Now that Chennai’s immediate dangers are temporarily at bay, the public has begun expressing extreme displeasure over the city’s poor infrastructural standards. They are baffled at how our buildings crumbled like a stack of cookies in the recent floods. They are outraged that rabid urbanization was prioritized over safety regulations. Shocked that real estate greed, along with political corruption, has led to environmental imbalance. I wish I could hug them and tell them that roses are red, violets are blue and if it takes a natural disaster to realize how much damage we cause on a daily basis – well, fuck them. You and me too.
Each one of us have to take the blame. It isn’t a matter of existential guilt. There’s blood on our hands. My palms look more wrinkled today. My stomach – a lot fatter. My eyes hurt. I feel more human than ever before, ashamed that I am not just a silent observer but an active contributor to the decay of our ecosystem. It isn’t as though I have been blissfully unaware of it. It just never struck me as being important enough until it personally affected me.
Today, I am proud to be a resident of Chennai, not a citizen of India. In case you haven’t heard, my city was affected recently by the heaviest rainfall recorded in over 100 years. Floods wreaked havoc on the lives of 2 million people. Over 325 are dead. Many birds and animals, especially strays, too. Tragically, a few other districts in the state have had it even worse.
Last week, we were either trapped indoors without electricity or supplies, stuck in traffic – with no safe route to take us home or stranded in deep waters – battling for our lives. We were helpless and frightened. Even now there is palpable tension in the air. Some are in grave danger. The rains haven’t yet bid adieu; we can still hear ambulances and helicopters. Added to that, a lot of misinformation has us in a state of paranoia. It has been an heartbreaking and nightmarish experience. Recovery is going to be a long, arduous and disease-ridden process.
Apparently, none of these qualified as being critical as far as the rest of India was concerned.