Monday, 18 July 2016

The Woods and the Floods! Reminiscences...

Planting tree saplings and gardening are my favourite pastime. Whenever I get a wee bit of that precious extra time, I take along a spade, cudgel, shovel etc, in ‘garden-work clothes’ and with a wonderful friend for company – shaktimaan in tow…

Yes, we call him shaktimaan for the myriad and marvelous ways in which he helps all and sundry in the lovely little neighbourhood of ours.

Green Drive...!
He’s a retired officer from the Secretariat, Chennai, and his love and fondness for helping his society is unparalleled.

He would accomplish any work assigned to him in no time!

During the Chennai floods, his work was way beyond ordinary, and he was also honoured by the Rotary for that!

And well, our sapling-planting-drive usually happens for four days a month – shaktimaaan has his handy almanac (kinda panjaangam) to show the time the rains come – and we gear ourselves for this favourable season of the month, in advance!

When we go on our 'sapling-planting' drive, most of our friendly neighbours accompany us to do their ‘little might’ that they could possibly offer - a kinda team effort!

And yes! our team has never said a NO to anyone who comes asking for tree-saplings to be planted in or around their residential areas, so much so that, our team is quite popular for our society-oriented initiatives!

We each chip in with a minimum of Rs.1,000 per month for our social initiatives. Sakthimaan gives the highest! Most of the money is invested on good fencing for tree-saplings – tree guards, and other paraphernalia!

[Well, yes, if you stay in or around Nolambur or Mogappair West, do give us a call or even mail us! We would help you plant the best saplings for your kind of soil – and give you saplings too free of cost! The only duty expected of you is that, you promise to guard the sapling till she nourishes herself well enough to become an adorable tree!!!]

‘Tree-sapling plantings’ apart, we also have a host of lovely and interesting people all around our house as wonderful neighbours. One among them is an Excise officer, who would spend time with all of us – describing his adventures in the ‘customs’ domain, every other day. He extols MCC as hoo hoo haa haa, and myself in turn, would express curiosity in his adventures as Customs Officer. One fine evening, for over 90 minutes, he was going on and on, talking about his adventures in Customs to Sakthimaan, Ammachi, and a couple of equally ardent and enthusiastic listeners that includes myself! He is just around forty years! The fire in his eyes, the passion in his demeanour and the vibrancy in his talk was very much palpable when he was describing his work experience in the sea, checking huge vessels for customs clearance, and airports, to check cargo containers for clearance.

Well, on the ‘sporty side’, after finishing on his work descriptions, he said that, MCC was a place that he loved a lot because he used to come here for football matches, as a sports player during his college days! He said,

‘It’s a huge campus, illa sir!’

Yes, sir, i guess it should be around 360 acres!

To this, Ammachi’s eyes went like ‘aweee!!!’

I’ve seen lots of deer, peacocks, etc, and a thriving flora and fauna in campus, and the beauty about MCC is, you can even feed them with what little snacks you’ve got, illa sir?’

Yes, sir, most of them approach us without any fear, once they assure themselves of our noble intentions on ‘friendly mode’, they relax to our arrival!

To this, sakthimaan was curious, and said,

‘Nice to hear! thambi, neenga unga college ku kootitu poganum sariyaa?’

{you should take us one day to your college, okay?}

And Ammachi, ‘Monay, enikkum koodey ninte college-ine kaanuvaan valare aashayundu’

{son, i too would like to come and see your college}

Okay ammachi, doneee!

‘We shall go tomorrow, if you all are okay!’

Sakthiman, ‘appo naanu???’ {what about me?}

‘Neengalum than!’ {You too}

Our Customs Officer Mr. Ramesh said that he would also join us the next day, as he had only night duty that day!

So on that wonderful morning, after my morning cuppa coffee, went to ammachi’s house to see if she needs a reminder. Ammachi, all of 75 years, was perfectly up and ready, all geared up! Sakthimaan too was raring to go! Only Mr. Ramesh and our neighbor teacher aunt, had to be reminded, and they were also ready in another half an hour!

Now, we started on our trip down the Bangalore Highway, a 30 km trip from Mogappair to MCC! They were all excited!

The moment we entered college, they were so happy to see the unending green covered canopy adding charm to the sylvan surroundings of this campus.

We went to the lake, the farms, where all kinds of organic vegetables are available at a competitive price than what’s there in the market! Cow’s milk is also available fresh from the dairy farms here. Ammachi wanted to buy half-a-litre of milk for her pethi {granddaughter}. Sakthimaan wanted to buy farm-fresh mangoes for two kgs for his perans {grandson}. Mr. Ramesh bought himself a lot of fresh vegetables, and myself was waiting to get a cuppa hot chaaai!

After our rendezvous in the farm, we went to the lake, had a stroll around the place, and then, moved on to the block where I teach, and ammachi, like a kid, sat proudly at those desks as if she were a young and dynamic and attentive student!!!. I am SSLC of those days, ketto? She said.

Sakthimaan was enjoying the campus walk with gusto and Mr. Ramesh wanted to know if boating is allowed in the lake!

I remember Sakthimaan asking the security person around the lake, ‘How much was the impact of the floods in MCC? Must have been huge, na?

One campus staff who was with us, replied, not a puddle of water during the floods, in MCC, saar!

Sakthimaan was surprised and wonder-amazed!!!

Yes, he was right! Indeed, when the whole of Chennai was literally floating, there wasn’t an iota of water anywhere in MCC!!! MCC gave shelter to thousands of homeless people too, because, MCC has an excellent drainage system designed by the founding fathers of yore, which still remains in use.

Yet another staff member who was present along with us said that, “the excess water - in a graded and gradient slope - goes in neatly designed drainage channels and most of it connects to the huge lake within campus, on the far end of the farm, which prevents flooding within campus,” he added.

Sakthimaan said, ‘It would have been nice if most of these places in Chennai today (which were worst affected by the floods!) were also designed by those people of yore with such a great futuristic vision – who’ve designed the water-drainage system of your college, thambi!’ Chennai would have been saved to a great extent from the floods!!!

He had us all there!!!

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