I don’t know if it’s irony or just luck. I’m not a native tamil speaker but I regard Chennai in India as my hometown-the fact that I’ve lived there for 14 years since I was born has just made it a part of me. This summer in the evenings, I’d stray away from home, going cycling into the far off colonies, roads and highways, cycling on the never ending windy roads bordered with temples, restaurants, offices, parked cycles and tall banyan trees. I truly valued this city for the two months I came back in the summer; loving everything about it from the posters of controversial chief minister Jayalalitha plastered over the local walls and metros, open trash cans spilling with organic trash and the sleeping stray dog pouncing around at 7 in the morning. I never feared getting hit by a bus or getting lost; I just went with the journey without a phone or money.
And now in December, when I’m at this far-flung isolated but gorgeous boarding school in Japan, Chennai’s facing the biggest flood it’s had in the past 100 years with 120 cms of rainfall. It’s coming into people’s homes and boats are being used to ferry people around. There are earthworms and leeches on the walls of houses and overspilling sewage and rainwater onto the streets. Restaurants and cafes are offering free food to people stranded in the rains and humanitarian aid shelters and colleges are opening up to allow people a place to stay. It’s THAT bad; and I haven’t seen such a situation while I’ve been in India.
On one side I feel guilty. While I’ve lived in Chennai I’ve attended the festivals, events, marathons and performances, eaten the most scrumptious south indian dosa and chapati channa, eaten at the Italian and North Indian places like Dario’s and Kailash Parbat, celebrated each of my birthdays for 14 years and shared the joys of all other Chennai-ites. And when I move away from my beloved home country to study in japan for 3 years for high school, I’m not there to live through the bad times. I’m not physically there for my friends or family.
Scrolling through the news and my Facebook feed, hearing the cries and responses of my friends who’s homes were flooded, I stood up during dinner last night and requested a moment of silence for these victims and people around the world suffering similar situations. To my utmost happiness, everyone stopped eating, speaking and serving themselves for thirty seconds to pay respect.
Here’s my message to the victims of the Chennai flooding-I’m sorry I’m not there to live it with you. I’m not there to witness the disaster of tsunamis near the beach or dark clouds against the sky. I can’t offer you a home, food or money, or take the rains away, but I can give you my hope for the situation getting better and bring awareness to my community about this issue.