Chennai, Tamil Nadu
2004: Mr. T. Sunami
15 years old. Two streets away from the Coromandel Coast was our home.
An uncle from the rehabilitation stay for lepers visited on the weekends. On Sunday, he banged on the door until we rolled out of our beds. “The sea is boiling. Run, run,” he screamed. Outside, the world had gone grey.
My father and his video camera, my sister and the other SLR camera, my mother and I headed out of the house, but not towards safety. While the cameras recorded the disaster, I took my mother to one of our friend’s house near the beach-a geography teacher to confirm if it was a tsunami, which I had read in a Japanese short story. I saw the second wave.
When we surveyed the social impact, we met empty fishing villages, salt-scorched palm trees and children who showed us exotic sponges and corals brought in by the ocean to their homes. In pain, they remembered what it gave them, while unable to forget what it took away. Years later, my friend publishes a post on Instagram, “T. Sunami Quarters” in Pondicherry. Disaster moves into our homes.
2011: Mr. T. Sunami #2
In Japan, the sea engulfed the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Tamil Nadu was on red alert for hours. We waited for the sea, as the protest against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant got louder.
I was a behind-the-scenes idealist anti-nuclear activist exploring the dance of guilt, death and capitalism between the atom bomb and the nuclear power plant. I was running a live blog on the police embargo against the non-violent protestors who had assembled in the village.
The people should decide what to do with their land. But such blanket statements of accepting people are injurious to capitalism.
Politicians and scientists flew in helicopters parroting, “Fukushima will not happen here.” 2004?
The memory of a disaster dies.
2012: Mr. Nibiru
We knew the world was ending. It was a slumber party where I made friends under a jamun tree at school, washing the fruits in our bottle caps and staining our tongues a dry purple. A monstrous invisible planet was to collide with our planet. Did it matter if we learnt trigonometry theorems? I did not meet her when the doomsday came. Nihilism had gone away. The idealist was home. Nibiru remained invisible. It may have collided, but let us be.
The year did not go by without floods, blackouts, genocidal riots, communal clashes, trains derailed and on fire, stampedes, and exploding firework factories.
Is disaster a friend?
2015: Ms. Chief Minister
Despite this, I had a baby. My dad and his friend stood on the balcony that morning. I walked out with my coffee. Chennai had overnight become an unplanned Venice.
Rumour was that Ms. Chief Minister was asleep and without her orders, no one could have opened up the reservoirs sooner. Most of us also lived in structures built on sinking wetlands and reservoirs. So, we sank for a while.
The water ran into the sea, once again leaving Chennai with its ancestral disaster – the water crisis.
2019: Ms. 666
By now an audacity had settled within me. The aura was way beyond the nihilist and the idealist. A fat-ass book fell on me and reminded me of my long-lost friends when I was six years old. They stood around me heckling that I was the 666, the antichrist. I remember pleading with my mom to shave my head and check if it had the numbers carved on it. She did not. I lived with the fear that I might destroy the world.
It began with a strange pneumonia in 2019. The rest, we all know.
The shopkeeper behind my house and I sat for a while wondering, “Why are we surviving? Are we meant to do something here?” Our babies cried, beckoning us back to locked down parental duties.
Our species is self-important. We refuse to accept an ending that does not put the existence of humanity (at least factions of it) on a pedestal. However, an end, regardless of our contribution, will happen when it does. When we stare into the abyss, we have a choice. Become the abyss or allow it to create something new.
This planet was created by Disaster. The Creator is Disaster.
Sam PC lives by a beach on the second floor with her daughter, adopted sister and son, and parents. She tells whatever story she pleases to tell you in whatever medium it pops out at that moment when she wants to tell you. She has done some work on theatre, television, film, blogging, academic research, zines, and podcasts. She currently works as the Head of Content at YNOT Studios, which strives to subvert Tamil cinema formulas.