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.


A story from the roadside

She sells guavas near the bus terminus. I was pulled towards her cart of guavas for the way she cared about them. She sorted them into two heaps. The ones with the reddish inside variety was kept on the right and the other normal variety to the left. She still sorted them as hard ones, somewhat crisp to eat and the ripened ones. One look at the cart, you will know what to buy and where to look for it in that cart.

She had a big smile, a beaming one. Her beautiful hair bun always had an encircling flowers around it. The big red kumkum circle on her forehead was attractive enough to pull me towards her. There was something about her. I have been buying from her for the past one year and her genuine smile always touched me.

Once she handed me extra change without realizing it. And I also didn’t check it till I reached home. So, the next time I saw her I returned her change and apologized. She was very confident that I will return it. And we hardly had spoken with each other. I wondered what made her think that I will return the money! She was very genuine in her warmth and thoughts.

For the past 2 weeks she was missing. More than the guavas, I missed her, her smile. Yesterday I met her again.

The story went like this.

Her father had boarded a bus to visit her, from Dindivanam. He had taken a wrong bus. So the conductor dropped him off in some place, instructing him to take another bus. In a similar fashion, he was taken into wrong buses and somehow reached Tiruvannamalai, the abode of Shiva for all those who are lost (in a spiritual way too).  And he had no phone with him.

She and her three sisters along with their sons and daughter-in-laws went from one place to another, switched buses to possible places and finally found their father. Without a phone to trace, I found it a humongous task. But not for them, where the hearts were filled with love and an yearning to find him. She was so proud of her accomplishment.

My fondness for the guava lady has grown in multitudes now!

Nostrils scanning…

Today was a day of excessive fragrances, some bearable and some were the headache types. I wonder if all the people join together on one single day to keep my nostrils on scan mode all through the day!

And what better way to inhale those varieties of fragrances than a crowded bus…sigh! The smell of sweat mixed with deo is something which goes around too much. And that too, it is a mix of the various fragrances of deo! Even though I crunch my noses at some strong deo smells or sometimes I cover my nose with my scarf, I have this fleeting thought inside my head – Do I smell nice? 😉 I actually make sure I do…he he 😀

And then there are smells of chocolates, fruits, idly, upma from the tiffin boxes of all those people rushing to office and who left home early.

Not to forget the smells of flowers esp malli that adorn the women’s hair. I actually like the fragrance of malli poo. The only time I can’t stand it is when it is worn by the woman standing in front of me, so that the flowers are literally pushed into my nose.

Especially today there was this guy next to me in the bus who had this strong attar perfume! I hate that smell for it always makes me nauseated and also gives me a headache! I had to make my way among all other women who were guarding the tiny space on the floor of the bus on which they stood to a better place where there was movement of wind, as that would take away these strong smells away from me.

Being the finicky person that I am in this fragrance topic, I make sure to pray for a window seat before I leave home; then I am saved from all these headache-giving-fragrances that float by activating my nostril scanner!


Sleep – lost and found!

As Shail wrote about her sleep(less) patterns, I had a thought which I wanted to share about sleep. Then I realized I have already written about what a sound sleeper I am 😉

Last year’s trauma of my husband being hospitalized was one of the difficult times for my sleep as well. I remember, all throughout the first four weeks, that my sleep was barely minimalist. I don’t remember a good night’s sleep. I was always awake for him as he kept calling, tossing, moaning in pain through the night! And just like small babies he will sleep soundly as the day breaks. I will be sitting there wide-bleary-eyed maintaining silence as that was the time of hustle-bustle in a hospital with shift changing, housekeeping…phew!

All the lack of sleep took a toll on me. I used to roam around with such dark circles around my eyes. After he had the skin grafting surgery done and when I knew that I could relax a little, I caught up on my sleep like crazy.

I had been of the view that sleep once lost cannot be compensated but I think I ate my words during those fitful sleepnights I got after we got him home healthy and fine!

Then later when the husband started walking and even driving his car, the actual realization of what I went through hit me.

Again I was plagued with sleepless nights and woke up with a drab mood every morning with no josh or energy to do any work. I was awake from 1am to 5am and nothing I did helped me to sleep better.

Have you ever thought that what comes your way is actually the life’s challenge for you to face or the solution to an existing challenge. Like that came the opportunity for me to enroll to a Yoga course. Through one of the teachers I got initiated to meditation.

And the wonder of wonders was, I started to sleep well at nights. My meditation was filled with thoughts as I had no control over them. I was advised to let the thoughts be. Just push it aside giving focus to the thought of meditation.

When we lie down to sleep, we need to focus on the thought that this is the time to sleep. We should not entertain thoughts; they will come and keep coming more if you ponder.

And that is how I got my sleep back. Its so precious that we realize it only when we lose it.

Angels in white uniform

We used live in Mylapore during my childhood days. And our gala shopping adventures are always to Rangachari stores on Luz church road. Every time I cross that place I always see white uniformed nurses walking to Isabels hospital or sometimes come out of the hospital. I use to look at them with wonder and love for their uniform. Such pristine white dress with stockings and shoes – they were an image of sincerity and smartness put together for me.

I was so carried away with their uniform because of the dress they wore. While I was restricted to wear only full skirts and blouses, the nurses wore such smart dress.

The senior nurses wore white saris with collared white blouse. I loved that blouse model – such a smart design. But buying such white clothes was a big no no at home. So all I could do was stare at them and their smart dresses.

And last Jan, I came to know their big warm heart with such amazing softness for the patients they cared for.

There was this training nurse who came to our room one day. She had to collect patient information as part of the curriculam. She kept asking a few questions. As my husband tried turning to one side, he winced in back pain over long duration of lying in the same position. That training nurse immediately sprang to his side and rubbed his back while I tried to give him a hot water massage. Even though she was in training, she was very much in her role to help the patient feel comfortable.

And I learnt that nurses are trained not to lie to their patients. So when my husband was put on a lower dosage of painkillers owing to other problems, he used to request the nurse to increase the dosage as he couldn’t take the pain. That nurse will stand patiently next to him everytime i.e. thrice everyday, to explain the reasons of lower dosage. He used to insist again and again as his pain shot up so high. Then I intervened to tell the nurse “just agree to what dosage he says but give him what the doctor prescribed”. She said that she just can’t lie to the patient. I was amazed, touched all at the sane time. Then I told him that blatant lie of dosage has been increased so that he will sleep better. That nurse stood by her truth.

There were nurses who became friends over the extended period of stay who took time off their schedule to explain the many medical jargons to me as it was too confusing many a times.

From admiration for their uniforms, I now have a new found respect for the tireless service they provide with an ever smiling face – bless those Angels in white uniform!

The secret to healing

There is this unforgettable day when all of us, as a family, sat huddled outside the ICU, each one lost in their own thought process as to how to send healing energy to the man lying inside.

Just before that we had a huge task to do – that is to inform the patient, my husband, of the probability of amputation. When we heard of it first from the doctor we were shattered. We didn’t want to believe it to be true. The doctor said it is only a probability which they will decide on the day of the surgery after opening up the wound and checking the level of infection. So, till that day of surgery we were holding onto our own way of saying “this can’t be true” and “let the leg stay”.

And finally we found the courage to go and talk to my husband and informed him of the doctor’s decision.

I could see my hands trembling as I signed the document accepting to the amputation, in case it was required.

Then that surge of faith conquered me with one thought – so what if the leg is gone, his life will be saved and after the surgery we can take him home healthy. I kept on this thought so strongly that all I wanted was to take my man home, healthy.

The surgery went on successfully, as the leg was saved and we took a deep breath of thanking God and the doctor too. When we expect the worst outcome from a situation, even a small progress appears as a huge bonus to our life! We were so happy that the leg was saved that we celebrated with coffee and biscuits in the ICU waiting hall. That celebration touched a cord inside…I looked up to say a prayer of gratitude – a moment in life which I cannot forget!

Later on, I came to know that when the doctor was talking to my husband before the surgery, my husband had asked the doctor how much of the leg will he lose! The doctor was shocked and quietly went on with the surgery.

This is not to gloat over what my husband said to the doctor but the attitude a patient need to have during the course of treatment. All through the time of hospitilization, he never ever felt bad or cried hoarse asking “Why me?” He took the whole thing in stride and trusted the doctors for the treatment they were giving him.

The courage he showed even when told about his probable amputation is the single most reason he sailed through it without any hitch.

The strong will inside him helped him to heal fast.

When the doctor said he will take 6 months to walk, he proved him wrong by walking without the help of the walker in one month.

Driving the car was slated as a 2 year project while he overcame the whole car driving within another month.

I am still in awe over the courage and will power exhibited by my husband throughout the period of hospitilzation which helped him to bounce back to healthy routine very quickly.

So, face your fears and you will be healed!

UFO Redefined…

I hope you have seen the animated series for children “Bob the Builder”. My girls loved watching that series which involved construction of buildings / bridges and other stuff. And in that series, the cement mixer was called Daisy. Whenever we used to go out and we get to see a cement mixer, the girls will start shouting “Look at Daisy, Ma” ! The husband’s perplexed looks on where the Daisy was made us all laugh more.

That was throwback Thursday story…ha ha 😀

Last month, one evening, me and the husband were chatting, sitting in the balcony, enjoying the chill Chennai breeze (for a change, the chillness took us by surprise)! And suddenly, at the distant dark sky, I saw three lights descending from above. I started screaming “OMG! Its an UFO” 😀

The husband laughed at me and told me that it will be a crane only and not an UFO. I told him that I couldn’t see the grids and I was very sure that it was an UFO.

He kept laughing at me and started teasing about my obsession with the movie PK.

I stomped off inside to get my glasses, wanting to prove my point. When I went to the balcony again, he was still smirking at me with a “PK aaya ho kya?”

I ignored him and after wearing my glasses I looked out at my UFO. And I laughed out aloud. It was indeed a crane with lights fixed on its base. It was being used at the construction site near our place.

The heart that wanted to see magic happening saw an UFO in a crane.

Now, my girls look at a crane and call it UFO with a teasing smile pointed my way…he he!

This is that crane, which is being referred to as the UFO now 😀

Bus stories…

I got into the bus at the bus terminus, which means that I got a nice seat to sit and I got to choose it too among the many available. I chose the one next to a young girl with nerdy glasses. Somehow students attract me; maybe because of their inquisitiveness! And this girl smiled sweetly which created a warm feeling inside me.

And like long lost pals, we started talking. I should say that I am mighty pleased to have met her even for that brief 30 mins bus ride together. She hails from the town of Kumbakonam and is doing an internship. And may God bless that lovely girl for she and her family have moved to Chennai to enable her to study the teacher training course for physically and mentally challenged children. I just sat astounded hearing her talk very gently about her passion to help the challenged children, while she didn’t even make a great deal about it.

The conductor boards the bus and he was showing his annoying face and vocally disapproving anyone who was not giving him the exact change for the ticket.

While I had already kept the change ready in my hand, my bus pal had a twenty rupee note. As she started searching her purse for change I told her that we will buy our tickets together and then there won’t be an issue with change. She was so happy to have the “change” problem solved and we continued talking.

That nerdy glasses girl with her humbleness and gentle voice is someone who will stay in my memory forever!


Sunday musings – God dwells inside us…

With the birth of the Tamil month Karthigai, there begins the feverish activity all around the southern states, where people decide to take up the 48 days viratham before going to take darshan of the Lord Ayappan at the end of this mandala. Those people who undertake the viradham wear the customary mala around their neck and wear black or blue colored dress.

This year is special at my place, as my husband has taken up this viratham for the first time. And I keep hearing to the dos and don’ts during this period of 48 days. This period is actually a preparation time for the devotees to take up the difficult path via the jungles to reach the Ayappan shrine in Sabarimala. The walking of barefoot, restricting food intakes to two meals per day, sleeping on the floor are a few things that might look like the luxuries of life are being given up. Devotees abstain from drinking alcohol, smoking, usage of curse words and other activities which are considered a vice.

There is a saying that anything that is done consistently for 21 days becomes a habit. And when something is done for 48 days, it becomes a way of life. And then I wonder how these people, who have made it their way of life for these 48 days, leave all this and go back to their vices after the darshan of the God!

In all these days of observing these people, I noticed that they call each other as “Sami” meaning God. And everyone is treated with the utmost respect during this viratham days.

There is also a viratham for people to go to Melmaruvathur Adi Parasakthi temple. And here everyone is called “Sakthi”. Here also people treat other devotees with utmost respect, during the viratham days.

Even to the primitive mind, this will strike a chord that the God dwells in each and every human. And this is not restricted only to the viratham days – God is inside each one of us always. While people call each other Sami or Sakthi, during these viratham days and then later spew enmity at each other after visiting the temple, just proves their constricted thinking or rather no thinking at all.

The terms used to call others are not for just showoff during viratham days. It’s a direct implication to the God (conscience / supreme power) inside every human being.

Let us open our minds to accepting that each one of us needs to respect the other person irrespective of this viratham.

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 😀