CHENNAI: During the Chennai floods in December 2015, author Krupa Ge’s phone rang at midnight. She picked up and heard her parents’ voice on the other end. They were safe, but their house in Adyar had five feet water and so they had shifted to the second floor. After ensuring their safety, one question weighed heavy on Krupa’s mind — Why was there no warning before this disaster?
It was this question that pushed her to research more into the Chennai floods. Three years later, her findings have been recorded in her new book, Rivers Remember, which will be launched at Taj Conemmara today. Krupa will be in conversation with historian Venkatesh Ramakrishnan and activist-writer Nityanand Jayaraman.
“My main question was how many people were not warned, because there was so much loss of homes, savings and lives. I decided to do this the right way and filed several RTIs. While there were countless interviews in the media, it was all with nameless officials, and so there was no accountability. What I found out was the kind and level of bungling that took place from an official standpoint,” said Krupa.
Over the course of writing her book, she learned more about the waterbodies in the city. She explained that due to increased encroachments on waterbodies, it is of little surprise that Chennai flooded the way it did in 2015. “I didn’t know much about the rivers and canals in the area. We forgot our rivers, but the rivers remembered and traced their old ways back,” she said.
Published by Context, the first part of the book is dedicated towards finding the official report of the events that transpired in December 2015, the second is dedicated to victim and volunteer accounts, and the last part of the book is a play written by Krupa, which depicts people taking the government to court — only to hear that the Chennai floods never happened.
Some of the most moving moments for the writer was when she spoke to victims and volunteers. She recounts the story of Dr Bala, who had four pregnant women close to delivery during the floods in her hospital in Velachery. Surrounded by the threat of water and the additional threats of scorpions and snakes, Dr Bala managed to take her patients to safety.
“What really impacted me the most was the stories from the members of the Organisation for Eelam Refugees’ Rehabilitation. These are people who left Sri Lanka and came to Tamil Nadu, and they’ve seen horrible things — war, rape and murder. But during floods, they helped rescue the people of Chennai.
They said that when they came here, the people of Tamil Nadu accepted them, and so they were just returning the favour,” she said. She hopes that Chennaiites affected by this crisis can read her book and start raising questions with the concerned officials, and ensure that Chennai is safe for the generations to come.‘Rivers Remember’ is priced at `499 and will be available at all bookstores and on Amazon.