Chennai Residents Bounce Back From Floods

The floodwaters in Chennai have finally subsided, thankfully. Watching the TV news reports, all I could do was shake Melvin Durai's Humormy head and wonder what it would be like to have so much rain that your entire city turns into a lake. I couldn’t imagine how people dealt with the water, so I decided to call two of my cousins and ask them.

Cousin Anand: “The flooding was terrible, but at least I picked up some new hobbies.”

Me: “What hobbies?”

Anand: “Swimming and boating.”

Me: “You learned how to swim?”

Anand: “I knew how to swim before, but I never got an opportunity like this.”

Army flood relief and rescue operations, in Chennai on November 17, 2015.

Everyone had waterfront property.

Me: “What do you mean?”

Anand: “Well, in the past, I would swim at a small swimming pool in my apartment complex. But the flood allowed me to do some long-distance swimming. I tried to swim across the entire city, but it wasn’t easy.”

Me: “Was the current too strong? Was there too much debris in the water?”

Anand: “No, people kept trying to rescue me. You won’t believe how many good Samaritans there are in Chennai. They thought I was being swept away, but I was just doing the breaststroke. Every time I passed people on the road, they would try to grab me. One man even threw a rope at me.”

Me: “Did you grab it?”

Anand: “No, I just kept swimming, so he shouted, ‘Shall I inform your next of kin?’”

Me: “Did anyone else swim?”

Anand: “Yes, I saw many people swimming. In fact, I will not be surprised if Chennai, as a result of this flood, manages to send a swimmer to the Olympic Games.”

Me: “What about boating? When did you do that?”

Anand: “I went boating several times with my friends.”

Me: “Where did you get the boat from?”

Anand: “Well, it wasn’t an actual boat. It was the bonnet of an old Honda that we found floating in the water. We just jumped in it and started paddling.”

Me: “What did you use as oars?”

Anand: “Cricket bats.”

Me: “And did you get very far on the boat?”

Anand: “Yes, we traveled all over our neighborhood. We even rescued three individuals.”

Me: “They must have been very grateful.”

Anand: “The dog was definitely grateful. I’m not sure about the goat and the rat.”

Me: “You rescued a rat?”

Anand: “Why not? Is a rat’s life less precious than a dog’s?”

While Anand was busy swimming and boating, my other cousin was busy looking for another place to live.

Cousin Kumar: “Let me give you a piece of advice, Melvin: if you rent an apartment in Chennai, do not rent one on the first floor. Mine got thoroughly flooded. Everything was underwater, even my TV.”

Me: “That must have been very hard.”

Kumar: “Yes, it was extremely difficult. To make matters worse, India was playing South Africa in cricket. Have you ever tried to watch a cricket match underwater?”

Me: “No, I never have. What did you do?”

Kumar: “Well, I went to my friend’s apartment. Lucky bastard lives on the fifth floor.  All these years, he has been envious of me, because I don’t have to use a lift to get to my apartment. But when the rains came, his envy just dissolved in the water.”

Me: “So have you found another place to live?”

Kumar: “No luck yet. All the apartments on top floors are in high demand. I may have to wait for a few months, until everyone has forgotten about the flood.”

Me: “You think they’ll forget so soon? This was the Flood of the Century. You won’t get another flood like this for at least five or 10 years.”

Kumar: “That’s true. Maybe I should stay put for a few more years.”

Me: “You can also protect yourself against flooding.”

Kumar: “By getting flood insurance?”

Me: “No, by getting a ceiling mount for your TV. Trust me, you won’t regret it.”

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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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