The huge, incessant rains in Chennai and surrounding areas have caused huge damage to Chennai city and to its reputation as a place which works with business efficiency and with a better transport logistics compared to Bangalore (now known as Bengaluru).
It is the first time in my memory that the rains in Chennai last week have become a global topic of discussion – even as remotely as France, when the French Foreign Minister issued a statement in support of Chennaites who are suffering big damages. The U.S. offered support to India to alleviate the problems caused by the floods in Chennia.
Some of the pictures and videos of Chennai rains and floods are unbelievable. Never have I seen anything like this in all my life. There could be many reasons, but the most prevalent response from experts and critics alike is the El Nino weather patterns, which have been causing environmental weather damages all across the world. Some people said that the torrential rains are due to unexpected cloud bursts. Whichever way you look at it, getting one month worth of rains in just 3 hours is way too much for the poor citizens of Chennai. I understand that this is the biggest rain ever in a hundred years in Chennai !
The social media like Twitter and WhatsApp played a big role in communicating the nature of the disaster, and directing help to deserving folks who were stuck in the middle of the floods. These invaluable tools continue to perform yeoman service to people in Chennai, and there are fantastic souls going around the city in waist deep water, trying to render assistance based on emergency calls. The true nature of human beings came out over these past few days in Chennai. Everyone tried to pitch in, and many people opened up their “safe” apartments or houses to complete strangers irrespective of caste, religion, creed, or colour. That was an absolute delight to learn, especially when one is in a farawy land. It was amazing to know that people help each other in calamities like this, and this is exactly what would create social cohesion and not division and intolerance.
I was surprised that there was no activities in Singapore to collect donations and contribute to the people of Chennai to reduce their pains. Government efforts are of course forthcoming, but these are never adequate. People like us have to contribute to save poor people from hunger and distress. As is the usual case, the prices of milk and vegetables have skyrocketed, as profiteers exist in every chaotic situation trying to make huge profits from people who desperately need the goods that these profiteers offer. I hope that the Government of the day acts against these profiteers and make daily goods available at regular prices.
The very poor infrastructure of Chennai has now been exposed, and the Government should not lose any time in rectifying these defects. My guess is that it will take not less than a year for the Government to fix all the infrastructural problems in Chennai, by which time the next big rains will come. There is just no time to lose, and there is also no time for politicking and wasting time. Get on with the real work at least this time, with the help of the Central Government. Let us create a better Chennai which can withstand future attacks by rains.
5th December 2015
Being a tropical location, Singapore has rains all round the year.
It sometimes bugs you as it is difficult to forecast rains, and the rain can be intense over a short period of time. It sometimes fools people into changing their plans, although people who know Singapore also know that rains here do not last long.
These past few weeks, it has rained almost every day, and on few days, the rains have lasted for more than an hour or so. It is annoying sometimes as the roads can really get very wet.
Many people here have their small umbrellas ready for deployment, but the small ones are not at all effective in shielding one from the intensely angular rains lashing out. Even big ones cannot cover you well and you will discover that your pant edges are wet, your shoes are very wet, and any bag that you may be carrying get wet as well.
The funny part is that most people walking on the pavements and streets walk with their eyes down rather than facing up and so we have to be careful with the big umbrellas. The density of the population in the town areas is very high and you can imagine if everyone carries an umbrella and the rains are getting to be heavy, especially during lunch times.
The one good thing is that most MRT Stations and Bus Stands have covered walkways attached to them, and so for most part, people are shielded from rains. Every bus stop has shelter, but that is not a guarantee from getting wet, as the rains can get rather fierce sometimes.
I even now dread walking on polished marble or granite walkways or corridors which are wet, as it is difficult to see the water on such walkways. There are many buildings whose entrance adjoins the pavements which have marble flooring (cannot understand why they build it that way). One hard fall with a slip which cannot be forecasted accurately can land most people in medical trouble, as it happened to me in December 2005.
So, I am always careful when it rains and try to avoid walking out when there are incessant rains lashing out. Better safe than sorry, I guess !
01 December 2013
I was in Mumbai as well as in Singapore recently.
Both cities had their first big rains recently – Mumbai last week and Singapore earlier this week.
While Mumbai rains are well known for bringing the city to its knees every year, what was surprising to me is that the Singapore rains almost managed to do that in a city which always works. There was an incredibly long line of people waiting to get taxis, the vehicular movement on the roads slowed down, and most surprising, the MRT system got clogged.
There were hundreds of people waiting to get into the next train at MRT stations, which I personally witnessed. This was most unusual, I have never seen that kind of situation in the past. The trains were completely jammed with people, with no space whatsoever even to stretch one’s hands.
Well, well, such situations were unthinkable in Singapore in the past. I guess one reason is that the city has grown very fast, with more people utilizing public services than in the past. There are now more migrants than ever, and there is obviously a strain on all public services.
Notwithstanding the same, I was surprised that systems could get slowed down by just one single big rain.
I don’t understand, this is very unlike Singapore that I had known in the past. Things always work in Singapore for everyone. It is the most efficient city in the entire world. There is not even a close competitor, Hong Kong comes in at a distant second with regard to operational efficiency and execution. There is no city in the Western world which can compete with Singapore.
I am still trying to understand, and will closely watch the next time there is a massive rain.
08 June 2013
Reno in Nevada State of the U.S. is for the outdoor lovers.
I met several people whose passion revolved around trekking, hiking, skiing, and probably hunting !
Reno is surrounded by beautiful mountain range, which leads up to Lake Tahoe at 6,200 feet. I had the opportunity to visit this famous lake as well, and I will publish the write-up and photos in a separate blog post.
Last weekend, we went hiking in the hills around here (not far from the hotel where I was staying). The air was crisp and cold (around 10 degrees C at 10 AM), and quite refreshing. Since there was no humidity, there was no problem walking for a long distance – the only challenge was going up the hill on the narrow trails (and sometimes, there was no trail whatsoever).
Though a bit strenuous, I enjoyed the hiking – especially when you are with great friends, it is a pleasure to engage in a joint activity like this – and took in the views of the Reno city from afar. There were a number of houses built on the slopes of the hill – big and expensive, I was told.
We walked up some 300 feet, enjoyed our break-time conversations, and then walked back. Walking down a hill is a bit tough, but this hill was not that hard. I was told sometimes there could be some animals around here – like a huge cat, may be cheetah – but they do not come around when there are groups of people.
The whole experience was fantastic, and we reached back to our car without a sweat (!), after some 90 minutes or so. Such outdoor experience is difficult to get in the metro cities of India – we have to drive quite far to get a similar experience in the hills of Lonavala for example (near Mumbai).
The weather has worsened in terms of temperature now – dropping to negative 5 deg C today. Probably today was the coldest day during my stay here at Reno. But, still enjoyable to walk around if you protect with some heavy winter clothing ! Not as severe as the North-Eastern states of the U.S.
14th December 2012
This time around the big rains have been missing in Mumbai.
Yes, it did rain big couple of days, but only for a few hours. Yes, it did bring the city down but that is more because as usual the city administration was caught unprepared, though they keep loudly proclaiming that they are readier than ever to face the onslaught of the monsoon rains.
But the ferocity was lacking. It has been very much like this last year as well, but now it appears that the current year may be the worst ever. Not even 60% of the usual rainfall has happened, leading to doubts about the water supply sustainability to Mumbai city and the success of the crop season. The health of the Indian agricultural economy, and in fact the broader economy, depends on the monsoon season’s rains.
We are already well into the middle of the monsoon season, and the situation does not seem promising. August is the only month left for the rains, and everyone is hoping that the rains will resume. Just some big showers for some 30 minutes is not going to help at all.
On the other hand, even this meagre rain has damaged the city’s roads in many places. The city administration just cannot manage the requirements for efficient management of the city’s roads and the environment. I happened to see vast amounts of refuse in key roads of the suburbs – not removed for many days, it appeared. The kind of diseases that could spread due to the lack of cleanliness, especially during the monsoon season, is simply dreadful. No one seems to be taking notice of the challenges that the city faces, despite the fact that there is no shortage of funds, given that Mumbai is the richest city administration in all of India.
One can clearly see the lack of planning and execution all across Mumbai, if only one cares to look out. The traffic jams resulting from even a minor rain are uncontrollable, and yesterday’s train strike led to chaos all across the city and especially in the Western suburbs. No driver was even respecting the traffic rules or the traffic signals. The whole area of the Western suburbs starting from Bandra onwards presented a picture of utter confusion, in the midst of a heavy rain drizzle.
So, there we are – lack of rains badly needed and collapse of road system (and the train system as well). Hope rains would resume in full force soon. The city needs the same, and India needs rains as well.
21st July 2012
Mumbai received its first monsoon season rain showers this week.
It has been so hot these past few weeks, people have been waiting with bated breath for the rains, which are yet to come actually – we only got a few showers. But those few showers was good enough to transform the mood of the people around !
Yes, rain always brings cheer to people all around, especially in a hot country like India (well, most of it is hot at this time of the year !). Though the skies darken with clouds, rain has been playing hide and seek these past couple of days in Mumbai. News about the monsoon hitting the Southern Kerala State was received well here, as that would mean the monsoon would also come to Mumbai within very few days.
The latest forecast mentions that the rains are likely to come by tomorrow, 10th June. But, looking outside at this afternoon sky on the 9th June, I am not so sure. The Indian Meteorological Department does not have an outstanding track record, not to blame their expertise here, but what can they do when they are deprived of radars ? The all-weather, Doppler radars from China are yet to be commissioned, or if they have been recently commissioned, their ability to predict the weather is probably under a question mark.
Usually, from the middle of June till the end of August is monsoon time in Mumbai, with big rains flooding most roads. People like the rains, but also get prepared in full gear to combat the flooding and the resulting traffic chaos. Every year it happens, so people in general are mentally prepared for the challenges.
For instance, people are covering the balconies of their apartments with plasticized blinds (the external side has plastic sheet for tackling rains) to reduce the impact of the rain water on their balconies and potentially, their living rooms ! All the open areas behind the kitchen and the bathrooms (called as “dry” areas in Mumbai apartments) are getting covered with plastic sheets (not in all apartments, only those with anti-water programmes !), and umbrellas/rain coats are becoming standard accessories while on the move.
The important thing is to provide an additional 30 minutes of travel time for any appointment – there will be traffic issues when it starts to rain heavily. And, while driving on the roads, one may not know where the ditches and the holes are, leading to slowing down of all traffic anyway.
But then, these are annual problems – people carry on with their usual spirit, as nothing can deter them, can only slow them down a bit.
So, we are all waiting for the rains now – may come anytime next week. And when it does come, it pours with an intensity that is unbelievable for the first few minutes – people get dazed for some time. As the dust vapour rises from the ground when the rain comes down, one can smell the freshness of the rains – it takes a while to take in the whole scene and absorb the pleasure of the rains after many weeks of scorching son.
Let us see how this monsoon is going to be, we will know very soon !
9th June 2012
I was visiting Chennai last week.
From an average of 34 deg C in Mumbai, the increase was to the extent of some 8 deg C in Chennai ! While I am not a newcomer to Chennai, it was made clear to me (by my relatives and friends) that I had landed in what was the “Agni” week of the Chennai Summer. “Agni” means fire !
The simmering heat during the peak sun was barely bearable, but the worst thing was that the electricity board cut off the power supply to residential premises for some two hours every day – different parts of the city have the power cut at different times of the day. In my house, it was from 2 PM to 4 PM. In some areas, it was from 8 to 10 AM and in most other areas, it was from 10 AM to 12 Noon. You can imagine the torture when you are at home or office and the air conditioner stops working !
I noticed that most residential premises have invested in a unique contraption – the “inverter”, which provides electricity during the power cut for a duration of 2 to 4 hours (depending on battery capacity and the number of rooms/lights/fans to be covered). The approximate cost of such a device is some INR 12,000 (USD 220) for addressing the needs of the living room and one bedroom (an approximate estimation only). So, in Chennai, a family has to invest in such devices, import water (as water supply is equally erratic) at high cost, pay for inflation in fruits and vegetables, pay one of the highest prices for petrol in the country, suffer the heat, and still sustain one of the highest real estate prices in the country !
This is not to complain – Chennai is far better organized than most metropolitan cities in India, has better quality roads, is in the process of completing the metro rail network, has a booming IT (Information Technology) economy now supplemented by a fast-emerging automotive industry, has a conscientious workforce, and is challenged with much less crime than other States of India. In devising its model for development of the State, the Tamil Nadu State comes only next to Gujarat. So, overall, the situation is good and should improve vastly if the State Government manages to fix the power situation and continues to provide incentives to the manufacturing and IT industries.
But, can we buy the weather ? Of course, not. The prudent thing is to ensure continuous power supply to both residential and industrial customers across the State.
Now, I am back in the 32 – 34 deg C Summer in Mumbai and surely, I did not feel the heat wave during the day though it was slightly uncomfortable if one is over-dressed !
Welcome to the Summer ! Enjoy it with cold buttermilk and fresh juices !!
28th May 2012