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Vol. XXXI No. 15, November 16-30, 2021

Archives: Vol. XXXI No. 15, November 16-30, 2021


2015 redux?

by The Editor

It seems as though it was only yesterday that the 2015 floods happened – the deluge, the filling up of waterbodies and then the much-delayed release of surplus water, causing unprecedented flooding of much of the city. There was then an outpouring of rage (and plenty of public-spirited help too, it must be acknowledged) – against the Government, the politicians, the bureaucrats, the builders, the contractors who are awarded tenders for public works, encroachers on waterbodies and corruption in general. What was largely forgotten was that we as people were complicit in every one of the above. And then, the waters subsided, the anger cooled and we went back to our usual ways. Sure enough, the water has come back, this time with added vigour.

In the last six years, it cannot be denied that some good did happen – a new reservoir was built to store surplus water, there was some attempt at desilting tanks and plenty of awareness was built up. None of this was clearly enough. Nature is changing at a much faster rate. That we were complacent was quite evident – such floods as witnessed in 2015 happen only once in 100 years was an oft-heard argument. It was also said that the floods were a man-made disaster, chiefly because a key decision to relieve reservoirs of water was not taken until too late. This would not happen again, it was said. True, there was better management of reservoir levels and regular release of water this time (once again a good learning from 2015) but the floods have come again, within six, and not a hundred, years. It also seems likely that such heavy rainfall will only become an increasingly frequent occurrence.

Chennai is after all a coastal city – that endangered breed of metropolis which will soon be branded a climate change hot spot. It is common knowledge that cities by the sea will face the danger of submersion owing to rising water levels as a consequence of temperature increase. More importantly, they will be subject to more frequent bouts of heavy rainfall. We in Chennai are already witnessing this phenomenon. What are we going to do about it all?

It is high time that we as citizens realise that we have some responsibilities towards the city and it cannot be a simple question of just rights all the way. If we are to leave behind a metropolis that can survive well into the forthcoming centuries, it is high time that certain codes of conduct are adopted.


Fireworks leave Chennai choking after festive celebrations

by our Special Correspondent

In an effort to mitigate the environmental impact of fireworks, the state administration sought to regulate the bursting of crackers this Deepavali. The manufacture and promotion of fireworks containing barium salts were prohibited as were that of sara vedi, a type of firework that threads multiple crackers into a string; further, citizens were asked to restrict cracker celebrations to two hours on Deepavali: 6 am – 7 am in the morning and 7 pm – 8 pm in the evening. People were also requested to exercise caution and discretion while bursting fireworks with an advisory to avoid such celebration near huts or in silent zones near hospitals, courts, religious places, schools and fire-prone areas.


Heritage Watch

Preserving the past

William Satish sends us these pictures of an abandoned bungalow on Poonamallee High Road and wonders as to what the history behind it is. It is only a few months ago that in this column we had written about Kingston, a house on the same road and which was home to the Seetha Kingston School. Like that stately home, the featured bungalow, which went by the name of Lalitha Prasadam, stands on land belonging to the Kanchipuram Ekamranatha Swami Temple. The two properties had been taken on lease respectively by Calavala Cunnan Chetty and Soora Latchmiah Chetty.


The Bluest Blue

by V. Vijaysree

MS Blue is the distinctive shade of blue, named for the legendary singer M.S. ­Subbulakshmi. Now, YInMn blue, (pronounced yin-min) or “Mas Blue,” is all set to wow the world of art. “Mas” comes from the initials of Prof. M.A. Subramanian, the material scientist from Madras, the inventor of the vivid blue pigment.

Modern computers can display a slew of colors and creative humans could always dream up unique hues, but to transform any color, digital or imagined, into something real – say something you can paint a wall with or dye a piece of silk fabric with – you need a pigment, and its creation calls for considerable ingenuity. In a nutshell, that is why the invention of the pigment YInMn blue is a big deal.


Element-Tary, Dear Chennai

by Ranjitha Ashok

Here we are.

Back again in the same situation, with hardly any lessons learnt.

It never fails.

Every year.

Flooded roads, desperate citizens carrying their old, their young, on their shoulders while wading knee deep through the filthiest versions of myself imaginable. People getting marooned on roof tops, or in higher-up apartments, watching the skies forlornly, hoping the clouds will magically change direction and go bother someone else.

You know, you guys as a race are something else.

Don’t you ever get tired of posting the same pictures? Writing the same doomsday headlines? Making the same dire predictions?

And guess who gets the dirty looks?

Me – that’s who.

Enough already with all the under-the-breath mutterings, okay?

I, like my siblings, Earth, Air, Space, and Fire, am only following my true nature.

Being Me – with a capital M.

Guys, you know I arrive with my army around this time of the year. (If I don’t, I get attacked for that too. Make up your minds, people!)

Why can’t you get prepared when my friend, the Sun, is doing his bit?

And that doesn’t mean just stocking up on potatoes, onions and all those things you feel are so indispensable.

Yes, I’m talking to you there, with what looks like a year’s supply of toothpaste.


I know what your counter argument will be – that you dig a lot of storm water drains.

Good for you, but I’ve noticed a touch of aberration here. Like if the work is expected to take three months, then make full use of those three months. Don’t stop after two, draw a self-congratulatory breath, and rather naively hope the remaining weeks will somehow take care of themselves.

How? You do know that those stories of elves magically completing your work at night are only for very small children, right?

As for that regrettable habit of happily skipping over crucial details? Like gradients? If you understand me, you’ll know how to deal with me. So, yes, gradients, but it doesn’t end there – they have to synchronise with other fellow gradients, no?


Is common sense on a holiday here?

In any case, what’s the point of having all these drains if garbage and debris are allowed to pile up in them?
And how is any of this my fault?

Above everything else, you repeatedly choose to ignore a very major truth – it is in my nature to fill lakes, ponds and tanks. My memory goes back to the Beginning and is far more ancient than anything you can ever imagine. I have gone to the same places now for centuries. If you insist on building your dwellings in areas that have always belonged to me, what do you think will happen?

(Maybe that’s it – ‘think’ is the wrong word here. Is ‘greed’ better?)

Come this time of year, I go where I have always gone.

And there’s utter panic; you guys lose your homes, your belongings, put your lives in danger, and find yourselves plying boats on roads you drove on just yesterday – only now you can ignore traffic lights with even more impunity.
Is this annual chaos really necessary?

A little bit of respect and consideration for me and my siblings and we’ll all do just fine.

Come on – can’t be that hard. You guys are supposed to be the crème de la crème of creation. You have all these karmic theories of how being born human is such a great reward for past good deeds. Then why mess up a given opportunity by sheer…well…you know what I mean.

So – get your act together.

A little forethought, a little trouble taken, and you’ll stay dry, Chennai.