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The trials, emotions and triumph of the city of Chennai, stirred by the 2015 floods, have been thoughtfully manifested into an anthology of short stories by The Chennai Bloggers Club (CBC). ‘After the Floods’ is authored by twenty two bloggers of CBC who have earnestly brought out the voice of Chennai in their stories. The impact that the floods had on each of them combined with their individualistic thought process and creativity has stream-lined into twenty one unique fiction.
Preface by the Editor, KS. Lakshmi, was a realistic read. It brought that heart-sinking feeling in me which media did during the time of floods. According to her, ‘some stories of the anthology delve into the uncommon acts of selflessness by common people and some delineate the extraordinary extrapolations from these experiences that revived stagnant relationships, reconstructed stunted beliefs and replaced vain prejudices with empathy’.
I’ve attempted here to group them into what each one meant to me.
A good start!
I am glad that Her by Salesh Dipak Fernando was the first in the book. Without the involvement of fictional characters, Salesh has brought out the intricacies of what the city was once upon a time, how it has seen changes over the years and what she went through during those few days of the calamity. The allegories presented were admirable and absolutely relatable.
Stories that presented the flood experiences
It was interesting to note that just because the anthology is about the floods, authors did not choose to write scene-by-scene of the incidents centered around it. Instead, a variety of personal touches have been added, presenting diverse angles to their experiences.
Strongest storms give out the most beautiful rainbows by Pavithraa Swaminathan retells the experience of a girl who was caught in her college during the floods and how she was taken home safe by a rescuer.
An Untold Legacy by Nandhini Chandrasekaran narrates how a group of people living in a slum in Chennai faced the sudden gush of waters and got back to their routine post floods.
Alone by Prince Deepu and Mahendran describes how the narrator managed to save a child from the wrath of the floods but was helpless to witness the child’s guardian being washed away.
Disconnected by Asha Sunil presents the struggles that friends and relatives of Chennaites, living abroad, had faced during those few days when phones went out of reach.
Folklore of furious floods by Lakshmi Venkatraman details the state of the city and circumstances at the time of the flood.
Paru by Umasree Raghunath was the most realistic story about flood experience, detailing how a girl fought the waters to save her neighbour from the waters.
The Gangs of Namma Chennai by Kishor Lakshminarayanan explains the panic a son living abroad faces, with having to stay without information about his parents living in Chennai during the floods. It also brings out the goodness of the volunteers and NGOs who ventured into the relief work across the city.
Stories that splashed a thoughtful message
The flood experiences as such would seem trivial when the reader settles into the beautiful messages that the stories have highlighted. Most of them carry one and here are a few that stayed in my mind.
Alone by Prince Deepu and Mahendran If someone died while you were watching, what could it do to you? The fear in the eyes of the person who gets fatefully pulled in the flood waters haunts the protagonist and the story reflects on the thought, how it would feel to die alone. Seems largely philosophical but the point that the authors have brought out shall stop the readers’ flow for a while to contemplate on death. And I liked how a realization of this kind has been matched with the adoption of an abandoned child.
Rains, Dairy Milk Chocolates, and Us! by Srilakshmi Indrasenan How often do we unplug from our routine and technology to reconnect with our loved ones? The couple in this story finally does it as the floods had affected both – routine and technology. Of the myriads of impacts the floods had had on people, the importance of taking a little more care of our loved ones did stand out and the author has thoughtfully grasped this aspect of the event, in her story. I specifically loved the little nuances in this story about how married lives gets diluted with time and amidst busy schedules. To mention one here:
‘….He picked up his phone to send her a Whatsapp text. After scrolling through 3 office groups, two cousins group, two high school boys group, college group, college boys group, some of his office colleagues, and college classmates, her name was down there second to last on the list…..’
The High Rise by Clement Williams We all live with prejudices. There might come a day when one of it could fall apart. That’s what the floods did to the protagonist. Viewing from the 17th floor of a high-rise building, he had all along shuddered the kind of people living in those small ugly buildings, especially being housed so close to a gated community as his. But the floods broke yet another barrier of humanity. When a young boy from the ugly buildings comes breathlessly to offer two bread loaves for his hungry baby, he rethinks about what he had thought about those people all along. Written with honesty, this story brings out the underlying charm of humanity.
An Untold Legacy by Nandhini Chandrasekaran It is difficult to review a piece of your own writing! While I wasn’t able to read this story as though it was written by another author, I decided to include it here after an hard thought. Perhaps, even if my story had failed to bring across the intended message, I may use this opportunity to do it here. I find Chennai getting heavier with inequality or more precisely, the prejudice that exists in the hearts and minds of people of higher strata in the society (as in the story ‘The High Rise’). The mother character in the story reflects how she, as a slum dweller, felt this social discrimination painful during and post floods. Despite the fact that the floods brought a good fortune for her future, she is unhappy about the prevailing lack of tolerance to fellow humans, contradicting what the very floods was supposed to be remembered for.
Chennai – 600013 by Kavipriya Moorthy How far can where you live define your existence? Only so far where water cannot destroy you! The pain a girl feels when the person she has fallen in love with, looks down at her family for the locality she lives in, has been realistically portrayed in this story. Yet another piece in the lines of ‘The High Rise’, it relates to how a home of our filial affection can mean to us more than the unpleasantness it can cause in the minds of a visitor. The author rightly puts it across as, ‘Sophistication is not in where you live.’
Stories of engaging story lines
Some stories get us connected without realizing they did. Before we remembered we were reading a story and not watching it happening, the story would have ended. A few such stories were:
The Alliance Agreement by Dhivya Balaji The floods end a bubbly arranged marriage tale in disaster. And the story continues. There was a natural expectation of what next and I think that’s what made the read interesting. The anxieties of the pre-wedding days and the maturity of the subject were admirable.
After the Floods by Gayathri Lakshminarayanan The past and the present alternates which builds the curiosity of the proposal. The twist at the end was likable and makes us wish all proposals could carry a fruitful aspect as this 🙂
Lucky Who? by Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran In spite of the F and B words usages, there is a charm in the story. And be assured the reader will not turn the last page on without a smile.
Vanilla Cappuccino by Destination Infinity An acquaintance from the flood time has bloomed today for a meet up at CCD. Sensing the probable intentions of the boy, the girl plays it safe. And with just a few more paragraphs to go, it makes the readers curious about the end. From an author known for his O’Henry kind of twists, this twist wasn’t deceiving. The background song added to the situation, giving it a KB style touch.
Stories of impressive imagination
It is not always necessary that the writing or the narration or the story line must stand out in a story. Sometimes, the imaginative spirit of the author can get you hooked to. Here are a two which did that:
I Gush On by Madhvi Kumar When everyone narrate what water did to them, here’s water narrating what it did to others. Well, I assumed it to be water for a while. The ability of the author to have imagined the perspective of a fluid is unique. It definitely was an interesting read.
Lucky Who? by Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran The conception of the sage with a unique power and the whole conversations were simply lovable. A light read, it also nailed in between how houses were constructed in lake areas. Amidst the serious stories about a disaster event, this gave a good change.
Stories of engaging narration
Yes, some authors convince you with his/her narration. And you cannot move away. These were a few:
The Two Old Men by Bragadeesh Prasanna The grocery shop feels like being situated next to my house. The banker and army man became my neighbours too! And this says the power of the narration!
Rains, Dairy Milk Chocolates, and Us! by Srilakshmi Indrasenan The story begins with interesting romance and throughout there is an admirable romance factor. The kind of smile which only a Maniratnam movie can bring! It is evident that the author has a natural flair for romance writing and it has kept the tale in focus, adding to the thoughtfulness of the theme.
The Alliance Agreement by Dhivya Balaji I found the expression of thoughts and emotions to be simple and appropriate without a superfluous language. There was something unique about the writing style which I am unable to point out.
The Rain Maker by Sriram Acharya Can you think of a man-made science which has the potential to cause such heavy downpours?! Learn it from this story. Though a complicated mechanism, the author has handled the subject with ease. And the final irony marking the line between hunger and humanity can leave you thinking.
22.214.171.124 by Sai S With the first few lines, readers will leave everything aside to get into the pages. It is then that one would realize they are caught into something abstract. There’s a girl named Y and she does time travel. The rest was like watching the movie ‘inception’ 🙂 You are reading the words without they getting translated into substance. However, if you take it light and don’t attempt to dig what every line means, you will enjoy reading this piece.
Safe by Sowmya S. Sundaram This has a solid plot! A terrorist, deeply affected by the loss of his parents during the Bombay riots, several years ago, plots bomb blasting in some areas of Chennai. Fortunately, the floods not only deceive his plans but also helps him see the better side of humanity. The story moves at a dramatic pace and has bestowed a new purpose to the flooding.
Take a break
Annihilation by Meera shivashankar Yes, the flood wasn’t pleasant. Yes, people acted brave. Well, we all know that. Now let’s take a break. That’s how this light-hearted piece narrated seriously, sounded. There was a great expectation in me even before I began reading this for the obvious reason that the writer is a well-established author of four books. I wasn’t disappointed though because it taught me writing can offer different takes at different times and not always get confined within a trademark.
Overall, the stories, editing, compilation and publishing of this kind of an anthology has left me with great appreciation and admiration for the Chennai Bloggers Club team. For many, this could have been their first experience of having their stories in print. And for other reasons as well, ‘After the floods’ makes a history! Sharing the joy with other authors, I thank CBC for all their efforts.
About the Book
Sai Sriram Pavithraa Swaminathan Nandhini Chandrasekaran Meera Shivashankar Dhivya Balaji Kavipriya Moorthy Sowmya S Sundaram Lakshmi Venkatraman Salesh Dipak Fernando Madhvi Kumar Karthik Pasupathy Umasree Raghunath Srilakshmi Indrasenan Asha Sunil Sai Shyam Kishor Lakshminarayanan Clement Williams Sriram Acharya Destination Infinity Gayathri Lakshimarayanan Deepanarayanan & Mahendran Meera Rajagopalan Bragadeesh Prasanna