Thursday, December 17, 2015

Life Moves On - Chennai Rains!

The Rains in Chennai which started this year during mid October had me worried a lot but it didn’t baffle me till 30th Nov, Monday. 2 quick personal trips to Chennai during month of Nov, gave me a sample of what the city was witnessing and I came back to Bangalore on 29th Nov. A narrow escape for me.

30th Nov saw the worst rainfall the city is ever going to witness for some years(hopefully!)
All the network connections went crazy. One quick call from my mother informing me that power is cut and network is also going down and not to worry about my family at Chennai made me realize the week wasn’t going to like previous ones!

Different whatsapp groups were created by to quickly check on our Chennai colleagues of our department as no mails/calls were working. A few others from different locations were also added to check on their Chennai counterparts and then started a marathon tracking mission of 2200+ folks based out of Chennai. Similarly other department folks also got into checking for their folks across.

The biggest challenge : No Network connectivity or power in the area for them to reach out to.

The next 6 days was a total emotional roller coast ride days which tested the will power, perseverance of the volunteer group who went on to track all these associates! The volunteers were based out of all locations – across india and overseas – NA/UK etc who also pitched in despite the anguage barriers and time zone differences.

There were some really heart-beating moments during all these checks. Am sure, for the 1st time no one in the group would have complained about the number of messages in the group! (I myself get bugged when so many messages keep popping in various groups in normal days, but this time I was one of those folks who kept msging – checking/updating the status of associates as and when we got the news.

Once a few Chennai folks were able to connect , they were able to update us on the weather and how things are on the ground. A few braved the rains which was still pouring at some places in Chennai to check on other colleagues or give some urgent medicine supplies which we got as requests.

The volunteers left no stone unturned to track the folks especially the trainees – continuous calls to their numbers/emergency numbers, back to back messages in regular phone and whatsapp and then going on to twitter/FB/Linkedin to check their profile, leave a message or trace some friend/family who could update them. The whole process could be looked like stalking or an FBI investigation! ;)

A couple of heartbeating moments came when one associate had to be evacuated by Army. We got an update that he is stranded with his family(wife and  1yr old kid) in his house. On Thursday, 2nd Dec – a call was patched to Army helpline and cognizant helpline also and army evacuation request was made. The feeling of all the folks in the whatsapp group could be compared to those movie scenes where a group sits in the data room with all the data and updates hero who is out there to save the world! All of us went, to and fro checking through different sources and whatsapping on the status. Around evening we got the update that he and his family were evacuated and all of us felt so happy and relieved! But then the next day morning, we got the news that he was still stuck and army had not evacuated him! The tension grew up and after again multiple channels, finally on Saturday only army evacuated him! This time we double ensured we got the news correctly and he was safe with his family!

Another moment was when one of the associates called back saying she was fine, her family was evacuated by army on Thursday but during the evacuation, she and her kid got split from her husband and MIL and now she had no idea where they were. We got his number and the search for the family began. After 2 hours, finally network came in and he responded to our call and we were able to trace his and update on his wife and kid’s status! We felt like we were united with our family!

Tragedies also occurred, as one teammate msged back saying, all were good but he lost his uncle in this 2nd spell of heavy rains while his grand father passed away in the 1st one. We also mourned with him L 

The news of colleagues belonging all being washed away courtesy rains, were moments where we felt our houses were gone.

But then on optimistic side, there were no casualties of any associates. Trainees had their own share of experiences in the floods and as we spoke to them, we could sense the fear, anxiety and a bit of relief that they were safe now. Counselling centers/calls were immediately set up for all the trainees whom we could support through these tough times!

Simultaneously I was checking on my own family/relatives/family friends (who seemed to be countless in Chennai) on their safety and was following the volunteering scenes through the social media which was used to amazing effect this time! My aunt lost all her belongings and when she told me, I could only cry inside because that house was a dear to me during my college hostel days. She was my guardian and that house was my temple which I visited practically every weekend.

But then as she said, this is life and knowing that we are safe and healthy we need to smile and brace ourselves for the next journey of resetting life.

People in Chennai and other affected places have shown us that they can survive, support each other and rise together! Sincerely wishing this trend continues on normal days also as the city comes back to being normal step by step!

P.S - This post has been long due from my end but then my mind had so much of mixed emotions for past 1 month that I took some time to clear my head and then pen this down!

P.S 1 – The voluntary work that I was part of might not have been great compared to the actual ground work, but then that’s the solace we tell ourselves, that we were part of something during these tough times for Chennai folks!