To Chennai, with respect.

Many years ago, I moved to India with Bollywood stars in my eyes and a loud, strumming beat in my heart. For someone who was born and raised overseas, this was going to be my big Indian adventure.

But like in most Indian movies, first you’ve got to hate each other before you find true love.

I fell in love with my country reluctantly at first, and then in a mad rush.

The closeness in my grandparents’ small town of Nagercoil. The freshly washed sun in Kerala, every morning. The smoke and independence in Bangalore’s air. The feeling that someone hit the fast-forward button and lost the remote control a very long time ago, in Mumbai. The indomitable, infectious positivity of Chennai, through heat or rain.

About the time when I was crushing hard on India, I stumbled upon this ad.

 

 

I watched it every single day. Later, when I moved away from India, I watched it every time I missed her. It reminded me of an India we all dreamt we could be part of. One that was film-y enough to be us. One that seemed impossible and yet, something that could only happen in India.

One that we’ve been seeing over and over again for the last few weeks during the Chennai floods.

No vigils, protests or petitions. No time for controversy or negativity. No blogs, logos or inspirational quotes.

It has been action, action, action. Go, go, go.

Food, clothes and medicines are being handed out to the drowned by the drowning. Phone numbers and home addresses are being shared openly and urgently. You need a car, they have a car. You need a doctor, they’ll bring you a doctor. You need to charge your phone, they’ll take you to a clean, dry power source.

If power blackouts and dead phone & mobile lines weren’t going to stop Chennai-ites from helping one another, then what was a little waist-high rain and drain water. No one waited to see what the government would do; they were out long before red-tapism permitted it and will be there long after the media circus ends.

The Chennai floods have wrecked havoc upon her people, but her people have given themselves the gift of time and faith.

Through ruined homes, lost belongings and threatened health, the Chennai-ites have inspired the world with their unwavering and unstoppable fortitude.

It’s far from over and far from perfect, but this is humanity at it’s best. If there was ever a starting point for a better world, this is it.

It didn’t take a calamity for the people of Chennai to band together, they’ve always been that way – it’s part of the whole Tamil charm. But it did show the rest of the world how to move forward.

By getting shit done.

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Calling Dr. Seuss!

Among other things that I’m constantly hungry for, inspiration is the one thing I perpetually crave; which kind of explains why I was such a teachers’ pet in school. I may not remember the chapters they taught me, but I will never forget the life lessons.

From the moment I read my first Dr. Seuss book, I knew I had found my life coach.

If I could’ve added a hint of his magic to my childhood, I would’ve. Oh I so would’ve. I stumbled upon the books in my late 20s, and they came everywhere with me – work, cafés and trains. Upstairs, downstairs and stairways. Inside and outside, right side and left side, good side and bedside. Under a tree, over a hill, through a problem and across a table.

In case you didn’t get it, that was me trying to channel a bit of Dr. Seuss and failing miserably.

At the risk of sounding like an obsessed fangirl, I have to confess: I’m an obsessed fangirl.

The first time I read ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’, I wept. I wept happy tears for dreams and hopes and life. If every young adult in school were to read his books, we’d have more secure and confident youngsters. If every adult would peruse through just a few pages, there would be no better restoration of faith. If every world leader would glance over a story or two, they would get a hint as to how to make this world a better place.

Yep. Fangirl.

I rely on the Doctor’s counsel like people in the 90s took Oprah’s. Blindly and gratefully.

How? Glad you asked.

(Imagine me having a giant whine-face and imagine Dr. S’s voice having an echo with crazy folk music playing in the background.)

Me: What do I do with my life?!

Dr. S:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

Me: Wish I was smarter, a better writer, a kinder person, a half-decent daughter/ wife/ mum/ human.

Dr. S:

Today you are you, that is truer than true.

There is no one alive who is youer than you.

Me: There’s so much sadness in the world, so much turmoil. Someone needs to do something.

Dr. S:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.

Me: Why didn’t anyone ever teach me how to do this?

Dr. S:

You can get help from teachers,

but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself

sitting alone in a room.

Me: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh *violently pushing the panic button*

Dr. S:

But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see.

Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me.

Me: (Blank)

Dr. S:

Oh the thinks you can think!

Me: Should I say something to the person staring at their phone while talking to me?

Dr. S:

You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.

ME: Put. The. Goddamn. Phone. Away.

Even as I type these words, I feel stronger inside. Maybe because these are the words I needed to hear many times in my life. Maybe because these will be the words I share with my son to help make him a better person. Or just maybe because, in today’s world of increasing impatience and fluctuating intolerance, we need to simplify the way we think – the way a children’s book author does.

Imagine if we understood this back then…imagine if we understand this now.

Fame! You’ll be as famous as famous can be,

with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t.

Because, sometimes they won’t.

I’m afraid that sometimes

you’ll play lonely games too.

Games you can’t win

‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!

Whether you like it or not,

alone will be something

you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance

you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.

There are some, down the road between hither and yon,

that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go

though the weather be foul.

On you will go though your enemies prowl.

On you will go

though the Hakken-Kraks howl.

Onward up many a frightening creek,

though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,

and I know you’ll hike far

and face up to your problems

whatever they are.

Do yourself a favour and read a Dr. Seuss book today, be it Fox in Socks or Greens Eggs and Ham or The Lorax or Oh, The Places You’ll Go. Because you wouldn’t want to get stuck in the Waiting Place!

The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or the waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for the wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.

NO!

That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape

all that waiting and staying.

You’ll find the bright places

where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,

once more you’ll ride high!

Ready for anything under the sky.

Ready because you’re that kind of guy!