I just finished reading an entire book after almost 5 years! Yes that’s a long time. How did I manage to complete a book after so many years and that too in just 2 days? Well thanks to Cyclone Vardah, it left me with no choice but to read a book! Its not that I had not picked up books for reading in the past but invariably after reading a few pages, no matter how interesting it would be, I would fall asleep. The sleep would last only for 10-15 minutes and the moment I would begin to read again, I would one more time fall asleep for the next 10-15 minutes. I somehow accepted the verdict from my brain which said “I feel very tired, don’t trouble me with your books! Stick to internet and television”.
Normal Routine Life
It was just the routine process of replenishing all the food grains, vegetables, milk, bread, butter, cheese, dosa batter, coconut etc which was completed on Thursday and Friday of previous week. Saturday and Sunday were spent at home. Satish was working from home for the whole of Saturday and to break the monotony, we had gone to the club for dinner. Sunday was boring, I do not remember what did we do except for the time when I grated 2 red carrots (delhi carrots) and made gajar halwa for Satish. He was supposed to travel to Bangalore in the evening. He was going on a 3 day getaway trip to Coorg with his friends.
Satish left at around 4 pm on Sunday and I loved the fact that I could go easy with dinner cooking. The place where we stay is god forbidden for most things so finding a proper north Indian cook has been a challenge till date. Anyways, so I was going to last on the paneer filling to make a paneer sandwich for dinner. I played loud music. Took a long shower to enjoy my music more, watched bigg boss Salman bashing (verbally) the joker named Swami Om and went to bed feeling as if my Bangalore days are back.
The Sound of the Rain
I woke up in the middle of the night and heard the sounds of rain. It made me think “finally Chennai gets its share of rain which it didn’t get when it was expected”. I had no clue about any Cyclone Vardah going to strike. I am sure neither did Satish know, since we never discussed it. We might have read about it without letting it register in our brains thanks to the way Cyclone NADA made a joke of itself.
Cold Morning With Warm Friends
I woke up in the morning and felt the chill more than usual. Ah! What a lovely morning. It was surely now like the pleasant Bangalore morning, when I would stand on the balcony of my 15th floor apartment and feel the cool breeze touching my cheeks with pin drop silence around and no prying eyes from any windows. I had an open view for miles and miles. I could see Nandi hills from my balcony. However here in Chennai, we lived on the 3rd floor (even though we had a choice to live in the 15th floor, we chose a lower floor for unknown reasons). I did not have that aerial view but the cool breeze, the drizzle and the pin drop silence did transport me to Bangalore.
My lovely MBA friends sent me many caring messages of dos and donts. They checked if I had enough of water, food, pulses etc. Since I had the car at my disposal (Satish went to Bangalore by Shatabdi), they insisted that I come to Bangalore asap. I usually don’t like being baby sitted but they were showing me genuine care and I was loving it.
So after assuring all of them and few of my family members that I was doing fine, I went to my balcony to enjoy the breeze. the breeze had turned into strong winds. The trees were swaying with valour displaying the strong hold of their roots.
When Airtel Set Top Box Was An Irritant
I discounted the winds remembering what a flop show NADA had been. On TV I heard that Cyclone Vardah will make a landfall in the afternoon and it had no impact on me. I was irritated by the occasional message “Your airtel connection does not have signal, this could be due to bad weather or some obstruction in your connection”. I thought of tweeting to Mr. Mittal that what’s the point of having a cable connection if it cannot work when I want it to?
It also made me think, what technology advancement we are talking about when these dabbas stop working with the slightest change in the weather conditions. Better were the rectangular aluminium antennae days when hell or high water, we never missed watching a single episode of Ramayan, Mahabharat, Duck Tales, Chandrakanta, Jungle book, Superhit Muqabla or Zee Horror Show. Sigh! Childhood days…
Silence Before the Storm
So as time passed by, the wind got accompanied by drizzles. Then the winds got stronger and powerful. The drizzles changed to rain and the rain changed to the landfall of Cyclone Vardah. The swanky swaying trees began to tilt towards the ground; the pleasantness of the rain was lost. It appeared as an angry messenger of nature doing “tandav” and revenging for all the harm we humans have caused to it including making these useless DTH cables and set-top boxes.
Fear For Life
The power cut did nor scare me nor did the thought that I have be home bound for few days. It was nothing unusual for me to be at home 24/7 for a few days. But what I was kind of concerned about was what if the building tower collapses. No I am not of afraid of death. That’s the benefit of planning to not have a child. No survivors no worries. Though one of my aunt thinks I have conceiving issues! God bless her pea sized brain!
Yeah so death does not scare me, but the thought of dying after prolonged suffocation under the rubble scared me a bit. I also imagined how would Bhavya and my mom react. I could see the reaction would be very similar to how I reacted when my cousin sister passed away. It is painful to give such pain to your near and dear ones. So I didn’t readily want to die. But these whirlwind rains and the shudder of glass panes was not giving me too much of positive hope.
I Was Left With I Me Myself
I had the internet working for sometime but gradually it conked off which in turn made me lose all human touch. Given, I have no friends locally except for Satish’s colleagues and their families, this virtual cut off immediately made me feel all alone. Now I had “Your airtel connection does not have signal, this could be due to bad weather or some obstruction in your connection” and “No Signal” status on my phone. Satish was in Coorg and I don’t even have a dog at home. Phew! When would the big book shelf which we had bought from Fab furnish (after I shifted to Chennai) come to help?
Books Are Our Best Friends
I walked over to the book shelf which is like a mini library and looked for the thinnest book. I found this nice book named “Chai Chai” by Biswanath Ghosh. It is a travel epilogue about the interesting train junctions of Itarsi, Mughal Serai, Jolarpet and few more stations. I read it as much as I could but my mind was drifting towards the merciless cyclone. I recorded so many short videos of it, clicked so many pictures and imagined the related captions which I would put on Facebook when internet gets restored.
Worry of Preserving Food
Since the fridge wasn’t working, I did remember that I cannot let the food and vegetables get spoilt. However, I didn’t think they would get spoilt in just 2-3 hours of powercut. So I took it easy and treated myself to some nice fruits and maggi for lunch. In the evening around 5 pm, I carefully opened the fridge door and quickly took the last portion of paneer filling out to make myself another paneer sandwich for dinner. I wanted the stuffing to thaw since the luxury of microwave heating was not there. This is the same time, I put the fermented and ready curd inside the fridge. The fridge was cold and holding onto the temperature. I did not worry about the milk and curd for I thought power would surely get restored by next morning or afternoon.
Fears Came True: Cyclone Vardah Pushed Me Away
The rain would not stop or slow down even for a moment and that reminded me of last year’s floods. Satish had taken out the car from lower basement and parked it at ground level. I decided to do the same, in his absence. Generator was off, I think. I used my phone’s torch light and climbed down the stairs. There was heel touching water logging at ground level. I could have used the staircase and gone down to basement but the darkness and flooding unnerved me.
So I decided to go to the basement from the slope route which cars take to enter the lower basement. When I entered the ground level parking, it was pitch dark like how the attics are in horror movies. Not a single soul could be seen or heard. It was only me and the darkness. I switched on the torch again and saw the extremely fierce rains whirling at the mouth of the garage. The winds were so strong that even when I was at 100 mtrs distance inside the garage away from the mouth of the garage, I was drenched. I recorded the scene for just 3 seconds when the winds and rain gushed in where I was standing. It dislocated an extremely heavy desk from its spot and I feared the desk would get hurled at me.
Mission: Save the Car
But I had to move the car. The brave me walked towards the mouth of the garage. I reached there and you have to believe me that the winds were able to push me back by 3 steps. It could have been more if I had not immediately held the wall. I was all drenched by now and terrified. I was looking at the slope which would go down to the lower basement. The entire stretch was dark. Exactly like how the basement was in Conjuring 2. There was the gurgling sound of winds in the garage and I did not know what lied underneath there.
Sighting snakes is very common in this area where I stay. This stretch of GST Road was all jungle before Mahindra World City came up leading to the development of this 70 Km stretch. So snakes were still around hoping that nature will give them back what rightfully belonged to them.
God Sent Help
I was standing at the slope looking down, holding the wall tightly with my back facing the threshold of the parking lot. My clothes were all wet and I was worried about my iphone getting spoilt. My phone is more dearer to me than anything else that I possess. Not because it is an iphone but because it is a gift! Right! so now I put 1 step forward towards the slope and again the hurricanish wind scolded me for daring it. I took my step back but continued to stand there. Then came a guy in raincoat from the adjacent maintenance office. He called me to hide behind one of the pillars and wait there for few moments. I stood there with him and just then saw a girl fall down due to the winds.
She was trying to get up but Cyclone Vardah would not let her do so. It was the perfect horror movie scene where an invisible force was holding back a girl from going anywhere. That man and I moved towards her to help her. Our walk was no less than space walking but by then her male friend came to her rescue. We came back and hid behind the pillar as if we were playing hide n seek with the cyclone. The rain water was dripping from my forehead. I stood there thinking nothing but fearing and adoring nature’s power.
At a relatively low winds moment, the guy told me to quickly move towards the lower basement. He came along with me. We both walked down holding the wall of the 120 mtr long slope. There was no water logging in the basement, thanks to the good drainage system of the apartment. We did not have water logging even during Chennai floods of last year. So I unlocked the car and told the man to sit and I would drop him to the upper level since walking against the forceful winds was not a good idea. But he denied and said, “you be safe”.
He carefully, waited for the low wind moment and walked up the slope. I drove the car on the slope hoping the winds will not topple the car. I reached the mouth of the garage, and turned the car to park it hiding behind the generators so that the wind does not have direct access to the car.
It was over
Around 10 pm Cyclone Vardah effects were over. I went down to take the car out and put it back into its allotted spot. The moment I got behind the wheels, I got the itch to assess the damage and I went for a small drive till the main road. My apartment entrance is inroads about 400 mtrs from main road. So I went out. It felt nice seeing some humans after 24 hours that Satish had left for Bangalore. I clicked pictures of fallen trees, toppled security guard booths etc and came back. I could have read more from the book but I didn’t feel like so dozed off.
The Next Day was Heart Breaking
Tuesday was an interesting day. After breakfast comprising of wheat bread, butter and cup of hot milk, I went down to assess the damage in the apartment. The sight left me heart-broken. Entire apartment’s landscape was in mess. Fallen trees, broken fences, leaves everywhere, broken cables, soil covered tennis court, murky swimming pool water and one lone little frog jumping near my feet as if it was trying to narrate me the horrific scenes which it witnessed yesterday.
I went to the maintenance office to check on the probable time when power would get restored since rain had stopped the previous night itself. The guy happened to be the same one who came down with me to the slope. I felt indebted to him but I did not know what to say.
Memories of Last Year, Lessons For This Year
I asked him if everything was fine in the office. The last year, all these people had got trapped in the apartment with no food or water. Our apartment had become an island with water all around. All the residents then had given them food, shelter and clothing. However like the NDRF, even these guys had made preparations this time. He said its ok everything is under control. I was relieved to hear that. He said electricity board did not give any concrete answer so power may get restored in the evening or tomorrow morning.
Normal Life Still At Bay
I was shocked to hear that given rain had stopped on Monday night itself. No matter how bad the damage was and how back dated is our technology, once the cyclone is over, I expect magic to happen which would restore order asap. I was ready to volunteer for some help but I did not know what to do. I cannot lift those heavy tree barks, nor can I clean up the leaves from the grass. So I decided to instead go out on the roads and see if I can pick up Satish’s line manager from his house. Since his family was away in Pune and he was keeping unwell, I thought it would be a good idea to bring him home just like last year when he was with us during the floods.
I was shocked to see the fallen trees all over the road. I could not go too far. Just after driving for about 2 kms, I could see huge traffic block. Unwillingly, I made a turn in the next available U turn. On my way back I shot a 2 minute video of the destruction while was driving at 30 kmph on the empty stretch of the road. Before returning home got fuel filled in the car. I had little more than ¼ fuel tank capacity but mentally it was not too assuring since it was less than ½ tank. As I parked in front of the fuel dispenser, the small boy said “No card only cash” in his opening statement. 500/- was my reply and gleefully he asked “you have change”? I nodded with an air of pride.
Food and the Related Worries One More Time
As I got back home, I decided to do something about the things which were there in the fridge. I took out the curd and the vessel was still cold which meant the fridge was holding on to the inside temperature even after 24 hrs. My 3 door Whirpool fridge left me super impressed. I immediately shut the fridge door to not let the outside air in. From the vegetable bin, I took out all the vegetables and decided which ones needed to be cooked same day for lunch & dinner and which ones I could keep till the next day.
I cooked bhindi for lunch and had it with pulyogre (tamarind rice) and curd. I wanted to preserve the curd for as long as I could. Not knowing what to do in the absence of a fridge, I filled a casserole with water (which was ice cold naturally thanks to the rain) and placed the curd vessel in it. The water kept the curd vessel submerged upto the 3/4th level. I heated the milk again (3rd time) since yday and kept it on the dining table since living room was colder than kitchen area.
Restless Afternoon & Happy Evening
I sat with the book since tv, modem and phone were still without any network. My restlessness did not allow me to sit with the book. Once again I went down to assess the loss. I went to Satish’s colleague’s house (they live in the next tower.) Their tower had more damage than mine. I knocked at their door but nobody opened. I thought they might have gone out to get some food for their baby so came back home and resumed reading chai chai.
In the evening I went down to the portico again and eureka I got mobile towers there with 3G connection in one particular spot! I established contact with whomever I wanted to. Shared my pictures and videos and came back home happy after that human interaction. I also happened to meet Satish’s colleagues during the same time. We mutually checked on each other’s well-being.
House Was In Order Despite All the Hassles
For dinner I cooked aloo palak, I was done eating rice; I dreamt of nice soft plain parathas. I kneaded the dough and made the parathas. My curd was doing fine. There wasn’t any sour smell. It had been outside the fridge for 12 hours! I took few spoons of it for dinner. The milk was also doing fine. A neighbour from 2nd floor had come to borrow tomatoes and I was more than happy to give her 2 of the 4 I had. She came back again asking for lemon but went back with tamarind instead. I also had sealed packet of ID Dosa batter which I had wrapped in a cold napkin. The coconut pieces from big basket were doing fine as well.
My maid had not come to work on Monday and Tuesday. I had therefore swept the house on Tuesday morning cleaning every corner of the house. Water in the commodes had stopped coming from Tuesday afternoon. Of the three bathrooms, there was water only in the taps of the master bedroom’s bathroom which is in the same line as the kitchen. I had filled water in all the buckets and mugs of all bathrooms in the morningitself. So all my bathrooms were doing fine. Kitchen was in order. House was clean and in order too. I slept like a baby while reading older mails and smses from some beloved people. Around midnight I was awakened by sms from Satish’s line manager who was checking on my safety and well-being. After talking to him over few messages, I passed out.
Woke up on Wednesday morning at 5 am. Sitting wrapped in my blanket, I wondered what all could I do today. I was reminded of the dog that I had fed bread pieces on Tuesday morning from my balcony. Also I was reminded of the baby pigeons that were discovered in the AC shaft of the balcony again on Tuesday morning. I had given them some rice grains and water. By afternoon mother pigeon had eaten them and also fed to its babies. I reminded myself to feed the baby pigeons again and throw some bread slices in the portico again.
Check on Food Yet Again
Reluctantly, I got out from the bed and first thing I did was check on the curd 🙂 It was still doing fine! I was amazed. Almost 24 hours that the curd was out from the fridge and yet it had not turned sour. I questioned why do I need a fridge when I can run the show so well without the fridge for the last 2 days?
The maid came to work. I had not opened the freezer door even for once in the last 3 days since I didn’t want my frozen peas to get thawed. But now it was 3rd day of no power, so I thought of opening the door and checking on my matar. They looked as if just 30 mins ago they had got thawed. I felt happy about my fridge purchase yet again and looked at my lovely Samsung oven (another proud kitchen purchase).
Life Goes On…
The day was normal, I cooked lunch comprising of aloo, gajar and matar subzi, parathas, rice and kadhi to use the curd without stretching its longevity any further. ID batter packet however had got inflated like a balloon making me realize it had got spoilt. Coconut pieces had turned pinkish (spoilt too). Dhaniya patta (coriander leaves) had some weird smell. Discarded all three of them.
After I finished all kitchen chores, I yet again did not have any network or internet connection so sat with my book. Unlike all the previous attempts of reading, this time I was completely engrossed in the book. I finished the whole thing with just 2 breaks – 1 for lunch and 1 for nature’s call. I loved finishing the entire book. It was after ages that I finished reading an entire book. As the book ended, I went down again and established contact with humans through my phone. Walked around for 40 minutes, came back had dinner and began to type this narration about how life can be when you are stuck by a natural calamity as mighty as Cyclone Vardah.
P.S.: I am in serious deep admiration for my building’s generator which has worked non stop day and night since Monday morning. It was off only for 4 hours on Tuesday from 12 pm to 4 pm. Otherwise it worked continuously without even a minute’s break.
That’s all. I am about to leave for airport to pick up Satish who is landing at 11 pm. Hope the long read was interesting till the end 🙂
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