Mumbai Burns, Chennai Weeps
Professor Higgins, while giving a makeover to Eliza Doolittle, told her to repeat in My Fair Lady that "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain". After last week's prolonged visit by Cyclone Nisha, what would be apt to say in this metropolis is that the "rain in Chennai stays mainly in the lane". While Mumbai burned, Chennai wept, a fact that got forgotten because of the magnitude of the terrorist strike on India's commercial capital. Barring people in Tamil Nadu, particularly those in coastal areas, who were battered by Cyclone Nisha since last Tuesday and suffered unending misery, no one outside the state realized just how horrific it all was. The roads turned to rivers, parked cars bobbed in the water, even the middle-class who live in apartment buildings found putrid water lapping at their doors or inside their houses. The poor living in low-lying areas had to be evacuated. Even in hospitals like the Government Taluk Hospital, patients (mostly pregnant women) were hastily reassigned to the first floor because the ground floor had knee-deep water, the Mogappair East Government Girls' High School was flooded as rain water entered in a torrent. Just like in Mumbai, where politicians were embroiled in a "tu tu main main" cacophony over a preventable catastrophe, here too politicians were pointing fingers at each other over who was to blame for a metropolis that's a wannabe destination for software and industry, for real estate biggies, for luxury brands and malls that could not cope with Mother Nature's fury. Of course, CM Karunanidhi, the left, the PMK were more focused on Sri Lanka Tamils, while Tamils here stoically faced up to the ravages of the rain.
The Rain In Chennai Stays Mainly In The Lane
Local Administration Minister M K Stalin, who is also the son of the DMK patriarch, put on his fancy raincoat, surrounded himself with sycophants including Chennai's mayor M Subramaniam, and did a tour of duty in rain-affected areas. He trudged around in knee-deep water "inspecting" roads (not dissimilar to the aerial surveys politicians undertake). After all, elections are not far off and the AIADMK looks poised to win the battle of the ballot simply because incumbency is not a factor that will go against it. Stalin, who has thumped his chest over giving this city flyovers, should see what irreparable damage he has done because his engineers forgot to put in effective stormwater drains. Why didn't he do some "inspection" when the work was being done to prevent systemic glitches that you don't have to be rocket scientist to know. Incidentally, Stalin patted himself on the back: "The efforts taken by the corporation and government have paid dividends. In fact, the residents of Velachery and Kolathur expressed gratitude to me," he said. Bravo!
The flyovers at T'Nagar, where hundreds of thousands of shoppers go every day, only served to let water collect on the approach road to them with the result that people sitting in autorickshaws found water gushing in to their knees. It was a terrifying experience, given that the roads are potholed. "I was so scared, considering that just one week ago, a Tata Sumo got submerged in a trench dug near the Kathipara junction and those inside were saved only because of the resourcefulness of passers by," shuddered a city resident. Lack of co-ordination led to Rs 201 crore being wasted by the Tamil Nadu Road Development Company on laying stormwater drains along the IT Corridor at Rajiv Gandhi Salai. Now it's going to be relaid and the estimated cost is Rs 369 crores. And why did that happen? That's because the government tenders the work to a clutch of contractors who bid to make money and also to keep their patrons happy. Of course, they also do a shoddy job ensuring that they get recalled to duplicate the job and make more money. Their collective conscience does not prickle that so much tax payers money is going into their pockets and not, in this case down the drain where it would matter.
Honking Horns In Airspace
I'm not a frequent flier. And yes, just like the title of Erica Jong's book, I have a fear of flying. But after my flight, from Madurai to Chennai, through Cyclone Nisha last week, I've sworn off ATR planes. But as everyone points out, those are the cheaper flights in an era where the aviation industry is getting bailouts, subsidies, even lowered ATF prices, but are refusing to pass on the benefit to consumers. Did you know that planes had horns? This is the question I've asked a lot of people since my stomach-churning flight, but some snorted, some just laughed and some just did not believe me. But as the plane descended through a stretch of dark, thick clouds, where visibility was zero and the aircraft shuddered and suddenly fell, the 13 passengers in that flight looked panic-stricken at each other as the sound of a horn, which would not quit for all of 10 minutes, could be heard.
How Do Cylones Get Names?
So the US recently had Hurricane Katrina which paid New Orleans a visit. And our part of the world too seems to have cyclones with women's names. Thus you have names like Cyclone Nargis and Cyclone Nisha. Nisha brings to mind a PYT (pretty young thing) but one only has to look around Chennai and the rest of the coast of TN to know that "she" was deadly. According to a blog by the IT Acumens Community, the naming convention for cyclones in the northern Indian Ocean began in 2004 when the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) released a list of names that would serve as a unique identifier in issuing forecasts and warnings. Also, giving names helps to eliminate confusion when several systems are formed in the sea at the same time.
Now the IMD also provides weather advisories to seven countries – Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Thailand and Sri Lanka. And names are forwarded by all these countries which get their turn to christen a cyclone. Cyclone Nargis came from a list given by Pakistan while Cyclone Nisha came from a list given by Bangladesh.