The residents of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the coastal states of southern India, witnessed much sound and fury the last two weeks. But it was not the usual beating of drums celebrating a victory or the furore of the masses over an unpleasant administrative decision. It was the fury of Mother Nature as bright streaks of lightning cracked open the skies and black torrential rains deformed Chennai and the neighbouring districts in the state and a few cities in Andhra Pradesh.
Owing to the constant, unrelenting rains, certain areas in Chennai were inundated with up to seven meters of water. Thousands of houses suffered structural damages. Heavy flooding in low lying areas brought people to the roads, with no roof to cover their heads. Many were left stranded; some unable to leave their homes, some others unable to reach theirs. Supplies of basic amenities such as milk, water and vegetables were affected due to logistical difficulties. Potable drinking water and safe food remained in short supply. Power supply was suspended in the city, causing hospitals to stop functioning. Mobile, internet and banking services, fuel, transport and other supplies had been rendered inoperable. The Indian Coast Guard along with the Army, Navy and Air force were summoned in order to conduct rescue operations.
Despite such adverse conditions, several individuals and groups decided to pitch in and help their brothers and sisters who were in need of support. One such group of volunteers travelled from Bangalore to Chennai with four trucks filled with supplies and basic necessities, without a care for the incessant rains beaming with confidence and faith that the Lord would guide and protect them. Over sixty volunteers gathered on the night of 04 December in order to pack supplies and load the same into the trucks. Segregation and packing of supplies received continued late into the night, the volunteers unaffected by fatigue, constantly praying for the welfare of the whole of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
On 5 and 9 December, a group of devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in Domlur, got together and arranged four truck-loads of relief material, accompanied by twenty-six volunteers, for supplies to be distributed in the relief camps in Tambaram, Kancheepuram, Mudichur, Palikarany and a few other areas in and around Chennai. The relief material was segregated into combo packs, each containing milk, bread, bun, chapattis and pickle, biscuits, candles, match box, torch lights, one pair of clothing including children’s wear, shirts, trousers and sarees. When these trucks reached Chennai, they were welcomed by faces that displayed an immediate sense of relief and gratitude. Volunteer teams that had been working round the clock since the floods started in Chennai were glad to receive the relief material that had been taken from Bangalore since they had run short of supplies owing to shortage of funds as banks were shut and ATMs were non-functional. After having successfully transported and distributed all the material, the volunteers returned, knowing that they had touched and saved a few lives. The extraordinary and elevating experience of the volunteers, coupled with Swami’s desire to further intensify the relief work, has led them to take up another visit to Chennai to continue from where they had left. In response to Swami’s clarion call to reach out to the needy, eight trucks will be loaded with relief material and distributed on 18 and 19 December, 2015.
Many of us, during such calamities or disasters, tend to underestimate the extent of impact of our efforts. In such times, one can recollect a small story that beautifully illustrates and brings out the tremendous power of a selfless act, however big or small.
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement. She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. She then looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!” Let us join hands and try to extend a helping hand wherever we can.
For the upcoming Chennai visit, volunteers are required to pack, load and accompany the trucks to Chennai for distribution.
Those interested to volunteer and help out in the relief work may contact the names given below.