Chennai Floods

Spirit of Chennai and other such bullshit

The Chennai floods managed to weave their way into mainstream news for about a week, and then got washed away by Bhai and his judgment.

In a way, I feel bad for Chennai Floods. I mean, look at what they were competing against – Donald Trump (a Subramaniam Swamy of US levels), ISIS (who upload blockbuster beheading videos every Wednesday, a bloody Chitrahaar of sorts), and Bhai himself.

Honestly, with the screwed up priorities of our news organizations, did you honestly think the Chennai Floods stood a chance?

 

The gruesome facts related to the Chennai Floods are truly soul-boggling.

Over 400 dead, some 300 missing, 1.8 million displaced from their homes and livelihood, loss to property and business worth 10,000 crores – and barely four days on the headlines. While the coverage of the news was depressing enough, the ruling AIADMK party did its bit by adding ‘Amma’ posters to relief material, firmly proving that there is no bigger nik-Amma than our political parties, when it comes to handling a natural calamity.

Experts have pointed out over and over again that much of the damage could have been averted. That a failure in urban planning is what made the damage snowball into a complete catastrophe. And yet, we spent much of our times retweeting actors donating paltry amounts like 10 lakhs towards the cause.

I have a problem with rich men dumping money towards causes, because honestly, a person announcing to donate ten lakhs is no guarantee of anything. I mean, if it’s a cheque, it is going to take two days to encash (and if it’s SBI, it’ll come through next Christmas). Also, sending ‘money’ means nothing, if you have no idea where the money is going, and how it is being implemented.

We celebrated these initiatives, and efforts by humanitarian groups. Which is all good.

But not once did we question the role of urban planners and the administration about their preparedness for a calamity of this scale. Instead, we chose to hail voluntary efforts, giving it the name ‘Spirit of Chennai’.

 

It is something we have done over and over again.

When there are floods in Mumbai, we pay no attention to the crumbling public systems, choosing instead to hail human effort and initiative with vague shit like ‘The Spirit of Mumbai/Kolkata/Delhi’.

What the fuck is this ‘spirit’ we keep harping on about?

Most major calamities in recent years were serious lapses in security, planning and preparedness. 26/11 was sheer incompetence. The Mumbai local trains blasts were another example. Our response to floods, cyclones, and earthquakes is more political posturing, and less actual relief.

 

I am sorry, but there is no fucking ‘Spirit of Chennai’.

It is human nature to struggle, adapt, and survive. Human beings will adapt to their surroundings, and help each other out (except the ISIS – those guys are bastards!). It is high time we start questioning India’s poor urban planning, our lack of preparedness to deal with calamities, and our fuck-all ‘Chalta Hai’ attitude in times of distress.

It is easy to pat each other’s back and say vague shit like ‘Spirit of Chennai and Mumbai’. But if people are going to attempt to solve problems on this scale, why the fuck do we have elected representatives?

If we are going to be using Ola boats from one flooded colony to another, delivering ‘Amma’ packets to homeless people, why do we have Mother Hen chilling at Ooty for the rest of the year?

And if we are going to be putting up shit like ‘Spirit of Chennai’ on our walls, what would idiotic sites like ScoopWhoop and BuzzFeed come up with?

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(Featured Image Source)

41 thoughts on “Spirit of Chennai and other such bullshit

  1. Sudhakar

    Some simple things that people can do to respect nature and in turn get the respect of nature.. 1) Treat natural resources with respect. Simple example is usage of water. In discriminate use of water results in waterbodies drying up – which in turn results in these areas becoming housing blocks!! Same with solid waste. Try we segregate waste.2) Stop using air conditioners. The A/Cs may keep your house cool, but sends out hot air outside for others to suffer! Chennai has never been this hot before and my honest opinion is that A/Cs have contributed it’s bit 3) Embrace public transport. The multi national car companies are flocking to India not because they care about you. They want to swell their numbers and India is a natural target. 4) Staying switched on and connected all the time is not a necessity. Keep down your phone and switch off the TV. Take time to think.. reflect on the day, and plan your future.. and importantly save some electricity!! 5) don’t give in to the greed of investing in buying apartments or houses that you know you’ll never live in. This housing boom has been one of the primary reasons for so much flooding.

    We all can blame Amma, administration, politicians.. but unless as individuals we don’t change we have no right to blame anyone else.

    Reply
  2. Praveen

    It is human nature to struggle, adapt, and survive…well said. Even cockroaches survive after nuclear explosions, we after all are humans. Creeping and crawling back to life is in our nature. But let me ask you, when was the last time you helped a total stranger out of his misery and brought if not happiness, a bit of solace to his struggle. I think there lies the f***ing spirit of Chennai. When was the last time you gestured a “hi” to a stranger in your locality and decided to clean up your streets together…that is the
    f***ing spirit of Chennai.

    Strangers joining hands together irrespective of their caste creed and religion, helping one another from distress selflessly, people realizing the need to donate for a cause, providing food to the hungry, realizing and taking up their responsibilities, bringing in a new civic chapter…f***ing spirit of chennai, right ?

    Urban planning, Amma packets, Ola boats, corruption, Govt officials, disaster recovery plans, Subramaniam swamy, ISIS, Donald Trumps, 26/11 are all great points and sounded very valuable. But what did you do as an individual ? Did you at least cast your vote ? If yes, then great you did your least bit. If not, its time we cock up.

    Why weren’t these questions on planning, govt, DR raised during the floods in New York a couple of years back…or during the hyper extreme winters in Chicago… or during the Mumbai rains. Its a natural calamity comrade…and natural calamities don’t bother about people, infra, planning, corruption,ISIS, Donald Trumps, or crude humour.

    Start an initiative, join a cause, take a step, engage in an effort which brings about a change, contribute…why blame the system when the problem lies within us. Till then let us contribute to the spirit of humanity, KEEP CALM AND SUPPORT THE SPIRIT OF CHENNAI…

    Reply
  3. prasanna

    It is easy to blame someone rather than taking responsibility for the actions
    we must learn to see your problems as part of society’s problem and society’s problem as the orgin of your problems.and as far the spirit of chennai you have to there to feel it

    Reply
  4. Prasad

    Everyone knows Government failed big time in Chennai floods. Poor planning, illegal encroachment, corruption, delayed actions and negligence. Spirit of Chennai is not about motivation to people recover back from flood. It is about spirit of people in Chennai while Chennai was still getting flooded.
    All the talk about spirit of Chennai was how people came forward to help other people. People opened their doors to help strangers. Provided them a dry place, food and water. Next it was about the spirit of people who stepped out to help other who couldn’t reach out to help. Chennai spirit is about people of the people who did not wait for Government but stepped up and used twiiter, facebook and whatsapp as communication channel to render help. They cloud sourced the data’s do rescue in organized way.
    It is about the spirit of people who wanted to help others instead of using this opportunity to create law and order problems like theft etc. When New Orleans in USA was flooded because of Katrina, crime rate there spiked. It happened in a developed country. But in Chennai nothing of that sort happened. It is this Spirit what people are discussing in social media and yes there is Spirit of Chennai.
    I know one might not understand ground reality while reading news. And it easy to get annoyed when your FB wall is filled with same news.

    Second it is very naive to compare Donald Trump with Subramaniam Swamy. I would rather compare Rahul Gandhi and Donald Trump.

    Reply
  5. Sengu

    Its fucking easy to write a blog sitting in an ac couch!!! Consider you were a flood victim and that might help you understand the “spirit of Chennai”

    Legislative is not the only solution, we have to also change the executives and juduciary.

    I urge you to set a role model way and lead by example. Don’t stop yourself with writing jump into action and transform the fucking shit

    Reply
  6. Sathya

    It’s easy to sympathise / rave and rant on social media but difficult to do actual good work on ground during times of calamities. (I would be the first to admit that I am guilty of having tendencies leaning towards the first group). However, ‘the spirit of xxx’ is often a positive stroke for people who have rallied around and gone beyond the call of duty. True, such posts may not even be seen by the real heroes, but there is a minuscule chance that it may inspire others. Media reports have indicated that during times of natural disasters in some (so-called) developed nations, there have been instances of rampant looting and rioting. (Again, I admit to no first hand knowledge of the same). However, if these unfortunate reports are true, then the ‘spirit’ posts only serve us as a reminder of the goodness in all humans.

    The ‘spirit’ messages do not absolve the system of their responsibilities. It should serve as a slap to their faces and a warning – ‘See, we, the ordinary people, are quite capable of handling ourselves. Shape up – lest we grow to realise one day that we can do without you – we may even be better-of without you.’

    #EndOfRant

    Reply
  7. S Balaj Prasanna

    Hi Hriday,
    Balaj here. I’m currently working in Pune. My family is in Chennai. I lived most of my life in Saidapet. The worst place hit by flood. Have you lived in Chennai? Been to Chennai? Had any friends from that region? Would you be kind enough to reply.

    Reply
    1. Hriday Ranjan Post author

      Hi.

      No, I wasn’t in Chennai. I don’t get your point. I am not a reporter for a newspaper. This is an opinion blog.

      If it is specifically being present that you’re worried about, I’m from Orissa. If there is one state that is worst affected historically by natural disasters, it is Orissa. I have learnt to peg my life around natural disasters, worked with governmental organisations that documented relief efforts, and generally survived a few of these calamities myself.

      Of course it’s not the same as being there during the floods. But my point was that after a few days, the issue won’t even matter. We’ll go back to the latest Khan film. So it is anger and frustration over years.

      But anyway, thanks for commenting. And have a good day! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Aarati

    Were you involved in relief work? If no, clearly any story about people helping each other will look like bullshit to you. Do you read? Lots of articles, more well argued than yours, have been written about the failures in urban planning that led to the flood.

    Reply
  9. Abhishek

    I don’t see why one cannot reconcile the humanitarian acts with the need for better planning. Agreed – better planning would have mitigated (perhaps even prevented) the immense damage and loss of property, but given that calamity has befallen us, can we not take a moment to appreciate these acts that have transcended the boundaries of caste, religion and language? Can we not applaud the heroes who risked their lives for rescuing starving and stranded men and women? Because trust me, not everyone is brave enough to do that. You may pick on the label – the spirit of XYZ, but can’t we just look beyond that for a moment? Among other things, these floods have certainly restored my faith in humanity.

    Reply
    1. John Sundar

      Hi Hariday Ranjan, there are some good points that you have said that I do appreciate. Yes the authorities should have planned for disasters and taken necessary precautions even before that had happened. Yes the CM and her cabinet should have been a moral support and active participant in the flood relief operations. Unfortunately both dint happen which is condemnable. Lets consider a hypothetical case(touch wood, that shouldn’t happen) where your place is drowning in a similar flood and you have already started hearing news from around that fatality rate is increasing. In that case -leave alone your neighbours- will you take care of your family,bring up your SPIRIT and be a moral support to them or still condemn the “authorities” and stay doing nothing? The broad minded brave hearts out there dint lose hope, they dint lose their FUCKING SPIRIT,they help each other, they cared for each other. “All for one and one for all” That’s what even you probably might have sing in front of our national flag. I don’t know what u have understood from that. Leave that coz that’s a different story. Now tell me one thing. What would you have done if you had faced such a situation. I don’t want any blah blah bakchod. Be precise and to the point. If u choose not to reply or intend to retaliate and not reply then I along with the other readers will have to deem you as one other jobless brat having access to internet.

      Reply
  10. Sampathkumar

    Obviously you don’t have a shitting idea of how people helped each other. Lot of youngsters instead of escaping to their natives, stayed back to help. Many gave their place for others to stay. Food being prepared and shared on a big scale. Yes, its a common thing that people help each other, but here it happened in a great scale which you cannot put it in the terms of a simple humanitarian help.

    Reply
  11. Who cares

    Lamest article ever.
    Don’t ever blog without knowing the fucking facts.

    Subramanian swamy is very highly educated.Dont compare with Trump,

    Can u prove amma stickers were stuck? Just because everyone says u carry on writing about it…

    Also spirit is about the helping tendency rather running away from something.
    U r a faceless person to talk about anything and particularly spirit.

    Go get a job.

    Reply
  12. Umesh

    As someone on the ground, I am glad I heard/read about the Spirit of Chennai and stories of how the city came together to help one another. It really gave hope to people who were wading in a feet of water at home and also inspired others to do the same. It so easy to deconstruct and analyse mistakes later, and I am not saying there weren’t some major ones but when you get that “one bar” of signal at the end of day 4 and that little bit of “E” Edge connection, I would rather here about the good that is being done around me.

    Reply
  13. Vishal Raghu

    You sir are awesome! That’s some wry Louise CK level shit there. Such cynicism. Much respect. Totes agree with your views.

    Reply
  14. Balaji

    Glad you voiced this out bluntly. The ‘Spirit of XYZ’ is nauseating after every natural disaster and reinforces the ‘Chalta hai’/’kindly adjust’ attitude that remains deep rooted.

    This was Mumbai nine years after the 2005 floods (http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/nov/27/mumbai-flood-rain-monsoon-city-planning). One can only hope lessons are learnt this time, and that the next steps taken are preventive rather than reactive.

    PS. Congrats on the new website. Not the best article to point this on, but the Flares social media pop-up during article scrolling gets in the way of reading the content. Any chance it could be placed out of the way?

    Reply
  15. MANIK

    It is true that empty slogans will do no good. It is also true that it is the basic human spirit in most individuals in trying to help those in distress. Where were these spirits when only the poor were suffering ? It was only the government machinery that was doing its bit silently. The people who benefited most by mindless and lawless urbanization are the ones who are raising these slogans. On the ground, the state has in fact done its best even from the first week of the onset of monsoons ( thirty days earlier than 2nd Dec ). There is little / no relevance between what I see as being reported in the main stream media and the actual situation. True this ‘mutual masturbation’ should stop and really relevant questions must be asked and public opinion must be mobilized continuously to prevent repeat of such calamities.

    Reply
  16. Andrew costa

    Hi,
    Are you from chennai or in chennai… Jus a moment I know we have a screwed up government bad public amenities no proper planning… But the willingness to put one persons effort to make a person smile is not seen easily in the world… There wer ppl who lost their lives saving other ppls lives.. So don’t insult us by saying that it’s not in spirit.. Tell me one more thing.. Which major metro is perfect from the time we had our freedom.. Which political party or person is not involved in corruption… It’s not only the taking its also the giving that’s corruption.. Imagine you are in a house filled with water no food no drinking water no place to sleep and suddenly you a soul at a distance coming to rescue you instead of taking care of his family who’s is also struck by flood.. We have each other in time of need irrespective of faiths or caste..we are proud to say we did what we could.. We try to be better and learn from out mistakes but u dare not to take our spirit away from us cos we are who we are..

    Reply
  17. Anil

    Exactly! And there was also a trend in between where people were pointing to chennai showing the tolerance of the people of Chennai and how that is a big thing. Where was all this tolerance before the flood? It was the money hungry real estate developers and the government servants looking for the quick buck who caused this mess. And, if there’s any show of tolerance it will be towards these people only.

    Reply
  18. Sangeeta

    Surprising that no one has commented yet!! It so honest, from the heart and in the face!! Thanks for writing and sharing!

    Reply
  19. Sujatha

    Right, so why don’t you start by getting into the mucky system and setting it right instead of ranting about the spirit of humanity ? You n I know that we can only rant and are essentially powerless against the corrupt political and administrative system that includes the real
    Estate mafia . Unless there is a sustained uprising and total boycott of the elections by the citizens, we will continue to be supremely responsible for the mess we are in !!

    Reply
  20. Anbarasu R

    I understand the anger. I get it.
    As the write up rightly points out, it is human nature to struggle, adapt, and survive. Similarly, it is human nature to embrace the help coming your way instead of whining about a system that simply didn’t work. The arm-chairs had the luxury to deal with that. People on the streets did not. They only had their spirit and individual donors who pitched in to help to keep them going!

    I opine that the screaking, the blame game, the introspection and the chalta-hai will follow only after the disaster passes. At least during the course of it, this ‘spirit’ and getting together every help coming your way should be lauded and taken.

    And, after the introduction of CTS- cheques don’t take that long with SBI. SBI worked throughout the disaster and did their bit. Try not to make a haphazard statement about an entity that helped.

    Reply
  21. Anand

    Will you cut out the drivel bro.. Chennai received close to 200 cm of rain in a month and 50 cm on the last day when everything was soaked to the brim. Sure poor planning could be a factor, but surely New Orleans got flooded for 2 weeks post hurricane Katrina (with hateful reactions from the government), a third of Manhattan got hit during hurricane Sandy – subways down for a week.

    Reply
  22. Annoyed indian

    So number of hours news media showed same news = importance of the issue?

    I believe instead of criticizing news channels its more important to write about what govt is doing on making infrastructure better. Clearly the things we built failed and we should solve these difficult problems rather than blaming some stupid news channels about how much they showed about flood.

    I don’t usually comment on these things..but man, there is some limit. Stop blaming and start doing something.

    Reply
  23. Murali

    Hey man!

    You are dead on right! Am pretty sure in a month from now it will be business as usual.
    There is too much emotional crap on serious issues like this when they can plan out on what they can learn from this to avoid it happening in the future at places vulnerable to catastrophes.

    In general people in India are emotional for almost everything and all this soapy feel-good stuff takes the importance on what actually needs to be done. It seems like the logical part of the brain never kicks in.

    BTW am a fan of your blog. I’m probably a generation older than you and living in the US (actually lived here more here than in India-so I see things from the “outside”). But that doesn’t hinder me to enjoy things you write about so well and so eloquently with some much needed expletives. Moreover feel completely in tune with your views (my particular favorite ones are the bit about the bathrooms on trains, Amir Khan (the old one when his movie PK came out) and the buffalo).

    I guess we see the world through the same lens 🙂

    -Murali

    Reply
  24. Aravind

    Very rightly picked the most neglected aspect which is actually the most important take home from the floods (which have just left hapless dumps are garbage on the streets to take home for the residents).

    I sincerely hope that more such thoughts come together and concretise into actions which actually help…

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  25. Yamini Moorthy

    You are right Ranjan. Actually these questions have been steering my thoughts over past few days!Whom do we question..? Authorities remain dumb to all the questions thrown at them..

    Reply
  26. aiswarya

    Oops, that is a good slap on the face! like someone I know said, there is no value for the life of a common man in India.
    I guess we are loaded with ”positive attitude” to carry on even when faced with tragedy, without complaining :/

    Reply

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