[This post was written when Chennai was in the grip of fear on 1st November, 2012. When Cyclonic storm Nilam was all set to strike the metro, weather bloggers predicted unprecedented disaster and devastation to the metro.]
Cyclone Nilam that hit Chennai last week was expected to be a grandiose affair having had all potentials to devastate the metro. But then, a cyclone is not a messiah and it never leaves a spot without getting it lambasted through tornadoes or hurricanes or constant, aggressive pouring, that scare even a Noah. Fortunately, Nilam got dissipated, became tame when it crossed the shores of Mahaballipuram, a heritage treasure-trove, about 60 km south of Chennai
For those who were indoors, the only effect they thought that Nilam left on its trail was the abrupt shut down of power supply from midday to midnight. They felt isolated from the outer world since TVs’ became mute, not able to flicker. They were groping in the dark like the people living before the advent of electricity. Through the dim light of melting candles they felt they still existed.
I love cyclones. For, with its many upheavals and being beyond the reach of man, it shows its unbeatable, supreme prowess over man and his pet dogs -- science and technology. I too hate cyclones since they bring in its train only holocaust and devastation to humanity. How can a person love and hate a thing? I must be a crank.
Fear of cyclone starts the moment weather bulletins flash on TVs. When a forecast announces a trough disturbance, rapidly increasing its size and strength and moving north/west, we begin to shudder thinking that the would-be storm is going to decimate the world.
So it begins in our minds. A storm with gusts of over 120mph, still growing in size and speed, as it moves toward a decrepit city or a cosmopolitan metro. This time we were privileged to get the Nilam. Giving it a name at some point did little to diminish the mysterious excitement of the whole thing.
A Restaurant owner became taciturn and timid. Giving me a glass of Chennai filter coffee, he asked me suddenly with fear-ridden eyes. ‘Sir, will Nilam strike at his area?’ I startled, looking at him quizzically and said: ‘Why on earth, do you ask such a bloody question?’ ‘Because’, he was a bit hesitant and replied, ‘I have opened this eatery very recently investing a huge fortune. I fear the cyclone will make it all go at one stroke’. I didn’t know how to dispel his fear. I had only pity on him. Everywhere, people are like the restaurant owner only self-centered no matter it is storming or not.
The cyclones themselves are always astounding and thrilling. We have some wild bunch of people who would venture into sea-shore whether it is raining furiously and sideways, hoping for a gust powerful enough to lift them up off the ground.
When we got our ears glued to FM radios [the only communication channel we could be linked with] that’s updating the movement of the Nilam and the catastrophe it’s causing around the city, I was surprised to hear the RJ announce that there were bunches of adventurous youth parking themselves in the forbidden seashore, snapping the furious waves, the turbulent sea and the darkened sky just to upload them on their social sites. The awesome power of nature, the freedom of the unknown, of innocence, of playfulness- all of it was so alive and fascinating. Everything was rich and wild and sweet and amazing, even difficulty and danger.
I wait for another cyclone.
Rewinding myself to my childhood days, I could still remember how we, the children, at the time of a gathering storm, would huddle in a corner of the house, scary of the howling winds or thunderclaps. As always, mother was our rallying point. Seeing our fear-ridden faces and trembling bodies, she would make us sit around her. Giving each one of us a rice-ball mixed with some curry, she would say: ‘Storms are nothing but gods coming over to the earth. They come in the form of swirling winds and bolts of lightening only to destroy the baddies. They would be benignant to those who are good and innocent. You children, you are always good. So, you needn’t worry about storms’. Getting convinced of what mother had said we would retire to our beds with new-find courage.
However, times have changed. I could never say such things to the children of today or justify the arrival of storms. When told that a cyclone is in the offing, one of my neighborhood children retort saying: ‘Why, uncle? Why worry? If need be, we can buy some windbreakers to deal with the storm.’ I could only laugh at his childish ingenuity.
New-age children with their knowledge and understanding about the Nature and its course are better placed than us in taking the calamities of nature in their stride.
Image courtesy: Google
Quotes courtesy: ‘There is only Now’, by Scott Morrison]