GONE WITH THE WIND - CHENNAI
A year ago I wrote a post – ‘Submerged – The Day Chennai Sank’. The rains that battered the city were unprecedented as it was reported that it was the highest in the last 100 years. I was there then. For the first time I saw Chennai rise up as a single united force without relying on the unreliable support of the political class, to battle the forces of nature to ensure the survival of the city. And this they did for the city was back on its feet again. There are many who are still recovering from the losses they had suffered.
This time around I was not there when Nature decided to unleash its fury on the city through wind – the cyclone Vardah. When the city had already geared itself for a repeat of last year’s heavy rains, disaster struck from elsewhere. Last year the city was underwater, this time it was blown away. As I saw the visuals on the television of the devastation caused all around, my heart missed a beat and a feeling of profound sadness overtook me. Not only because of the misery that had befallen thousands of people for the second year in succession, but the fact that the cyclone had uprooted along with the trees the very soul of what was once known as Madras.
Fifty years ago I remember cycling down the avenues of Adyar, Theosophical Society, Kalakshetra – trees, trees everywhere. With the passage of time a number of them vanished with apartments taking over the places of houses/ bungalows. But still the green cover did exist, and the older trees did stand as testimonials to an era gone, guardians of a spirit that still flickered in the memories of old timers like me.
I have been told that most of the older trees (definitely older than fifty years) have been uprooted and fallen on the ground blocking the roads. They will be dismembered, the roads will be cleared and the gaping hole where once they stood will be filled with mud and concrete (well could we call it a decent burial?). As I saw the photographs of these giants laid low by the fury of nature I felt the sorrow of having lost a dear friend. There is sadness at the loss of human life and property, but for me this is the end of a generation.
I do not deny that I did spend a sleepless night wondering whether the tree under which my car was parked would fall down and smash it to smithereens. As expected I did receive a call from my neighbor that a big branch of the tree was perched precariously above and with the next gust of wind was bound to fall on my car. I told them where to find my car keys (the house key was with the neighbor) and promptly four of the younger generation had the car moved to a safer place. Though rebuilding homes and lives and the city is going to be a long and painful process, I am sure that like it happened during the floods last year, Chennaiites will rise once more to bring back normalcy to the city as soon as possible
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. – Hermann Hesse