The story of a survivor: Chennai’s condition is reflected in Bablu Aunty's horror

by Sandhya Ravishankar

I live on Seventh Avenue, Ashok Nagar, Chennai.
When the skies opened up on Wednesday like they have not done in a hundred years, Ashok Nagar was one of the areas that flooded.

 The story of a survivor: Chennai’s condition is reflected in Bablu Auntys horror

Bablu aunty spent a day stranded in her Ashok Nagar home

Our colony was in waist high water. As it was raining without let up all of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning — and the waters began to enter the ground floor, we (my mother, grandmother and I) moved up a floor to safety.
But we soon learned that an old neighbour, Bablu aunty, who lives alone a furlong away, was stuck in the ground floor of her house unable to move to safety.

Some good Samaritans decided to wade through the waters to rescue her. The forecast was heavy rains for the next two days and the time to rescue her was now.

I decided to join the rescue party and record it as best I could.

As you will see in the video below, we kept running into terrified residents, leaving their homes and wading through the waters, some to shack up with friends and others with relatives in less affected areas, though at that time, looking at the sea of brown water, it was tough to imagine any place would be safe.

An elderly gentleman told me he had not seen anything like this in his 75 years. Others spoke about how they were left pretty much to their own devices with no help from the administration. That made the blood boil a bit, but then when two employees of the electricity board explained their travails, I quickly realised that ‘administration’ is also people after all. “What to do madam, we are wading through water, going from place to place to ensure people are not electrocuted. We ourselves are helpless, we have been wading through chest high water to turn off the mains,” they told me.

A few more minutes of wading later, we reached Bablu aunty’s house. I called out for her, announced my arrival and went in to bring her to safety.

The video shows us reaching her front door and then cuts to her being escorted out. That’s because of two reasons: One, there was no electricity inside the house; it was pitch dark. Two, I paused filming because it was more important to get her to safety.

The visual jump shouldn’t matter, really. One look at the dazed expression on her face is enough to imagine the horror of spending an entire night being old, alone, enveloped in darkness, the rain pounding away relentlessly and the waters rising ever so threateningly under the highest safe-perch available. There is no fear worse than the knowledge that you are not safe in your own house.

Bablu aunty’s horror multiplied several hundred thousand times is what the horror of the Chennai deluge was about.

PS: I shot the video on Wednesday but could not send it to Firstpost because Ashok Nagar, like many places in Chennai, is still without electricity or connectivity. I had to travel to Taj Coramandel, at least 10 km away, today to mail it before rushing home to move my mother and grandmother to safety because the rain is back.

Updated Date: Dec 05, 2015 11:58:37 IST