Tuesday, 8 December 2015

After the deluge

It was a rusting Hubli Passenger which started with uncertain steps at 4:16 AM today morning after a week of abstinence. Somehow I was not feeling the joy which I had been anticipating. I was imagining that this is how the loco pilot (that is what the good old Engine driver is called now!) of the first suburban train after the last few days of break due to flooding would have felt when the services were up on Monday morning bringing relief to many office goers on what is otherwise portrayed with a prefix blue! I was tentative and watching for potholes and puddles. The Airport had become operational yesterday bringing cheer to stranded passengers.
I knew the physical dullness would give way to joy inside once the endorphins kicked in. I was keen to renew contact with Gandhi and was eager to see how my friends on the pavement had done for themselves. But for a big puddle of water opposite the Hotel Park near Gemini circle which smelled of kerosene, the road to Gandhi statue was clear of water. The road was however badly scuffed and the loose gravel took its toll on my soles. The usual permanent occupants outside the church and bus stops enroute was heartening. There was no sign of the lady at the bus stop and I can only hope she has shifted base!
The clock struck five when I crossed the Gandhi statue after an about turn at the Lighthouse. The friendly and loud chatter of the walkers was heartening. The alms seekers on one side of the pavement and the well heeled near their parked vehicles at the other end meant that the surging waters which had brought all strata of the society together in the last week had retreated to their earlier positions. I thought I sensed more empathy in the giver when they bent to give alms to the seeker today!
Yesterday our office celebrated the 60th Mahaparinirvan diwas of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, what one of our colleagues said after the event was very apt. The one week of flooding in Chennai has achieved Dr. Ambedkar’s ideals of a classless and casteless society and if only we remain that way after the threat recedes. The last one week has surely taught us the price of energy and water conservation. I hope the teachers strike at the hearts and minds of the students as soon as the schools re-open so that the theory classes on Climate change can follow the practical demonstration they have had first hand.
M.S. Amma was soothing the walkers with her soulful rendition of Vishnu Sahasranamam. The guard who usually used to strike a balance between the temporal of the temple and the corporeal of the temple next door by sitting right in the middle of the two had succumbed to the air-conditioned charms of the corporeal inside the ATM today. The attendance of the walkers as well as the beggars was full today. The municipal workers were cheerfully going about their mundane task.
Couum river was flowing majestically and its span today was like the proverbial 56” and the waters diluted with the rainwater was much cleaner. I was reminded of the photograph in the Hindu newspaper yesterday where the swollen Adyar river had spat back a load of plastic and thermocol waste. Guess even holy rivers cannot digest this sin. Talking of the plastic, I must say, it is not all that bad. I remember how it protected the common people from the rain, I think there is no harm in using plastic, the problem is the culture of use and throw indiscriminately!
I met a few runners today, but, the cyclists were conspicuous by their absence. I had the company of Gerald Martin Joseph​ in my second loop from light house for a few kilometers and he was telling me about the relief work he was able to do. I have been feeling absolutely impotent the last few days. The lack of knowledge of the lay of the land, being a novice in swimming and absence of a suitable means of transport rendered me useless and I just satisfied myself by enquiring from the people who deliver milk/paper etc. to us about their well being. I was thrilled when I saw in the papers on Sunday that the NDRF teams largely consisting of North Indians were in need of people who can act as interpreters for them with the local people. I found their number from their website and offered my assistance. Even though they took my number, I was not called to the battle front!
My day was made during the run today when an MTC bus driver stopped and greeted me and I reciprocated by telling him how the MTC had done a wonderful job during the floods. To their credit they were the only public transport apart from Metro who braved on during the floods. My cup was full when a person stopped me when I was in the final lap towards Gandhi statue with the word ‘Hubli?’. I asked him how he knew me. It turns out he is Sakthivel, and he drives a molasses tanker and used to cross me daily on the Highway during my runs in Hubli. He has come here to help clean up the mess after the floods. He was very happy that yours truly is from TN!
Despite ample doses of endorphins and cheers from friends, it was a tired Hubli passenger which reached the colony gates after a 3 hour 33 minute run. I know it would get better from tomorrow!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Demand and Supply

                Now do not get me wrong, I am no Raghuram Rajan wannabe! Even to my untrained mind I see a Demand and Supply play in all the major debates on today;
                Take the Beef ban; by enforcing a ban the supply side is targeted by the powers that be causing much air turbulence. I hold that an Aamir Khan why even the humble Hubli passenger going vegan does more to the cause of the bovine population in a more sustained way.
                For all this reckless construction in the environmentally sensitive zone, if the ‘Caveat Emptor’ sounded by the mother nature is heeded such depredations would die down non-violently. It has been proved now that ultimately the buyer or his progeny pays with all its belongings and even life, not to talk of the collateral damage on the neighboring population!
                And the much talked about Prohibition, if the consumer gets aware, all the liquor in the state outlets cannot intoxicate the people. The talk of the revenue loss due to prohibition sounds like a cruel joke. Is it not like taking a poor man’s kidney (or Liver if you please!) to give him freebies!
                While walking back from work yesterday, the various pipes spluttering out water at the coaxing of the tired pumps made it appear as Chennai was on its back taking a count with Chennai’ites giving it the mouth to mouth resuscitation. What made my day was a young man cheerfully holding me up on the Guruswamy bridge. I shied away thinking some friend of Bacchus was trying me for a touch. He said that he knows me and he sees me running on the Beach. He is Mohammed and he also confessed to not having gone for a walk for the last few days. Any thoughts I had of getting a run today were doused by my wife’s killer looks!

                Sun came out bright and early today, like a maid after a weekend away, dreading the mess that its absence would have caused in the city. I never thought I would welcome my old sparring partner so affectionately ever. It has gotten into its supersoaker mode and Insha-allah Chennai should be home and dry soon.

Chennai is not what it used to be!

                The Sun came out apologetically after taking a hiding for the last few days. The people wading in knee deep waters were egging him on, what do they care if the cognoscenti believe that we are in the eye of a storm! Biscuit and yours truly had a leisurely walk in quite some time now. He could not help growling at his canine friends and got a cold stare from me for being rude to the less fortunate.
                Before the National media turned its attention to the tragedy that was playing out in Chennai, I got to squeeze in a run in the rain. Just when the waters of the sea after scaring the living daylights of the people decide to go back to its peace time station. What I noticed about the rain in Chennai is that it was business like (a la Dravid like!) not flashy and theatrical like aka Sehwag. If it wanted to discipline the greedy land grabbers it did it quietly. I have run through a much more extravagant Light and Sound show in my morning runs in Hubli! When nature decided to reclaim what was stolen from it surreptiously, it did so politely but firmly!
                The next two days were revealing as horror unfolded on National television. The stories of pollution in the national capital and rains in Chennai keeping kids from school was a lesson, which their elders failed to teach them, but, the one they would never forget in their lives. It does not require eminent people gathering in Paris to teach us the lesson of the costs the Climate change is wreaking on us!
                It is not only that the Hubli passenger missed its morning run the last two days, the Railways too had to suspend many trains and the airport closed the skies to make us feel truly marooned. The people of Chennai used this calamity to truly bond. The last two days of commuting to office and back first on the MTC bus and today on foot in knee deep water really brought out the character of the people. The strength of the people sure came out when they were put to test. The tales of humanity makes all the divisive stories which hog the limelight in the National media otherwise truly irrelevant!
                The Aavin (state owned dairy plant in the suburb) and the Hindu (the Chennai’s favorite newspaper) press having been brought to their knees by the incessant rains meant the Chennai’ite woke to a morning without his cuppa of filter coffee and the HINDU newspaper. The message is loud and clear, let us not mess with nature!
                While the bigger questions of town planning have to left to the big people. Each of us if we make an honest effort to live sustainably we would have been the Change that we want to see!
                I sincerely hope that I am able to run tomorrow and maybe then the train service and the Airport authority would take a leaf out of the Hubli Passenger’s book! Stay strong Chennai’ites, maybe, the weather gods have relented and believe that we have learnt our lesson.