I was trapped by the Mumbai flood of 26 July 2005. The motor bikes of myself and a fellow priest and friend had been submerged in water and we were stranded with another pair of friends, in their tiny apartment on the first floor of a building. We spent a sleepless night, watching the rising water level. In the flood, I still remember, the helping hands that lead us to a safer place. I have not seen again the owners of those ‘hands’ either before or since that incident. But there were helping hands, when we were sinking with our motor bikes in the flood, to raise us up and to lead us to a safer place. Those helping hands served as the inspiration to me to begin the post-flood relief services in the surrounding area, within a week’s time.
Rains that lasted an entire month, in Chennai and other areas, from the 8th of November to the 10th of December, took the lives of more than four hundred people and cut off around three million more from basic services. More than five thousand homes were submerged in water, more than four hundred thousand people were displaced, and the flood caused a damage of 15,000 crore Indian Rupees. Therefore the Chennai flood is considered as the worst flood in the century. Post-flood disease, sickness and related issues are starting to pop-up in these days.
More than focusing on the cause of this tragedy and the steps that might have been taken to prevent it, I find myself reflecting upon how it happens that ‘helping-hands’ save those in need. Setting aside religious, political, cultural and social differences, people otherwise divided came together for a common cause, to help the needy. While those affected were providing immediate assistance to each other, the social media was busy trolling it up with #CheenaiRain #ChennaiFlood viral hashtags. In the “flood’ of relief works and financial aid, let us not forget the helping hands, that do so much to lead the lives of people away from death and back into life in this world. The mission of ‘helping hands’ is ongoing.