Chennai Floods & Prepping


Read these first:-

I am still on hiatus, hopefully not for long

Chennai-flood-EPS

(Image source: http://www.newindianexpress.com)

Let’s talk about prepping which is another key aspect of this blog (the other is how Malaysians drive on the road and of course politics) and on the recent disaster in Chennai, India.

The 2015 South Indian floods resulted from heavy rainfall during the annual northeast monsoon in November–December 2015. They affected the Coromandel Coast region of the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and the union territory of Puducherry, with Tamil Nadu and the city of Chennai particularly hard-hit.

More than 400 people were killed and over 1.8 million people were displaced. With estimates of damages and losses ranging from over ₹20000 crore (US$3 billion) to ₹100000 crore (US$15 billion), the floods are the costliest to have occurred in 2015, and are among the costliest natural disasters of the year. The flooding has been attributed to the El Niño phenomenon during the El Niño year of 2015.

(Source)

I have friends, colleagues and distant relatives who are working and staying in Chennai and I know they have been badly hit by the flood.

For past 3-4 days of flooding, they had no electricity, running water, access to cooked food & drinking water, access to ATM and petrol and in some serious cases, even a place to stay. There had been reports of scores of people who had made it to the high grounds with just the clothes that they had wearing. They lost everything. It was a wreck to see small kids among those camped out waiting for the flood water to recede. An ideal doomsday scenario. And it is not over yet, the massive cleanup and getting back to the daily routine before the tragedy will take time and a lot of money and resources.

One cannot deny that Malaysia too is facing similar scenario on a daily basis but where credit is due and perhaps because we have been dealing yearly flooding since day 1, the response time and pre-flood emergency preparations by Malaysian Government seems to be much better than of the Tamil Nadu State Government.

Several flood mitigation initiatives have been undertaken by the various agencies, particularly the Department of Irrigation and Drainage, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Among such projects are the construction of flood plains, cantilever walls, tidal barrages, tidal gates, river channels and levees, pumping stations, debris removal systems, monsoon drains, retention and detention ponds, and dams.

The most high-profile mega project was the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) in Kuala Lumpur. Several forecasting warning system also exist to predict flooding instances, such as flood maps, telemetric rainfall stations, telemetric water level stations, manual stick gauges, flood warning boards, flood sirens, weather radar, satellites, and real-time flood forecasting warning systems.

(Source : Centre for Public Policy Studies)

At the end of the day, it is all about preparation, preparation and preparation and a good sense of paranoia (yes believe in Murphy’s law)

And talking about prepping for flood, it is crucial to have a good pre-flood planning and there must be at least 1 bug-out-bag prepped upfront before the flood and be ready with all the essential items.

The American Red Cross suggest these items to be available – packed and ready to go in case one need to evacuate the home:-

Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
Flashlight
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
Extra batteries
First Aid kit
Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
Multi-purpose tool
Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
Cell phone with chargers
Family and emergency contact information
Extra cash
Emergency blanket
Map(s) of the area
Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
Tools/supplies for securing your home
Extra set of car keys and house keys
Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
Rain gear
Insect repellent and sunscreen
Camera for photos of damage

(Source)

hdcc_map_floods

(Future of global flooding – it is not going to end there. Source)

And that had me thinking on how early prepping could have made some difference in the aftermath of the worst flooding that Chennai had faced. Let’s list out the immediate concerns of the Chennai flood victims and then go back and see what they could have done or rather need to do for the next on-slaught of a similar flooding in the coming years.

1. Lack of Shelter

If there is risk of flooding, the first rule of risk management recommends risk avoidance and if not possible, at least some sense of risk mitigation. If possible, ensure the house is sitting on high grounds (not necessarily be on top of hills) or at least the foundation is higher than the rest.

In Chennai, whilst it is not possible for someone to look for hills to build houses but the other option available is staying in multi storey building. However even though those who had more than 1 floor of occupied space spared better but without electricity and running water, staying out longer would not been feasible

2. Lack of Food & Drinking Water

With most shops flooded, no running water and access roads blocked, many have to make do with whatever food they managed to salvage. Interestingly there was a piece in the news where the flood victims had no water to drink but alcohol selling shops up and running and having a booming business. In times of dire, it was astounding to know that alcohol is readily available than drinking water which means the liquor sellers were far more efficient than the state government.

To make things worse, shops that had food and water for sale, started selling them for exorbitant price.

And that means in the future, the residents must get ready with their bug out bag stocked with drinking water for at least 48 hours.

3. Lack of Money / Access to ATM

When disaster strikes, resources will be scare and limited and there will be people will to kill others to get access to these limited resources. And those who have that limited resources – shelter, food, water, medicines, transportation, etc will definitely take advantage of the situation (and they did in Chennai, big time).

Having money at hand will be a big, big advantage

4. Lack of Clothes for Change

Imagine this – your house is flooded and you had to abandon it to high grounds. You only managed to grab a few items before it becomes too late. You make it to high ground and you are wet, tired and cold and it is dark outside. And it starts to rain again and it does so for the next 2-3 days.

Trust me, having a change of clean, dry clothes goes a long way to comfort you and somehow replenish you spiritually for days ahead.

5. Lost of Important Documents

One rule that I enforce in the house is that all import documents are properly filed with a plastic cover and when the time comes to leave the house due to an emergency, we know where the documents are and easier to grab and leave. Having important documents especially identification documents is crucial especially aftermath when one need to get back on the routine.

6. Lack of Means of Transportation

The key advise here is to keep track of the news & updates on the weather and the local happenings. This is one reason why I am religiously watch the news first thing in the morning and before going to bed and ensure I get updates from other sources.

I am not sure if early warning was given before it was too late to do anything.

There were reports of people not getting sufficient warning and they only had minutes before it was too late to do anything. Scores of tourists from Malaysia were stranded in Chennai and missed their flights out from the country. Another aspect of transportation is the lack of fuel for the car / motorcycle. With the flood, there is a complete shutdown of the petrol stations around the city and even if they are opened, they don’t have the supply replenished in time. It is time to ensure that there is enough fuel in the vehicles at any one time and workout the alternate route and mode of transportation when roads are closed.

7. Lack of Communication

Even if you have a working telecommunications line working, if your phone battery is dead, you are back to square one and you know how power hungry smartphones are. A dead phone may even end up dangerous option if you are unable to call for help. And with family members separated, it is important to inform others where you are now and whether you are safe or not and if you need any help. Spare battery and power banks are life savers in this modern age and some power banks even now comes with option to charge using solar energy.

Now Chennai is getting back on its feet and there is a massive clean up before things can go back to routine (of course with a lot of finger pointing politically). The same in Malaysia – until today victims of flood is the East Coast still struggling and have not gone back to home. But the reality of things is this – such massive flood is not going to end and with a drastic change in the global weather over the past years, it is only a start.

It is time for preparation – this is not the end of things for sure

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M.S. Viswanathan: 1928 – 2015


MS Viswanathan at Kaviyarasu Kannadasan Vizha 2014

(Before AR Rahman and Illayaraja, there was only one great musician and that was MSV. Image source)

CHENNAI: Legendary music composer and singer M S Viswanathan, who had been critically ill for the past few days, passed away at a private hospital in Chennai in the early hours of Tuesday. He was 87.

The music maestro was admitted to the intensive care unit of Fortis Malar Hospitals on June 27 with breathing difficulty and his condition had been worsening ever since.

Hospital sources said he had been suffering from age-related ailments and had lost his memory. Though the hospital said in a statement last Monday that he was on the road to recovery, his situation took a turn for the worse a couple of days ago.

“He passed away at 4.15am,” said hospital sources.

M S Viswanathan (fondly called MSV) composed songs for more than 1,200 films in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. In Tamil, he composed songs for films like Billa, Nalai Namathe, Urmai Kural and Sirithu Vazha Vendum.

(Source)

Dear Movie Makers…


Read these first:-

All of us watches movies (some on daily basis) and at some point of life, you will come across movies that can only be classified as “great”. A first class classics like this and new ones like this. We pay to watch these movies (those who subscribe to the movie channels at Astro, you will know what I mean) and thus all we ask for is that if you can’t make a great entertaining movie, then make one that is logical.

Chennaiyil-Oru-Naal-Film-Poster

(A movie that is full of big names but also full of holes in the plot. Image source: the Net)

Take for example “Chennaiyil Oru Naal“. I have seen the movie once before and despite the hype and despite an ensemble cast (they had a lot of big names there – Radhika, Prakash Raj, Sarathkumar, Cheran, Prassana and even Surya) and despite it had a good premise (well, for the most part of it), it was a big let-down by serious flaws. In information age these days, small flaws looks too glaring especially when the audience are well informed and have high expectations. In that sense, most Tamil movies had it’s share of shortcomings except perhaps Mysskin movies (like this and this) which in my mind is at the top of the list when it comes to dark themed storyline.

I did not have the time to do up a review on Chennaiyil Oru Naal back then. But the notion of the flawed storyline somewhat reinforced my earlier impression of the movie when I saw this movie again on Astro last weekend. My mom was watching it and I was “forced” to watch it whilst I waited for my son to finish using my bathroom (the Boss often waits until it is time for my bath time before he dashes in my bathroom for his bath).

But before that, a quick synopsis of this movie for those who have not watched it:-

Meanwhile, Gautham’s ailing daughter’s heart condition becomes worse and she urgently needs a heart transplant. At first Karthik’s parents do not agree to take their son off the ventilator and donate their son’s heart but Ajmal and Karthik’s girlfriend persuade them into it. Now that the heart is available, the problem was transporting it from Chennai to Vellore. No chartered flights or helicopters were available and so the heart had to be taken by road. Someone had to drive the 150 kilometres in under two hours during the rush traffic.

City Police Commissioner Sundara Pandian is asked to carry out the mission. He initially refuses considering the complexity and risk involved in the mission, but finally heeds to the persuasion of Dr. Arumainayagam. Satyamoorthy, being an experienced driver who has driven for ministers, volunteers to be the driver of the Jeep carrying the heart. Mainly takes this initiative to regain the name he lost to the bribe incident.

Accompanying him on the mission was Dr. Robin and Ajmal. As instructions are given from Sundara Pandian, Satyamoorthy follows the fastest route to the hospital. However, at some point, they lose connection and the vehicle mysteriously disappears. Under pressure and stress, Satyamoorthy trusts his own instincts and takes his own route. Sundara Pandian loses patience and hope that he’ll be able to transport the heart in time, resulting in cancelling the mission.

Just in time, Satyamoorthy manages to get connection, which motivates every one to get the heart safely in time.

(Source)

Sounds impressive huh? It does look very sound on paper but watch the movie and you know that the movie makers could have done better if they had just stopped for a second and reviewed the details. No one is perfect, I agree but since it involves a long process of movie making, a lot of talent from various departments and plenty of money, they should have strive for perfection.

Firstly perhaps knowing this would be questioned, they pre-empt the audience that there are no chartered flights or helicopters were available to transport the heart within the 150 km range. Well, that’s quite fine but considering the number of big-wigs involved in getting the approval and planning of the transport by car, you would have thought that surely they could have pulled something in getting a helicopter for the transport. Don’t tell me that Gautham – the famed actor in the movie could not get his friends and his fans to help out on this? Even they could not get helicopters at the start, considering all the delays in transporting the heart by car, perhaps it would have been prudent if they have waited for the helicopter nonetheless.

Ok never mind, the movie makers were bent on making the transport the heart via a car as the main plot and twist the rest of the story on this premise.

So they make the next mistake – the choice of the car used for the transport. A bulky 4WD instead of a fast sedan – how that makes transporting the heart any faster? Then you will noticed that 4WD would be driven without any police escorts – presumably because it was driven very, very fast. But without any escort, a fast car on a lonely roads (as shown in the movie) is opened to many other obstacles on the road – all you need for one idiot on the road to ignore the siren and wham bam, out goes the mission out the window. In the movie, with a lot of people on the road side – speeding car was not even portrayed correctly. The car seemed to be cruising leisurely at many scenes in the movie. And it was so to a point when the passengers were inside the car without the need to buckle up.

Then they had to have the scene of the car being driven through a slum to “catch up” on the lost time. And these too done without the police clearing and blocking the relevant roads within the slum to ensure fast drive through. No police escorts either. Instead, the hero Surya comes into the picture (rather on TV) and appeal for the occupants of the slum to give way to the car. How many people in the slum were glued to the TV at that time is not shown (remember it is on a working day, so a bulk of them at home would be housewives) but it seemed to have attracted a sizeable army of slum youths to clear the way. How convenient! Further it is a slum with narrow lanes with unexpected crowd and obstacles – don’t you think that it is more riskier to the mission? Why risk many “hearts” just to save one heart? It does not make any sense.

Before that, there is a scene of the doctor hijacking the car (ya, you may ask WTF?) and getting the car off course and it takes some time before some sad, emotional pep talk before the doctor comes to his senses and gets back into the car and the mission. In reality, how this could have happened if the whole mission from the start has been closely monitored from a central command post? You see, this is why you need police escort. And why the driver (played by Cheran) insist on bringing the loony doctor after the doctor had jeopardized the whole mission and his superior had given a clear instruction to hand over the doctor at the next police checkpoint? It is not like the doctor helping him in a big way. In the end, surprise, surprise – the seriously injured wife decides not to press charges on the doctor and he is released. Come on lah, just because he had played a role in delivering the heart, the whole justice system forgets his earlier confession to murder?

Sigh, I know they could have done better…

Chennai Trip – Conclusion


(Been lagging lately due to work and other assignments and holidays)

(The Chennai International Airport’s departure area – brightly lighted and well furnished but the crowd can still give you an headache. Sorry, no photos of the secured areas – the officers looked too menacing and strict)

I kind of have forgotten to do the conclusion for this post, so here is it…

The trip to Chennai came to a quick end for my wife – she did not have enough of the shopping but as far as I was concerned, I was looking for a safe return back to Malaysia. I already was missing the good, clean food and the weather back home.

The hired 4 wheel drive that suppose to pick us early was no where to be seen and I was getting worried. It was almost an hour drive from the apartment to the airport and I had no idea how was the traffic from the apartment to the airport at that point of time. The last thing I need is for us to miss the flight because we got stuck in a traffic jam. Our Indian relative noticed my facial expression as I kept looking out the window for the ride. The uncle (the head of the family) started to make some phone calls and it was not long before, I saw a white 4WD snaking along the narrow lane in front of the apartment.

Getting our luggage down from the apartment was made extra difficult – compounded by the fact we had extra “kilograms” added after several days of shopping (which is why we had extra but empty luggage brought from home). With the minutes ticking away and in the mid of the Chennai heat, we had to bring down the overweight luggage rather quickly – I think we damaged some part of the luggage. We managed to load the luggage into the car and we were off to the airport without further delays.

Chennai airport was still undergoing renovations so the departure area was still a nightmare. We had to park far away from the actual departure entrance and there was no luggage trolley at sight. Thankfully our relatives walked around and managed to find some empty trolleys. Customer service sucked big time – no porters helping out and the crowd outside looks so disorganized. We bid “goodbye” and “thank you” to our host in Chennai who been very generous and helpful during our stay in Chennai and headed towards the check-in gates. I could see a long queue at the very entrance of the terminal – things were not looking too good.

Out of the many security scanners around, only one was working so imagine the chaos. The many lines converged into one and some of the passengers were rather ruthless – despite seeing small children at the queue, they just push ahead, pushing the small children aside and jumping queue. The security guys near the scanners did not do much to ease down the mess. Anyway, we managed to cross over the line without any “bad incidents” and headed towards the MAS check in counters. Once again, we confronted another chaos here – the local MAS staff did not really cared about the queue, leaving us to fight over to get the right line – kind of reminded me of this.

The staffs at the counter looked inexperienced and were facing problems with passengers insisting to check in their overweight luggage without the need to pay for it. The staff also looked lost when had to print out the boarding passes for the passengers who are on transit. Pity the young lady at the front of us who had to transit in KLIA and had to take another flight to Australia. That delay caused us to loose some good seats – we did not get seats in the same row but we managed get at least one seat by the window. We sorted out the seats so that we arranged the window side seat for the “Big Boss”. That made the day for my son even though it was a night flight and he cannot see much once we are up in the air.

With the boarding passes at hand, we headed towards the immigrant checkpoint. From afar, we were given immigrant exit form and advised to fill up in full (the word “full was strongly stressed). So, we did as was advised, but not some of the locals who thought their names will get them through the immigrant with breeze. They had half filled forms and tried to talk their way through.

The senior looking uncle at the gate before immigration counters looked fragile and weak but he amazed us when he stopped some people at their tracks and asked them to fill up the form first. He did not even moved a bit when the stubborn locals raised their voice and tried to use their “connection” powers. They were told to buzz off and come back with fully filled form. We later found out that the old, fragile looking man is the head of the immigration at the airport – no wonder he can stand up to the nonsense put up by the locals. The immigration officers were professional and courteous – they even chit chat with my son as he stood in line to get his passport stamped.

(The “Big Boss” managed to get his seat of choice on the return flight and soon got busy with the in-flight entertainment system)

Another round of security – mostly handled by officers from northern side of India and they were very strict about this. Despite the long queue and security check that seems to be taking forever, we appreciated the strict and detailed checking. After the horrors in Mumbai, the last thing we need is some bomb blast by a crazy terrorist in Chennai airport.

The waiting area was jam packed but we managed to get a nice cozy spot. We decided against any purchase of souvenirs at the airport because 1. The price was a nonsense (it was also 10 times more than the normal price) and 2. The “duty free” shop was manned by someone who looked like some drug peddler at some back lane (read dirty clothes and harsh language).

Boarding announcement was rather rudimentary and before we know it, a long line started to form. Good thing was we already anticipated this and stood somewhere at the front of the queue. We had to pass another security checkpoint before we reached our seats – I felt proud to be a Malaysian as the Indian passengers were fast appreciating the clean interior of the MAS cabin and high quality service from the award winning cabin crew. There was some delay before the plane can take off – as usual, some idiots went missing and the rest of us had to wait for them. Then after almost 10 minutes, we were ready to take off.

The big boss soon got busy with the in-flight entertainment system and he rarely slept during the journey back. The flight back home was not that long and the MAS cabin crew service was top notch as usual – pity them having to deal with those Indian passengers who probably taking the plane for the first time. Some of the idiots were so busy drinking away beer and wine throughout the flight and just before we landed, we hit turbulence and these idiots immediately puked on their seats (did they know how to use the disposal vomit bag?). I saw a couple of them, drenched with nasty vomit all over their pants and shoes and thankfully none of them was too near to us – otherwise they would have gotten nasty blow to their head as well. Hmmm, perhaps I should add this to my list here.

That rather messy incident was the conclusion of my very first trip to Chennai (and India) and I must say that it was eye-opening trip. My wife got her shopping done and we all had a great time in time, largely thanks to our Chennai host. And since I have been to Chennai once, I know which pitfalls that I need to avoid the next time around.

Read the whole series here

Tamil Movie Review: Angadi Theru


(The story of the lifeline of a saree shop and story of lovers all in one neat package. Image source: IndiaGlitz)

I wonder why really good Tamil movies always seem to have tragic endings.

Just take Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu for example – brilliantly made movie but the ending was tragic, despite the underdogs winning the final match, the main character ends up dead and the beautiful heroin is left looking for her love for the rest of the life. Tragic indeed!

Then we have Angadi Theru – story of youngsters working in a saree shop in Chennai. And the story made more sense to us especially after we had returned from a shopping trip in Chennai. I regret not smiling and saying kind words to the tired looking saree sales people. Life is not as rosy as it appears to be – work is tough, getting on to the next day is tougher.

Acted by a rather unknown people, Angadi Theru is one well made movie, revolving in the usual activities of the saree sales people and their life outside the work. The director, Vasanthabalan executed the right moves to bring the story from the village where the hero loses his father to a tragic accident and had to cut short on his studies and forced to work in a saree shop to ensure his family gets enough money to survive.

Veiled within the main story is the side stories which is interesting too – the story about the people who make their living selling small items around the saree shop, the policemen who takes bribes from the people around shop, the saree shop owner who maintain a iron claw on things that is happening in and outside his saree shop and sadist like section leaders who is kind to customers but harsh on the workers.

One thing I like about Mahesh who plays the main character, Jyothi is on how simple and natural he is. He can be mistaken for a real saree sales person. Pandi playing the lovable character, Marimuthu provides the bulk of the laugh in the movie and also acts as the main character’s close friend. Anjali plays the heroin, Kani in this movie – she first dislikes Jyothi and gets him in serious trouble and this causes Jyothi to take revenge, only to realise that the punishment that Kani got was too severe. Jyothi stands up for Kani and both ends up loving each other. But love is the dirty word in the saree shop especially after Kani’s friend commits suicide in front of the saree shop.

Angadi Theru also features 2 well known music directors – Vijay Antony and G V Prakash. Although in general, quality of music is nothing to shout about (unlike Yuvan’s Paiyaa), the movie has one good composition (by Vijay Anthony) titled “Aval Appadi Onrum” – well picturised and with thoughtful lyrics. You need to listen to the words carefully to appreciate the meaning of the song.

In short, Angadi Theru packs a strong storyline (which make sense) even though, I must admit that some of the scenes are shown at the extreme but we will never know how true it is.

Final say

The plus points: Storyline, realism, moral of the story, camera work

The negative points: The ending (even though both characters are alive and working on getting back on their feet)

(Click here for other movie reviews)