Flood and blood

The weekend beginning Friday the 13th of Nov was very ominous for both Chennai and Paris as floods ravaged the former and much blood spilled in the latter. But many other things were common between the two distressed, distant lands.

History forgotten:

By no means were the rains and the resultant ruin unprecedented. True, Chennai is perennially water-starved with only rainy days and nary any rainy season in most years. But downpours as last week’s have kept to a steady schedule, occurring in regular intervals, 2011 being the latest. The spectacles are all too familiar to fade even from the notoriously short public memory. In any case, it does not need a historic hail but a sudden short spurt for a sample encore.

Love in Paris is passe. The ‘once’ romantic capital of the world has quite some time back become the most favoured nation for export of terror by jihadis. ISIS is only the latest vendor. But even without foreign suppliers, there are local lone wolves sold out on that primal ideology.

Friday’s was the second ‘major’ attack this year, after the one on the newspaper Charlie Hebdo. But not a day has passed in recent past without a scare, scuffle, a skirmish or an attack scuttled. The French will have to move on from WW2 nostalgia and reconcile to the new bloody history that is unfolding right before their eyes.

Warnings ignored:

As the floods recede, the media is now awash with news stories of how all caution and precautions were thrown to the winds … and water too. There are master plans and expert reports gathering dust for decades. These macro city designs offer in meticulous detail ideas and specific ways to prevent just this kind of catastrophe. Again, weather forecasts are doubtless more unpredictable than the weather. But the much-maligned Met dept and our very own much-memed Ramanan had all given adequate warnings of the impending storm. You can’t fault them for being right once in a way. If still Chennai was allowed to sink and stink, it was not just because of nature’s abundance but also due to absolute lack of political vision and will. Or maybe the havoc heralds the freebie season, free floods first to be followed by ‘free’ cash’ soon!

Paris had no warning. Instead, it had a clear proclamation from IS itself guaranteeing terror. France, with its open and bohemian image, represents the cultural opposite of radical Islam and is a natural enemy. Of course, we hear reports of jihadis themselves not being so prudish, but prone to partake of the passions of this planet even before paradise presents its pleasures. Still, the larger vision of IS is one of a global Caliphate implementing all the assorted fatwas enunciated in their original scriptures. And France is also an enemy State militarily, being part of the US-led coaltion against IS. The imminence of terror attacks was so prominently flashing, like neon signs on Paris nightclubs. Yet, if despite all history and foreboding, such a precise string of strikes can be pulled off, French ‘intelligence’ has much to explain.

Infiltration, the villain:

Water was not only an uninvited guest, pest rather, but an uncivil one. It just waded in from all openings, stayed put and swallowed our possessions, took its time to recede with the residue, leaving behind a melee of muck and misery. And we are not certain if this appetite has been whetted yet by a very wet Chennai. Whoever said water is a great leveller must have warned of the levels it will stoop to, metaphorically, by rising physically. In this invasion, it had as its allies a horrible civic infrastructure, another freebie from successive rulers, now throwing mud at one another.

Water is an incurable sadist too as it leaves us high and dry when needed most. More so now as a year’s supply of its most potable manifestation just infiltrated the Bay of Bengal, probably as a token thanksgiving for the tsunami.

Europe is as porous to jihadis as our streets are to jala! The EU laws and SCHENGEN visa had ensured easy passage for tourists as well as terrorists across the continent. Add to that the unchecked inflow of migrants from Syria by all routes. Along with the existing pockets of disgruntled Muslim citizens, inflammable imams and mad mullahs who hold Allah above all laws of the land they live in, there’s a serial bomb ticking. And here too, it is the EU countries that have placed themselves at risk by encouraging migration.

The Aftermath:

Some weeks ago, when a Syrian kid was found dead, buried face down on a beach, a wave of sympathy rose in favour of refugees. Post-Paris, the tide of compassion has ebbed with strident steps to seal borders and stem migration. Western powers that usually advise India restraint in such situations have however backed France in its bid to wage a pitiless war on IS. The war started the very next day after the bloodshed.

With the floods having shed its vigour for now, are our authorities and people any wiser? Have we tested the waters enough to learn or should we wait for water to test and torment us again?

Moral: Heed terror alerts and Met warnings. Otherwise, it could be disaster if they are right just once!

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Jawahar T R