The rains seem to be finally over, although one can’t really tell. People in Chennai and its suburbs will remember Cyclone Nisha for a long, long time to come. For all the assurances given by the state administration that storm-water drains had been laid and flooding would be minimal, Chennai lay battered and bruised at the end of it all. Several roads, streets and by-lanes now have potholes and it’s a nightmare travelling on them. Floodwaters entered many, many homes and residents – poor middle class and rich – had a trying time baling out water and cleaning their homes. People living in ground-floor flats are now looking at moving to first floors. So bad was their experience.
The weather has changed so much over the past few years. There is hardly anymore the winter season here when you get to see clear blue skies and an eagle or two flying high above. Well, those were the days.
While people in the city have quickly got over the flood trauma, many in the suburbs, in Tambaram and elsewhere, are still awaiting flood relief. It is the same story every year. An elderly gentleman told me that he has been seeing this happen for decades, only the scale of loss and damage changes every year.
So, what answers does the government have? The state administration is trying its best, of course, or so it seems. But surely, there must be something drastically wrong with our planning and implementation. Roads, for example. Why do they have to be repeatedly dug and coated with tar? Why can’t we have concrete roads, like in most parts of Mumbai or Delhi? It’s because construction has become a moneymaking racket – there are hundreds and thousands all over the country eager for the spoils.
And who is to show the light at the end of the tunnel? The common man. But where is he in the midst of all this? Doesn’t he have the time? Does he care as much for his country, state or city as he professes? If he or she does, why don’t they come out and try and do something? Each in his or her own way. A writer writing about the trauma of floodwaters entering homes, a painter highlighting the lack of a proper meal on canvas, or a singer singing aloud the agony of a people. Where is that spirit of the 1930s and 1940s? Where is that unity? Can we still show the world that we can achieve (we did achieve Independence, didn’t we?)? That we have what it takes to make India a developed country in the next decade?