Saturday, 28 June 2008

Hell and Heaven!

Chennai, what a city! It's been almost four years since I started living in this place and gawd knows, there's enough to crib about, but also loads to praise. Coming to this place with very mixed feelings, it has actually become a place which I'm so comfortable with that it sort of scares me (if that's the term!). I guess, I do have a thing about comfort zones, but more on that later...


Chennai (that was/is Madras?) tends to grow on you in ways that seems profoundly simple and direct yet illogically ephemeral. As a city, I have witnessed it change its character quite a bit in the time I have spent here, yet there is much that still remains as it has been for over a century and more.

Friday night was an interesting experience to say the least. Sitting and talking with a friend and poof the electricity supply is gone. Now, it had been raining, so the normal conclusion is it will come back in a few minutes. Unfortunately not the case. Friend decides to leaves for his house, which is just a couple of blocks away. And as we come out of the building, realisation hits us that all around us, there are lights and air-conditioners being powered away to glory and only our building has been affected. Turns out an underground cable connecting the transformer to our building had short circuited (burnt in three places as it turns out later).

Herein starts the experience. With the power on, the city felt different in that one is living in a safe and secure environment with access to water, sanitation, third party support, etc. Off goes the power and one realises Chennai's nature in full fury. Out of the all encompassing darkness come the raiders who descend on the hapless soul with precision attacking every possible part. As one of the bloggers from Chennai (see link) has asked, how dare we hoard blood, for it is the right of every bloody mosquito in the world to feast on us. Of course, it's not just blood that you are losing. Pouring streams of a saline liquid popularly known as sweat but not so popular when it starts to build and descend from that exact spot on your skull, to gather strength near the brow and together create its own version of the niagra falls! And this is but the physical manifestations. What about the mental? No more connected to the net or tv, one frantically searches through a mental checklist on what to do - can't shut the brain off, won't shut off! Phew, what a night.

Rather bleary eyed, low on the sleep quotient, one wakes up to the soulful morning with a happy realisation - the raiders have gone away for now - Yeah!! Make the best of it. Run. Jump. Scream. In joy. (Funny isn't it, how little things can give so much joy in life?). And then reality sinks in. There still is no power. One of the building's association member actually has to spend a whole day camping at the TNEB Assistant Engineer's office to ensure that somebody is actually deputed to find the fault and sort it out. Finally two people land up and oh dear, the open dug outs reminds you that beneath the surface lies so much! Every time we get a phone connection, or water connection or tv connection or a connection of any sorts, there is digging that takes place. Dig hard enough and you are bound to hit one of the wires in the dirt. Who cares, if a whole building goes without power because the rain water entered into the electricity cable through a cut/multiple cuts left during another connection being setup. Anyways, toiling industrially these two men manually sort out the whole mess and power is restored and life is back to normal.

But the brain refuses to stop thinking. In our man made heaven or mess of a city, whatever you call it, as long as everything is going in the way that leaves you happy, then all is fine. A change in that situation and the realisation dawns that nature has a way of showing you who really is more powerful (more on that later; met an interesting conservationist yesterday, check out the link to his blog too).

Chennai has evolved from a small fishing village into a giant metropolis. Have people and the place always been in tandem - absolutely not. Has the planning of the city been in tandem with the present needs, let alone future needs? Not is the sad answer. But have the people lived in tandem with each other? Yes and that is what makes this such an interesting city to live in. It grows on sub-conscious self in ways that's akin to a creeper, eventually becoming a part of your consciousness, without one even realising that it happened. But of course, a change (albeit temporary) like a power shut down leads you to realise what all. Here's wishing the best to this old lady of a city and its denizens.

3 comments:

  1. I should agree by saying.. small things.. do make one happyy.. hehe well not all the time.. but of the time it sure does the trick..

    must say i never expected you to write about this.. hehe but then i should always expect the unexpected from you ;).. yup the usual.. powercut.. and the attack.. is such a common part of chennai life right now.. just tht we dont realise it.. because we have such a lifestyle which doesnt allow us to be part of nature..

    the electricity board... thts there normal routine.. somebody has to go and sit out.. to get the power fixed.. you sure the power was not cut because of the slight tremours that you would have faced there.. ? as in earth quakes??

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  2. Well, there was a bit of talk about the tremors also causing issues. But no one really knows what went wrong? Rain? Tremors? Invasive digging?

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  3. I think it is tremors.. because.. my parents also faced the same problem.. but yes our powercuts are pretty famous.. so cant say..they might have just used the tremors as an excuse to cover up the real issue

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