On December 12, 2016, Tamil Nadu authorities cut down the power supply as early as six in the morning as a precautionary step. Schools and colleges were declared closed. Private companies were issued an advisory notice by the Government to stay shut. The morning was calm with slight windy drizzling. ‘Vardah’, a cyclonic depression formed over the Bay of Bengal was arriving (like a boss). The wind started to pick the speed of 140kmph during landfall, almost tearing the city apart, taking down trees, hoardings and almost every object that came its way. Communication channels turned bereft. Slowly residencies started running out of water.
But surprisingly, no amount of rains or gusty winds could stop the crowd from piling up in front of TASMAC stores (for non-Chennaiites: TASMAC is run by Govt. Of Tamil Nadu, which has a monopoly over wholesale and retail vending of alcoholic beverages in the state). Despite nature’s fury, we were amused to capture ‘Vardah’ in action and even clicked ‘storm’-fies. Our flat had generator power supply, but there was just one power point plug working.
Our flat had generator power supply, but there was just one power point plug working. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so we connected our lifeline plug to an extension board and that board to another extension board.
I was most interested in getting my Nokia 1200 charged, because when every battery runs out of juices, the set comes as a great saviour. This continued for the next three days. Every time the generator supply started, we ran like headless chickens to put our phones on charging. That day around 9:30 p.m., ‘Vardah’ crossed Chennai. Wind speed dropped to 15kmph but the rain continued. A huge sigh of relief, or maybe not.
December 13, 2016, feeble rays of sun calmed the city, but could not hide the trail of destruction ‘Vardah’ left behind, transportation resumed. Mostly the buses were empty as people stayed back at home. On my way to work, I couldn’t believe the destruction that a day of nature’s rage was capable of bringing. Uprooted trees and electric poles, smashed window panes and cracked walls of hotel buildings, crooked hoardings and poles of bus stops. Kids oblivious to the destruction were swinging playfully on broken branches while their elders spread out their clothes footpath for drying. But nothing was heart-warming than the sight of two kids trying to dry their school notebooks under the sun. Cash crunch took its toll too, as card machines stopped working owing to grave network issues, people struggled to buy basic necessities.
Sans electricity and cash, Chennai was literally ‘Power’- less.
December 15, 2016, power was restored almost everywhere but unfortunately in some places restoration took a little more time. People could not afford to even take a bath. Network coverage remained flawed as people struggled to reach out to their kin.
Chennai is not new to all this. Cyclones are a regular occurrence, especially during this time of the year. The positive thing is that Chennai now puts its best foot forward to recover fast. Kudos to our conservancy workers, who put such tireless efforts working overtime to heal the city.
One not-so-good thing is Chennai’s drainage system. With mere eleven months stay in the city, it’ll be very early on my part to comment on why Chennai’s drainage system fails to handle even a couple of hours of harsh rains? Some say it’s the topology, to some its due to the haphazard encroachment of wetlands and some boldly say, lack of administrative measures to have proper drainage systems and cleaning the existing ones which are occasionally blocked due to garbage.
Last but never the least, I would like to close by saying: It doesn’t rain cats and dogs in Chennai, it rains cows and buffaloes.