The flooded experience

I didn’t write much about my experience during the 2015 floods in Chennai. I just don’t know why. But today’s scenario around compels me to take time out to write down those moments of utter helplessness when I realized that the place I stayed was surrounded by water.

Rewind to Dec 1st, 2015. It had been raining continuously since Nov 29th or 30th. And I was oblivious to the intensity of the rain as I was busy preparing for the birthday celebration of my husband – read this post to know more about that!

On the night of Dec 1st, around 10’o clock, I heard the rain had intensified and was lashing on us without any mercy. What I saw through my balcony took my breath away! The water was gushing into our apartment through the side gates.

And specifically, to reinstate the seriousness of the issue, I want to tell you that I stayed in Velachery – one of the worst affected areas during Chennai floods 2015. Now, this apartment I was staying in was quite old; it was built around 2000. And the new buildings that happened in recent times, increased their ground level as and when the construction happened. The biggest drawback to all these scenarios is that this whole Velachery was developed over dried-up lake beds.

When I saw the water gushing into our apartment, it looked like a river that gushes out through the mountains. When hit with such force, the whole parking lot on the ground floor started filling up.

Everyone started to worry about their car which was parked. But there was little we could do when there was water everywhere around us. The cars were just let to be there, drowning in the slowly rising water levels. I am just saying…

By around 11.30pm, the power went off. Little did we know that we will get back that power only after 15 days. I am just saying…

I wished my husband exactly by midnight, gave him all those 50 wishes and made him read them all in the mobile torch, wasting precious battery charge. Not that it mattered the next day or for the next 15 days, as the service providing towers were also shut down near our area and we didn’t have any phone connectivity too. I am just saying…

Since the motors in our apartment were all submerged in the water, the maintenance people couldn’t run the motors and hence there was no water for us to use. Whatever was available in the over-head tank, we just filled in the buckets we had in our house. And that is all the water I had for use over the next 2 weeks. I am just saying…

Suddenly we realized we were marooned off inside our block, with no water to even flush the toilet. There was water everywhere around us but I wonder if I had that thing in me to and get a pail from that to flush the toilet. Phew! I am just saying…

The next day morning saw us staring at about 5ft of water in our car parking. All the cars were underwater. The apartment tried to rent motors from outside to drain out the water. But it looked like bad karma as the drained out water went one big round and came back into the apartment through the back door. It was terrifying. I am just saying…

The milkman couldn’t get the milk packets to our homes, not only the next day but for the next 15 days. I am just saying…

We were unable to go out and buy vegetables or provisions. I am just saying…

Many people suddenly found themselves without fuel to cook. I am just saying…

Others didn’t have provisions as they didn’t think that rain could bring in such havoc. I am just saying…

We couldn’t talk or communicate with my daughters and other family members that we were doing fine despite being surrounded by water. All they saw was footage on the television and they really panicked. I finally realized that if we climbed up on top of the water tank which was on the 9th floor, then there was a feeble signal. So, we climbed up, borrowed a phone from a neighbor and called my daughters to just let them know we were good. I am just saying…

My husband started helping out in his own way. Read here to know more.

The refrigerator was cleared and kept open to air it. I finally looked at my refrigerator with pride as I scrubbed it to a shine.

I found books that I had always wanted to read and spent my time reading and reflecting as the man was busy helping out people.

I played scrabble with myself.

I had a nice chat with my neighbor which we never got to do before among all the chores of the house.

We did community cooking and shared food as it helped us to avoid wastage.

I couldn’t have a bath or wash clothes or mop the house. But I survived those 2 weeks, with a minimalistic provision, no electricity, no water, no mobile phones, no TV, no candles too. I am just saying…

What I cooked that day had to be finished within the same night. I cannot carry it forward. Suddenly I reflected on those days where our grandparents lived without a refrigerator or electricity. We just took way too many things for granted! I am just saying…

If I was lucky to get a milk packet, I used it all by the night or made curd. Then the curd next day was a delicacy. Never in my life, I had felt that curd was a delicacy. I am just saying…

Those 15 days of nature-imposed quarantine taught me a lot and the foremost things are not to take anything for granted and for every drop of water I get to drink, I am grateful for it.

And Jan 2018, taught me more lessons on how I should be grateful to have this body and the life within and every moment I live should be valued by me.

I am just trying to say, we are not in the worst of the scenarios if we can just stay calm and remain indoors. I think if people could survive 15 days of nature-imposed quarantine and without any pre-stocking of provisions or vegetables, we can do this with essential goods being available to us, even in this time of quarantine.

It is all in the mind. Our human race has got more survival skills. Even with just rice and no vegetables, I was able to cook something delicious every day. We just need to trust in the process and have faith that things will turn out for the better.

JUST STAY HOME AND STAY SAFE!

WW – The wonder called sky!

As you are already aware now, I love these sky watching phases during my day. It might be a brief moment in the morning, when I stare through my balcony to see if the sun has risen before me. Or it could be a moment during the day when I casually look up to see if there are black clouds looming around. It could be even be a moment like below, when I caught the glowing western colors on the move, while going for a meeting. I somehow love this click of the sunset, as the colors blend so beautifully to create such lovely shades and the sun adds its lovely evening glow. Sigh.

The following one is a fun picture. The constant looking up at the sky for patterns may yield such results, on a few occasions. While I saw a horse, dog and a bear – one behind the other, there were other friends of mine who lent their imaginary horses to this picture. And I love such cloud pattern based childlike conversations, where we keep looking for different animals or even people.

My dear friends who spent time cloud-watching with me virtually, gave me these responses and I enjoyed and laughed through the whole time.

  • looks more like a seahorse, an alligator and a rhinoceros to me 😂 and they’re dancing. Conga line 😊
  • they could be jet skiing too. 😂looks like they’re standing on one, the seahorse on the handlebar
  • Could be three on a magic carpet. 🤔 alakazam.
  • Spot the opera singer hitting a high note.
  •  ……….on a magic carpet!
  • Crocodile hugging its hatchling and a baby elephant is looking at both of them.
  • I can see a bird too.

Have a great day and look out for cloud patterns 😀

When the sky made its statement…

There is a routine to my days and generally it begins from the moment I open my eyes and look at the eastern sky from my caged balcony. I try to squeeze out my phone through the gaps and click the wondrous sky to my satisfaction. With the birds chirping, crows cawing, a gentle morning breeze caresses me. I soak in the wonder called sunrise and let the energy flow into me. My day begins and it’ll be an awesome one for sure, says my heart.

This morning was no different. But I stood in the balcony for a long time, gaping at the wonder high above. Here are the pictures, when the sky makes its statement and makes the people to look above and go wow at the nature that is bigger than anything else.

Have a wonderful day!

Malligaipoo Idly

This phrase has been with me for as long as I can remember – malligaipoo mathiri idly irukanum (Idly should be like jasmine flower)!

My amma used to make the softest idlies which I can remember. Those days, she never used a cooker for steaming the idlies. The big iron kadai (irumbu ilupachatti) was half filled with water and brought to a boil. The big circular idly mold (idly thattu) which has molds for 7 idlies was covered in a white wet cloth cut in the shape of a circle.  Idly batter was poured on the cloth exactly on top of the mold, which held the batter intact. This idly thattu fitted exactly on the iron kadai. A tomb shaped lid was used to cover the idly thattu. When the idlies were done steaming, the whole house could smell it. That was the power of cooking, which can evoke the senses even before we started to eat. The idly thattu was removed from heat. Then water was sprinkled on the idlies, which helped them to cool fast so that they can fall off easily from the cloth. A big plate was used to collect the idlies from the idly thattu. Using the cloth for steaming helped in maintaining the moisture content so that idlies remained soft for a long time.

These idlies were soft…amazingly. We can bite into it without any great effort. And yet they held on to the shape and they don’t break at the touch of human fingers.  Its no wonder that the softness quotient was compared to that of a malligaipoo.

Now, the major ingredient for that amazing softness is the urid dal (ulutham paruppu). The correct proportion of this dal is required for that right amount of softness. Less the urid dal, harder the idlies. Similarly, when the urid dal is more, then idlies are not fluffy – they come out as flat discs. After choosing the right proportion of urid dal, it is important to soak it for the right amount of time. Long hours of soaking will make the urid dal accumulate froth and starts smelling too and needs excessive cleaning. Ideally one hour is enough for the urid dal to soak to the right consistency. And while grinding the urid dal, the right amount of water should be used so that the batter is fluffy and soft. Grinding for a long time will make the batter loose its fluffiness.

Rice can be soaked for a long time, no restrictions there. But the rice should be ground enough that its neither too soft to touch nor too coarse. A light coarseness is good for idlies and for crispy dosas too. A very fine rice batter is good for dosas but not for idlies. A balance needs to be achieved here.

After getting all these proportions and grinding consistency to the right level, the right amount of salt should be added for proper fermentation. Depending on the temperature of the place we live in, the batter should be left out for fermentation. Ideally 4 to 5 hours is enough for a warm place like Chennai. There is another important factor – using our hand to mix salt will induce our body heat to the batter. And accordingly the fermentation will happen faster or slower. We need to watch the batter for fermentation levels and accordingly refrigerate it, so that the batter doesn’t turn sour.

When I write the whole thing down, it sure sounds like a lot of instructions and rules to follow. I’ve grown with all these small tit bits ingrained into the soul by practice and a lot by observing amma and paati. My paati used to grind idly batter for others in the colony and me and my sister were assigned the work of grinding all those batches. Years of grinding it, day after day, to the same consistency makes it a part of the soul.

This batter is sure to give idlies as soft as the malligaipoo and will melt in the mouth too. The softness is so crucial as it can absorb the idly milagai podi spiciness or the tangy taste of the sambar so well.

Today’s idlies came out amazingly soft to touch, melt in the mouth kind and the chef in me is very happy at the outcome!

If you see keenly, you can actually see the air pores in the idly, which conforms that they are light and soft.

Also, I try my level best to make the batter at home. I’ve tried commercially sold batter once or twice and I hated myself for buying it – they were tasteless and idlies came out very hard to bite. Somethings are better when done at home, especially the idly batter.

Skywatch Friday – 1

After a week of good work, I feel these sights are little rewards from above to make me happy 🙂

The love for clouds is nearing crazy levels and my eyes feast on the colors and patterns in the sky, whenever I am out. After I installed Instagram, I started clicking those wonderful pictures and started sharing them too. This is my first entry to Skywatch Friday, in an effort to meet people of similar enthusiasm for the beautiful skies!

Window seat’s visual wonders !

Window seats are my fav – by car, bus, train, flight…you name it! Maybe I should remember to book a window seat when I travel to the Moon or Mars 😉

Clicked from the car, sitting in the last seat of  an Innova…

And this from the moving train, the TV Tower of Doordharshan in Chennai 😀

One from the window seat of a flight…am trying my best you see 😛

One from the moving bus too 🙂

And lastly one from the Rear view mirror 😀 😀

 

Day 24 – The “Shawl”story

Just don’t get it wrong – Chennai is not freezing – neither am I in the colder places – nor am I wearing a shawl.  People like me always refer to Shawl as this beautiful Kashmiri one which is used during chiller climates or as a beautiful accessory to a sari or dress.

And then there are others – who refer to the simple dupatta or a stole or a dirty towel as shawl – mind-boggling, I tell you !

Especially in this conservative land, where I live, the use of a shawl is a must, whether you wear a night wear (nightie), salwar kameez, jeans + tee shirt, jeans + shirt, jeans + kurti – anything apart from a sari, you need to wear a shawl to cover your boobs; of course, apart from the basic clothing.  Those people wearing nightie at home, just come down to drop their kids in the school bus in that nightie – Oh ! And covering themselves with a dirty towel which is perfectly defined as Shawl, in this land !

Girls are brought up conditioned by this rule – wear a shawl always ! Cover your chest, hair, face – anything you want.

Boys are conditioned too by this rule – any girl not wearing a shawl is bad – just bad.

I was shocked first, then saddened by the whole damn thing.

During my recent train travel, I met this sweet girl, who was travelling with me. She had come to Chennai for work and on the first day of her job, she wore a sleeveless kurti and jeans. Even if the company allowed the women to wear such dresses, all her co-workers were stunned and started criticizing her and her dress for she cannot wear sleeveless to work – the reason “Idhu Chennai ma” (This is Chennai). She had the shock of her life, as she is so used to wearing such clothes at her place – Bangalore.

But I made sure I’m not affected by this and neither are my girls.

Clothes do not define my personality. PERIOD.

I dislike wearing dupatta…OOPS…Shawl !  I may use it as an accessory whenever I like it but certainly not to define my personality !

There…its out of the system…and I’m relieved 😉