CHENNAI: In the past week, the city didn’t just see brave residents, but also people from different communities embracing the city as their own. Aditi R takes a look at three such communities that have gone out of their way to show more than just a streak of empathy towards the victims
The deputy general manager of the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara management committee, Sukhwinder Singh said, “If you are born a Sikh, you have to serve.” True to his word, Sukhwinder along with five members, flew to Chennai on Wednesday morning to provide aid.
“As soon as we landed, we went to Jafferkhanpet. There are 800 houses in that area and the situation is terrible. We have decided to take complete care of those 800 families. We will provide them essentials, books, stoves, and everything they might need. We will also visit other localities,” he said.Five volunteers from Khalsa Aid, an international relief organisation came to Chennai from different parts of the country. “We have been here since December 1,” said Gurmeet Singh, a member of the organisation. “Since flights were cancelled, we had to take the road and change nearly five vehicles to reach here,” he said.
Since the team reached the city, they have travelled to over 15 flood-hit areas and visited Cuddalore and the coastal districts. “We just returned from Cuddalore 30 minutes ago, and now need to go to North Chennai,” said Rajinder Singh, another member, who is also a native of the city. “The situation in North Chennai was far worse than in many other areas. We have lost the count of the supplies we distributed to them,” he said.
It has also provided blankets, clothes medicare, candles, mosquito repellents, food, milk, and water packets. “There are way too many people in need,” added Rajinder.
For more than five days, Neville J Bilimoria has been cycling to provide aid to flood-affected individuals and families across the city. “I’m doing it as a part of my duty, that’s all,” said Neville, who just distributed eight tonnes of blankets, bed sheets, sanitary napkins, and other essentials to the needy. A city-based based immigration consultant by profession, Neville is quite popular in the city’s athletic Parsi community circuit. He has also raised funds in the past through cycling.
“I’ve been getting the materials from Bengaluru, and through volunteers we have been distributing them to the needy in the interior parts of the city. So far, we’ve distributed over 20 tonnes of material,” said Neville. “On Sunday, my team distributed 1,800 blankets to Jafferkhanpet, Mount Road, Mandaveli, and to Manali by boat. I also carry as much aid as I can on my cycle,” he said.
Like Neville, several others from the Parsi community who have made Chennai their home, came forward to help the needy. Darayes P Dalal, another true-blue Parsi, along with the Harrington Road Residents Association, distributed potable water and over 20,000 meals a day to the 700 flood-affected families of Appaswamy Colony abutting Harrington Road. “Besides food, we also provide medicines, blankets, and clothes,” he said. Several other people from this community have been donating money to the needy. “We are discussing how we can contribute as an association, as opposed to working individually,” said Zarine Mistry, member of Madras Parsi Association.
Even when the rain was at its worst, Jain temples had their doors open to the public.Their open community kitchen served food to the needy for a week. “Men, women and the elderly from our community were inside the temple premises cooking and feeding those who came in for 18 hours every day,” said Rakesh Nahar. “All our temples — in Vepery, Royapettah, and other places — were open to everyone. We worked non-stop,” he said.
Rakesh Nahar, with other members of the Rajasthan Youth Association (RYA) Cosmo Elite travelled to the most interior parts of the city to provide food, milk, water and other essentials. “We were a group of 30, and each of us took charge of one area. Initially it was tough, as the water levels were higher than we expected, but eventually we got used to it. We had no option but to help. We couldn’t just walk away,” he said.
Each day, the group fed over 2,000 affected families on Mint street, at Korukkupet, RA Puram and Villivakkam. “A man directed us to the interior streets which no one had reached out to. We provided them with breakfast, lunch and dinner on all the days. We had to halt our operations on Tuesday as the situation improved considerably, but if the need arises, we will resume our work,” he said.