At the mention of a red rose, one would typically think of a romantic scene. If, on the contrary, I were to recollect a sad scene with red roses, top of the mind recall is the November Rain song by Guns N Roses.
What if an enemy gives you a red rose with thorns in it? That’s Cyclone Vardah. A name coined by Pakistan and it means Red Rose. Red Rose? Seriously?? This is weird thinking in retrospect.
On Dec 12th morning, I thankfully decided to stay indoors instead of trying to venture out and reach office. Electricity went off soon. It didn’t take Nature long to pull me to the balcony to observe the clouds and trees that began to sway in the strong breeze. The sway was too much. Something didn’t seem right. It felt as if I was trying to read messages from Nature. The cyclone was predicted to reach its maximum speed of 110-120 kmph around 2 pm but the wind speed around 11 am itself was ominous. After nearly 2 decades such a storm was going to hit Chennai, the news channels warned. I looked up at the skies and found it turning darker. If you held a fountain pen filled with black ink and gently dipped it in a glass bowl with water, the black ink would diffuse in the water. The dark clouds similarly diffused in the sky. They were in a hurry to flee from Chennai as if some monster was going to attack them shortly. Trees that had always stood firm were beginning to get increasingly worried. They couldn’t shout for help or scream for forgiveness but their actions didn’t betray what they were conveying. I could see about 40-50 trees from my house and wanted to see some more in the distance. I ventured out but was pushed back firmly by the wind as soon as I tried to open the door. I somehow went down to the parking lot where it was clear that I stood no match when the trees themselves were being ridiculed. I retreated back to the balcony, my observation spot. Tree tops had begun to bow down to the Wind God like devotees in places of worship. Branches began shaking with fear and leaves were getting torn off mercilessly. Sometimes the wind shook trees from left to right and then in some other direction, haphazardly, without warning. The Rain God didn’t compete that day but played a part too. Rains lubricated the leaves before stripping them off from branches. Nature was angry and relentless. Whether the trees were being given a bath or whether they were shedding tears copiously was unclear but mayhem was unleashed. I saw a strong muscular looking branch take on the Cyclone. While the mother Tree was trying to protect herself and her children, by submission and mercy pleas, the rebellious child branch acted rashly. Vardah was now racing ahead at greater than 100 kmph speeds. Surely, the reckless branch and its false bravado must have peeved the destructive and resolute Vardah. Arm wrestling of an unseen magnitude of brutality unfolded then. Usually, when an opponent is way stronger, the weaker arm is pushed down almost immediately. A victory cry is let out too. In this case the child was made to bend backwards and in a jiffy, the branch’s back was broken with a loud cracking sound. A small portion of the branch still clung to the mother, but it was over. The victory cry was an eerie howl. As if to applaud this exhibition of pitiless power and arrogance, some of the asbestos sheet roofs that were flying around aimlessly banged against house walls and created so much din that I confused it with claps. More roofs collided and I mistook the racket with thunder claps. Trees began to fall and I gaped in disbelief. The entire city was pounded and there was nothing we could do. Phone signals were gone and I had no idea what was happening outside.
Silence after the storm is a common phrase but that evening, it was lot more pregnant than I have ever imagined before.
It has been a few days since then. The death toll of trees is in thousands. Close to my house, a banyan tree that was uprooted just to boost Vardah’s ego was a barbaric sight. The citizens of Chennai and the authorities have done a superlative job of clearing the mess and it is not over yet. What is gory now is that the corpses are beginning to decompose. The once green leaves that adorned the trees and branches, are turning pale yellow and brown, their brittleness visible. Roots of the dead trees appear like entrails and are depressing to watch. If sadness makes you turn your eyes away, all you see is another tree fallen to the ground and cut into pieces. Try drawing some positive energy by looking at tree that still manage to stand and live. Unfortunately most of these survivor trees too have lost several branches. These amputated branches are unable to fall down fully and the trees are unable to cut them out on their own. These dead branches have leaves that have no sign of life and continue to be suspended above. Trees don’t have any surgical tools and like they always do, are silently watching and hoping that people would help them in their hour of distress. Maybe after clearing the wreckage on the ground, they will get some attention.
There are several questions unanswered. We humans are definitely responsible for irritating Nature but for Her to behave in this way with the city’s Trees seems unfair. The Sun has now gained direct access to us. After Water and Air, Fire will have its share of sadistic pleasure playing with us in May. May be not. Hope and Prayers will continue. Ironically, the romantic Red Rose has attained a twisted meaning in our lives forever.