Kerala is wounded. Its people are suffering. Nearly 400 have been killed due to the recent floods that are ravaging its citizens, as well as its neighbors in Karnataka. The loss of livelihood has been unimaginable. If you live outside of South India, you may not have heard of the crisis. Hell, I live about 500 kilometers away, and I barely heard anything about one of the biggest natural disasters this country has ever seen. Those of you, who live in other countries, may not even be aware that South India exists. You may not know that there is more to India than cows, snakes, Bollywood, Hare Krishnas, yogic postures and food poisoning.
We are the south. The nation’s stepchildren. We are kept locked in the basement so that our Hindi-speaking landlords are not embarrassed in front of foreign guests.
The recurring bias is blatant, whether cultural dominance, economic policy-making, disproportionate fund allocation or national media coverage. When the city of Chennai was flooded in 2015, we were treated like second-class citizens too. So, we took care of each other to the best of our abilities. However, the situation in the towns and villages of Kerala is unimaginably more frightening. Their problems are compounded by the lack of digital infrastructure to ensure quick flow of information.
The residents Chennai were able to assemble in the virtual world and work towards common goals. Considering the connectivity, and the type of user acceptance in Kerala – social media’s role in disaster management has not been as effective.
It is why some are angry about the situation, and they are looking for others to blame. Perhaps, they have every right to feel this way. They are in pain. All they want is to let it out so that everyone else understands what they are going through. Their houses have been washed away. Their suffering has gone largely unnoticed by the country. It may have stirred up historical emotions that were left poorly managed.
To make things worse, as the death toll keeps climbing higher, many are getting vocal about deforestation, marginalization, and secularism. Public discourses are being hijacked to spew hateful or just poorly-timed narratives. Imagine being unsure if your loved ones are alive and safe, and then having to listen to strangers talk about how whether they had it coming. It is bad enough we have disaster porn. Nobody should have to deal with tragedy pimps.
The people of Kerala have so much on their plate that a majority do not expect our sympathy. They do not want us to be belligerent or hasty on their behalves. They do not require us to assess why things turned out the way they did. Once the water subsides, they will want answers too. Hopefully, they will get them.
Now, more than anything else, they need our love and support.
It is sad and strange that idealism has become a dirty word. At times, an orphaned punchline. It is associated with impracticality. Just a bunch of hullabaloo. Even arguments are won by saying, “oh, but that’s idealistic” as though it implies, by default, absolute incongruence. But it is not idealistic to help people, who are in desperate need of it. It is not irrational to prioritize goodwill over critical analysis.
It is not inhuman to be human.
Over the past few years, every winter I have spent weekends in Kerala to observe its migratory birds. It is a haven for bird-lovers or pretty much anyone, who is fond of the wilderness. To see it get beaten down by not just rains, but governmental and public apathy is heart-breaking.
If you have been following the verseherder blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I do not ask my readers to do stuff. There are no call-for-action buttons. I am not setting you up to take your hard-earned money for a bird-themed book. At least, not anytime soon. I do not have an end game. Because this is not one of those places.
In 2015, I asked you to donate anything you could for my city. Today, I urge you to make a donation or do whatever is possible for Kerala. In an ideal world, the government of India would be taking care of business. But the reality is such that they would pay more to build a gold statue. And it is infuriating. As a south Indian, I am ready to grab a pitchfork and start a discussion.
I realize, though, that dissent comes after sacrifice.
Love and kindness come before anything else.
God’s own or
the people’s court,
how does it matter
who your love
can keep afloat?