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Vol. XXVII No. 22, March 1-15, 2018

A flood of stories

Rashrei Vyas

The catalyst for good fiction has often been the trials and tribulations of humanity. In recent times, the Chennai floods of 2015 awakened in its residents not only the spirit of benevolence, but their creativity too. After the Floods, an anthology of short stories by 21 bloggers from The Chennai Bloggers Club, is a tribute to Chennai and the spirit of Chennai.

We were all privy to the numerous acts of heroism and the coming together of people to help one another in the crisis that lasted for nearly a week. Thanks to Social Media, people were able to connect and network to hear these stories as they happened and to reach out to those stranded in the floods. The sheer spirit of ordinary people helped the city in extraordinary ways. Unlikely alliances and friendships have been the common thread of stories that emerged from the great flooding of Chennai. This anthology documents and extrapolates experiences by the bloggers themselves. Though the mainspring of these stories is one, the interpretations are many.

The bloggers have taken different threads of experience to weave their own stories. Some have used the floods as a backdrop for dropping long-held prejudices of classes and castes. Kavipriya writes about a young woman residing in a North Madras locality that is looked at with disdain by her beau. In the end, her house comes to their rescue in the story ‘Chennai 600013’. A few stories touch upon the NRI angle. In ‘An Untold Legacy’ by Nandhini Chandrasekaran, it is the prejudice of a young girl towards her mother’s Chennai roots that comes in the way of understanding her strength.

Other stories reflect commonly felt differences between the haves and the have-nots. The Chennai floods acts as a great leveller. Fortunes are turned and the have-nots end up as benefactors to some of the elite! This phenomena is perfectly illustrated in the story, ‘The High Rise’ by Clement Williams, where the maid’s son comes bearing nourishment for the child of the stranded master.

Some bloggers have touched upon the enormous environmental errors that led to the disaster and question whether we have really learned from the earlier mistakes. The very first story in the anthology, ‘Her’ by Salesh Dipak Fernando is a metaphysical fairy tale. The Queen ‘Madras’ chooses ‘MATERIALISM’ as her consort only to court an unbearable disaster. In the ‘Rain Maker’, author Sriram Acharya imagines quite realistically man playing God.

Others have highlighted the personal sacrifices of unsung heroes from the larger than life youth. In ‘Gangs of Namma Chennai’ by Kishor Lakshminarayanan, the ageing father of an NRI holds the fort in his little community. The anxiety of NRIs with their loved ones gone incommunicado will strike a chord with many Chennai families. Stories describing the horrors of the flood leave no doubt that the authors have indeed waded the waters.

Romance is the surprise element in some of the stories. That romantic love is the staple of Tamil cinema is evident in some stories which have found a way of using the floods as a suitable backdrop. There is also a story or two with a fantasy element involving time travel. Relationships between parent and child, the old and the young have been skillfully explored in some stories. ‘Strongest Storms Give out the Most Beautiful Rainbows’ by Pavithraa Swaminathan shows a typically entitled spoilt teenager mature into a wise young woman over a night of floods.

Dahlesque twists are seen in a couple of stories. ‘Lucky Who’ by Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran, is a mischievous tale of a time travelling ascetic who lands in water logged Chennai only to show two erstwhile rivals in romance that fate works in mysterious ways. The story of ‘The Two Old Men’ by Bragadeesh Prasanna is reminiscent of an earthy Tamil story with humour and a pinch of pathos.

Though the stories are in English, the voices are definitely Chennai. There is no particular effort to craft the language and in many places seem a direct rendering of our brand of spoken English. Even the tone of some of the stories are refreshingly honest to the culture it springs from. What the stories lack in clarity more than make up by enthusiasm and originality. Something to do with the nature of blogging.

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