One evening,a few weeks ago, my younger son came home and told me that there was going to be a major earthquake around Diwali time- he had heard the news from school- I nodded sedately- and my elder son sniggered-
The following Monday, a flood threat was announced in Trichy and other areas in and around Tamilnadu. My younger son now said that they must have meant a flood and not an earthquake- he seemed happy that he had scored over his brother this time.
The flood threat was not due to local rains but because of the surplus inflow into the Mettur dam. The prospect did not quite register at first, but there was a vague unrest. On Tuesday morning, the power went out in the morning throwing my cooking plans awry. Not that I had any elaborate menu drawn out- but just enough to inconvenience me- I kept waiting for the power to be restored soon- but the wait went on and on…I modified my cooking plans in connivance with the electricity Board.
Schools and Offices were declared closed- now this predicament arouses mixed feelings in me- while on one hand it means no packing lunch boxes- it also implies that I would be exposed to war zone mileu within the home! No, my sons do not indulge in much of physical violence, but then they enjoy taunting and harassing each other that I go crazy. Anyways, I had no choice.
DH had gone to the factory, but came back by noon. Seems there had been a breach in the Melur sector threatening to submerge Srirangam. Panic was slowly creeping in some areas.
There is this little, dirty canal flowing behind our colony premises, and everybody was going to check out the water levels both by the canal and the Kaveri bridge. The bridge was teeming with people trying to get a glimpse of Kaveri in spate- eventually Police had to use force to disperse the crowd.
Meanwhile water had been rising at an alarming rate in some of the low lying residential areas, and people had to be rescued and evacuated to safer places by fire personnel.
Our colony, thankfully was not inundated. Everybody seemed to be in a kind of festive, adventurous mood. People were excited, curious and even amused but not afraid. Phones were ringing incessantly and relatives and friends were given updates about the water level intermittently amidst much joy. It was only when there were reports of how folks had been marooned completely in a neighbouring colony that there was a slight worry.
There is a surreality about impending danger. A failure to accept facts- atleast until stark reality stares one on the face. At some level, one keeps hoping, and looking out for reassurance.
Our neighbours on the ground floor shifted their valuables to our home which is on the first floor- the DIL of the house kept depositing the boxes and bags giggling embarrassedly. Our hall was overflowing with 2 TV’s. computer, music systems- and we threatened them that they would have to pay us rent for the safe keeping and not bat an eyelid if anything went missing. Actually they were the only folks who actually took any action in face of the flood threat. The other ground floor residents just got their things packed and ready…
However, the flood threat remained abstract and did not culminate into Reality.
And during the uncertainity of those days, I experienced fleeting moments of anxiety visualizing me drowning and shrieking out for my loved ones- tho I knew that was improbable, my thoughts did go to those people who have actually faced such crises in the wake of the recent hurricanes, the Mumbai floods- the panic filled moments of the faceless thousands-
Since 2000, there have been so many disasters, that I cant help wondering if the end of the world is nigh. According to the hindu scriptures, we are now living in the Kali Yuga- each yuga ends with a “Pralaya” – “The Deluge” which perhaps could imply any Natural calamity of gargantuan proportions. Something like the Tsunami perhaps- I still remember the sense of utter disbelief as I watched on TV, how the sea had washed away joggers in Chennai!! – and then as we surfed channels- the same ferocious situation in various parts of the world simultaneously- This couldn’t be happening- I thought!
There had been rumors of the world coming to an end several times in the past- one was, I remember in the year I was to appear for my Xth std Board exams ( ok- the year was ’82)- and my friends and me kept hoping the world would end before the exams commenced or atleast before the results could be announced. Our prayers remained unfulfilled – and we went on to write the exams and receive the not so satisfactory results.
Then there had been the skylab scare- which year was that- I forget. The skylab was falling- and was in the news everywhere those days- there was a vague panic- and finally it fell into the sea!