was introduced. Power supply was restored for around half an hour, by 1 o’ clock at night and then again at 4:00 am today morning.
Today, I saw in the news that more than 2000 trees had been uprooted and Vardah has wreaked havoc in the entire Chennai city. As I write this, power supply has again been cut-off, probably to remove the fallen trees. The fallen trees are yet to be removed, though people have come together and cleared a part of it to make way on the road.
Last December, floods caused disaster in Chennai and this year the cyclone. Both were equally frightening experiences, and will be etched in our memory forever. Thanking God, for having helped us survive this.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the teacher to Mini
Mini looked at the different flashcards the teacher was showing her, looked at each carefully, and pushed them all aside.
“No… no…not these” she replied.
“Doctor, Teacher, Policeman…”
The teacher tried once more to get Mini to choose one.
But Mini had lost all interest in that question. She ran off to play. The teacher smiled and moved onto the next kid for she knew it was difficult to force a 6 year old to answer.
Few days later
Mini stood near the gate of the school. Her mother had not come to pick her up yet. She looked up at her teacher.
“Your mother will come soon, dear”
Mini looked around. All the walls were painted with slogans. Picture of various election candidates were fluttering in the wind. A face caught her attention.
“There, there” shouted Mini pulling her teacher’s hand.
The teacher looked all around thinking Mini’s mother had come. But she could not see anyone.
“There…ur chif minstr” Mini pointed to the picture.
Teacher saw the picture and understood what Mini was trying to say.
“Yes, our chief minister… Dr.J.Jayalalithaa”
“Win I gow up, I be like her. You add me tha day”
The teacher smiled and looked at the photograph. An iron lady who has inspired millions, who proved that women can do, and who has always been their strength.
It was raining heavily. Gayathri looked out through the window. She saw the coconut and arecanut palms swaying in the strong wind. Rain was pouring in sheets, soaking everything, “purifying everything”, thought Gayathri. She ran outside, and stood in the rain so that she too could be purified, washed off of all her sins. She stood there for a long time. All her life she had heard people describe rain as the blessing of God. For Gayathri, it had always been God’s tears – tears of desperation at His children who were destroying his greatest work of art, the Nature. The thunder and lightning had always been God’s anger at the earthlings – the flash of His eyes and the boom of His voice. She could interpret the rain in a thousand and one ways, for rain had always been a reflection of her mood.