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Water Jammed in Chennai

Posted by RB Kollannur on October 25, 2008


Chennai roads. Heavy rains. If you are familiar with Chennai, you will already be picturing waterlogged streets. Add to this, the office leaving traffic, the weekend traffic and the Diwali shopping traffic and you know it will be not be easy to find a breathing space in the city. If you add a human chain showing solidarity with Sri Lankan Tamils and you can gladly assure yourself that it will be days before you see any daylight out of the traffic. So when two of my “overworked” IT friends (I mention “overworked” out of sympathy for their upcoming misfortunes and the minor fact that they had an all-nighter at work) chose to go home for Diwali at this most inopportune of times, we had deep misgiving of a tragedy waiting to happen. The likelihood of a missed train or a flight was more than Barack Obama becoming the next US President.

The two started off from Thiruvanmiyur, a nice town in the outskirts of Chennai. The train was at 2015 hours and the flight was at 2100. Keeping the evening rush in mind, the train seeker started off early at 1800, with a comfortable cushion of over an hour. Even in heavy traffic, an auto will only need close to an hour to reach the Chennai Central railway station. So, he was good to go. But the other friend of mine chose to live dangerously. He chose to risk it, cutting it close, taking his time getting some much needed sleep, leaving at 1900 for the airport. I cannot comment on how long it will take to get to the airport, but as my friends assured me it will be close. When queried about whether he will make it on time, he replied with a cursory “Ho jayenga” glance.

The recent rains in Chennai have played spoilsport for the neighborhood kids trying to celebrate Diwali. No sooner the crackers are unwrapped from their packets, the heavens intervene and put a dampener to the children’s merry making. But on the downside, these rains also filled up the low lying areas of Velachery, lying between my airport going friend and the airport. The roads to Central are much higher and more immune from the rain. Like cruel friends that we are, we had a pool going and placed our bets on who will miss their journey. Sure enough the air traveler had the odds heavily stacked against him.

An hour and a half later, to our surprise, it was the train seeker who called; to report that the plane seeker has missed the flight and is searching for the airline’s number. Soon, we received a frantic call from our air traveling friend at Kathipara Junction (The junction near SIDCO in the map) asking us to stop the plane, by all means necessary.

The first idea was to call in a bomb threat, but those things only work in bad movies like “Road Trip”. Finally we decided the saner option of checking with the airline company. After a long automated reply that lasted close to ten minutes, we finally got through and found out the plane has been delayed by thirty minutes and is now scheduled for 2130. We passed on the message to our distressed friend and enquired how far he has progressed, only to discover he has not moved an inch in the past fifteen minutes. We strongly suggested he get alternate travel, even to the extent of suggesting he make a run for it. Okay, that was a stretch, but we did suggest he take a train or flag a ride.

What he chose to do next will remain outside the premises of this blog, but I am told the airport authority was a bit surprised when they encountered a water drenched passenger running to check in, drenched in rain, slush, sweat and certain other liquids that I’d rather not mention.

One good thing about airliners these days is that they would gladly wait for their customers, since they don’t have many. Fortunately for my friend, he was not alone in his search for the skies. There were other passengers held up in traffic as well and my friend made the flight just on time thanks to a further delay by the airliner to get their passengers on board. Finally, the flight seeker made his destination on time and presumably so did our friend on the train. The rain’s intense need to claim another victim was staved off for the time being. But.

Late night at 2245, the door of the house opened with a grinding resistance (Because it was water logged, like Chennai) by our train traveler, with a foolish grin on his face.

The traffic did what the rain couldn’t. Having smartly ignored the MRTS, he spent two hours in traffic till he reached the Adyar signal at the corner of LB Road and Sardar Patel Road (Adyar in the map). Having realized the train would be long gone by the time he reached the station, he decided grimly to turn back. Another two hours later and a wallet 380 bucks thinner, he finally managed to get back to his home. In the end, after a round trip to Adyar, he was back where he started having traveled in the same auto for over four hours, when on foot the journey could be completed in ninety minutes and 150 bucks max on auto, even if you are a lousy bargainer. I guess the rain had the last laugh, after all. So did we.

Map Courtesy : Google Maps

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