Soggy Chennai is drowning. While the print media turns a Nelson eye to the plight of the people in the southern city, for the TV channels it’s a tamasha, a perverse ploy to play the high TRP game. In a personal account, Champa exposes the north-south discrimination and hopes that there is sunshine and an end to the misery of Chennai in deluge now.
People living to the south of Vindhyas have always been looked down upon by mainland India. Tamils, Telegus, Kannadigas and Keralites are universally referred to as ‘Madrasis’ by the rest of India, I do not know why.
Whether this discrimination is made on basis of the complexion of the skin or the difference in the language spoken, I am not sure because though I have chosen a dark complexioned ‘Madrasi’ guy as my life
companion. I have seen men in my family, fairer than the fairest of the north Indian men. My father-in-law and his seven brothers in their younger days could definitely give stiff competition to any of the Bollywood hunks and give them run for their money. I still remember what I heard from one of my male friends in my college days. His sweeping statement, saying that ‘Madrasi’ girls are usually flat breasted and listless in their looks and those few who are the exceptions eventually turn out to be Hema Malini or Rekha or Sridevi, still ring loud in my ears.
When after twenty seven years of marriage I decided to shift base to Chennai, I found many friends and relations looking at me suspiciously and expressing their doubts whether I would be able to adjust myself to the new circumstances at all. Visiting a place and living there is a different ball game, they said. These same people were rather happy when as a new bride I flew more than 7000km to live in an alien European town. Many still show their disbelief when I tell them that not only me but my twenty-one year old daughter, who was used to a very hectic social life, is loving to explore and enjoy the heritage, culture, cuisine and lifestyle of this so called ‘boring’ and laid back place.
This North-South divide became more tell-tale to me during this time of monstrous rains. The damage that has happened to the city of Chennai and some other parts of Tamil Nadu is colossal and the magnitude of the devastation has to be seen and felt to be believed. I was totally surprised to see coverage of this calamity in the national dailies. While Chennai is drowning, the leading publications in other parts of the country choose to either celebrate the birth of a Zuckerberg baby or cry over the California Carnage in their headlines. Chennai floods do get a mention in these newspapers in some small corner of course.
The television media may not be that biased or indifferent like their print counterparts but their tendency to sensationalise each and every tragedy is more nauseating, no doubt. It is indeed a shame to hear the anchors shouting at top of their voices, every two minutes, claiming their channel to be the first one to reach the spot. Misery sells, mishaps sells so all the channels go on repeat telecasting the aggrieved residents, who have been hit the hardest and completely forgets to mention that there are indeed some parts in the city of Chennai, which are unaffected but could not be reached due to the failure of telephone service providers. Instead of mentioning the rain has receded and trying to spread some hope in the minds of hapless people the over excited television reporters find joy in repeating again and again that ‘The worst is yet not over’. Have heart dear reporters, for once leave back your attention seeking attitude.
Sitting on the sofa of my home, which has miraculously remained unaffected by this nature’s fury, it is very comforting indeed to hear that the Prime Minister has announced Rs 1000 crores or relief work but how and when that would reach the desperate people in need of drinking water and food supplies, no one knows. Aerial surveys by political leaders cannot save the common men from getting drowned. Careful planning of cities, drainage and the sewerage can perhaps stop such a mammoth disaster from happening again.
But all’s not lost and gone. I salute the spirit of the people of Chennai, who have come together to beat the odds and be with each other in the time of such a grave crisis. Each one is trying their best to cope with the damage and loss in their own way. People are opening up the gates of their homes for strangers to eat and sleep. Mosques, churches, temples and shopping malls have now turned into shelter homes. Many hotels are providing free food to those who are still stranded and cannot reach home.
My maid Mallika couldn’t come for work because her house got submerged but she left me overwhelmed by sending her son, who brought his two-wheeler along, just to find out if he could be of any help to us. Right at these moments, we the people of Chennai do not need any tall announcement of Modi’s Rs 1000 crores(they make it sound like he is giving it from his own pocket) or Rajni Sir’s 10 lakhs (this demigod could have surely added a few more zeros to his cheque) or those Facebook statuses where people from Delhi are sending blankets ( No, blankets and woollens are not required at all) or baskets of vegetables from Kolkata (When, How and in What condition, would that reach us who knows) but some love, care, compassion and positive thoughts from our fellow human beings to bring some sunshine into our badly wet and wobbly lives.
Pix from Net
Champa writes on various blogs and magazines on real life issues and incidents. She is a Post Graduate in English literature from Jadavpur University and has taught English in an Undergraduate college in Kolkata. Champa loves spending her time by reading, writing, gardening and learning classical dances. She now lives in Chennai.