Deepa, 28, was working as a sales girl in a textile shop when she married Rajkumar. An office boy by profession, Rajkumar’s monthly salary was about Rs 6,000 per month. While it did not promise the couple the best of comforts, the duo managed to keep their family afloat. So when by-and-by a small TV set, a mixer and a grinder made its way into the household, the couple had reasons to believe that their family was slowly making their way up the ladder. This narrative of gradual progress was brought to an abrupt halt when the floods hit Chennai.
After two weeks of constant flooding, Chennai got some respite from the northeast monsoons — at least, as far as the southern parts of the city were concerned. But when the second phase of rain clocked 119.73 cm and returned to the city almost with a vengeance, Chennai — slowly recovering from the damages of the first bout of rains — was inundated in no time. Mudichur, Guindy, Perumbakkam, Meenambakkam (the airport area), Velachery and Saidapet turned out to be the most affected areas, forcing people to take shelter at railway stations, hotels and lodges in high-ground areas. Rivers Adyar and Cooum overflowed and washed away people, animals, houses and everything that came in their way. Thousands were left stranded on little concrete islands and roads for days, without food and water.
Deepa’s life, along with the lives of many others, changed overnight. One night, families were looking forward to yet another day at their respective workplaces and schools, and in the other, they were scrambling for cover, hoping that the rising water would spare them.
When the floodwater entered her home, a pregnant Deepa was in deep slumber. The mother of two only woke up when she had found herself knee deep in water. Wide awake, she grabbed her children and tried calling her relatives. “There was no network and the power had gone a while back,” recalls Deepa. “I was so scared. We could not get out of the house. The whole area had become a huge pool of muddy water.”
Hours later, the rescue team evacuated Deepa and her family members from their Namashivayapuram residence. Now, at the relief camp organised by Loyola College, the family of six is heartbroken. A lifetime of savings was lost to what one could call as the worst calamity that the state of Tamil Nadu has seen in recent years. “We lost everything to the rains. Furniture, utensils, ration cards and certificates. Everything is gone,” says Deepa. “We had saved money for the delivery. Literally, the floods have turned us into beggars.” Pausing to take breath, Deepa walks through the verandah, fighting tears. According to her recent medical reports, her health has worsened ever since the flooding began.
Amma’s Disaster PR
• SS Rajamouli’s blockbuster film Baahubali’s poster had actress Ramya, playing queen mother Sivagami, holding a child in outstretched arms, protecting it from drowning in the water. The ones pasted across Tamil Nadu during the floods, however, had Jayalalithaa instead of Ramya implying that she was rescuing the whole of Tamil Nadu from the floods
• AIADMK supporters released a poem a few days ago on social media which glorified the leader as the one who would bring solace to the people of Tamil Nadu
• Supporters have also allegedly pasted her picture on relief material forcibly. Reports from Cuddalor district indicate that thugs are halting vehicles to paste posters on them
• The statement read out at the press conference called by chief secretary K Gnanadesikan had several paragraphs eulogising Jayalalithaa. The officials also had to stage a walkout allegedly because they could not answer questions about rehabilitation
Where the floodwater has been slowly receding, the ground situation has become nothing less than chaotic. On a day-to-day basis, rescue teams stumble upon dead bodies marooned inside buildings and on streets. Leaving patients in a lurch, doctors and nurses have fled flooded hospitals. The persistent rain has also made it difficult for bereaving family members to conduct the last rites of their near and dear ones. Since the city has no power supply, dead bodies in the mortuary are waiting to be cremated.