Saturday, December 5, 2015

I wish I could wrap a blanket around you

That can't be my Madras.
People used to take their cows to graze there. It's overflowing there, right above on to the Spur Tank Road?
That can't be. The countless aerial shots of brown water, grey sky-reflecting water. Shots all over the news, in the papers, on the internet.
Drowning. That's a bad word. That can't be happening.
Boats to get out of an indoor stadium? I am relieved at the resourcefulness and ingenuity and camaraderie I'm hearing about. But boats? Where did the boats come from?
And planes? Are those planes with water up to their wings?
That can't be. That's mine.
And I watch TV and I look at pictures but I cannot identify any of the places. Is that a part of Anna Salai I know? Which part of Egmore is that? T.Nagar? Is that T.Nagar?
I have a whole lot of questions. But what right do I have? I'm away, I've been away for the past 2 years - geographically, mentally. I've had the blessed opportunity to travel to some of the most awaited countries and cultures on my list. I have learnt to set up my toothbrush and call that home for the night. I enjoy this itinerant life. I have learnt or perhaps, I am still trying to teach myself that you grow when you are out of your comfort zone. When you are unfamiliar, challenged, new.

But I have dreamt of the road in front of Marina Beach. At night, under the glow of those street lamps. Near the Ice House. When the sandwich and bujji stalls are long shut. When you drive past the Gandhi statue and turn right towards Citi Centre, the old Nilgiris, the old Saravana Bhavan, R.K. Salai.
I have shocked myself in forgetting the name of Sowcarpet.
I have yet to taste sambar as it should be.
And then this happens.

I read an interview of actor-director Paul Bettany who said that when he left England for the US, he didn't miss it in the beginning because he used to travel so much. Then one day, it hit him hard. And he was achingly homesick.

My dear one AB said, I wish we could hold up this big giant umbrella over Chennai.  That made me sadder. I was initially just terribly worried about Mum and friends and staff.  I was numb to distraction, heart racing, weepy and panicking about her most of all - which I am at all times anyway, so this was merely a heightened moment. I'm so so thankful to God that they are all safe. I was relieved.

But then when I saw the food packet boxes and the Zomato plans and the relief funds, it struck me - no, no, no this doesn't happen here. It's just rain. We Chennaiites, we Madrasis love rain. I've raved about it before. A.R. Rahman songs, watching the news desperately for government-declared school/college holidays, puddles, cosiness, hot chocolate, indoor family time. Rain is what cleans up after the so-called 'hot, hotter hottest'. Rain in Madras is more beautiful than anywhere else in the world - because it is a bath well-deserved. It is beautiful, it is bountiful. It satiates thirst in every which way.

It will be alright. We will get back to complaining about the sun. We will return to loving the rain just as we did.

And until then, your loyal child wraps her arms around you. That is all she can offer from a sodden heart.

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