Authors Note: It is said that hardships and crisis exposes one’s true character. And it was brought forth in all its glory when Chennai came to a standstill due to the recent floods. The city proved that humanity is not yet dead and there is still hope in this world. During these difficult times, it is this hope that helps us to push forward and battle it out. City of Gods is a series of short stories inspired from true incidents that happened when calamity struck Chennai. Though the characters and story is entirely fictional, the essence of the story is very much true. It is the story of all those gods who live among us.
I was a bit apprehensive when I entered my doctor’s cabin. Lying on the examination table, my mind raced with a million possibilities that can go wrong. I am sure my heart stopped for a second when a frown crept up on my doctors’ forehead. As the doctor continued poking and prodding me in silence, my heart kick started and galloped like a horse in a race. Every fibre of my being ached for a baby. I have cried, begged, pleaded and prayed to all gods for a baby. After the last two miscarriages we had lost all hope of ever holding a baby in our arms. Apparently, my womb is very inhospitable and my babies are never comfortable there. By some miracle, if I do get pregnant, I could never manage to keep my baby alive until he is ready to come out. This was my third and the longest that I have gone. I had religiously visited the temple near our home every single day. Legend goes that if the temple deity is pleased with our offerings and prayers, she might just grant us a baby. I have dutifully performed all the prescribed pujas and offerings so it was not making any sense that the doctor is frowning right now.
“There is nothing to worry about Meenakshi, everything looks perfect. Your due date is in 2 days, so take ample rest and come back by Dec 2nd. “ The doctor reassured me when she saw my worried expression.
As it was pouring outside, we decided to take a cab home. The rain was lashing vehemently making it almost impossible to drive. The traffic was moving at a snail’s pace and our impatient driver tried to squish the car into every possible nook on the crowded road. Mahesh, my husband was worried about my safety and kept shouting at the driver to drive carefully. To top it off, the constant honking outside was driving me crazy. As we slowly dragged forward, I saw that the water level had risen, slowing us further. Suddenly the car hit something on the road and lurched forward, tossing us all from our seats. I had hit my head on the roof and was nursing the spot on my head when I felt a small kick in my stomach. My baby would have sensed my agitation and kicked me to get my attention. Instantly calm, I hugged my baby bump in an attempt to keep him safe. After a grueling 4 hours we reached home, thankfully in one piece.
Later in the middle of the night, I woke up with a start due to stomach cramps. Switching on the light, I got out of the bed to find myself standing in ankle deep water. Assuming that there was leak in one of the pipes, I went out to check and to my horror I realized that the entire floor was flooded. Frantically I shook Mahesh awake. We couldn’t comprehend what was happening, the entire apartment complex was flooded and the rain showed no signs of letting up. My stomach pain was steadily progressing and a desperate Mahesh was trying to take me to a hospital. With an ashen face, he told me that our entire street was cut off from the main street due to flooding. Water logging in the streets had reached up to 5 feet and there was no way that we could go to hospital. The first thought that popped into my mind was about my baby. I cannot lose him too. As I sat on the bed, I kept uttering slogans that my mom had drilled into me in childhood, hoping for a miracle. Mahesh was pacing through the water in the hall calling for help. The water level has risen and we came to the shocking realization that we cannot stay in our home any longer. Taking just the bare necessities, we knocked on our neighbors’ door for solace. It was 5’ o clock by then and our neighbor groggily opened the door. His irritation at being woken up soon turned to horror when he saw the flooding. He gave me a place in his apartment as Mahesh hysterically tried to contact hospital for an ambulance.
My pains were fairly close together then and we were getting pretty desperate. The ambulance refused to come as the area was completely submerged in water. The power had gone but luckily cell coverage was still available. We posted messages into every social forums in a hope that someone will eventually see them. I was lying down, trying to control the screams that was threatening to escape me. In between my cries, I sent out quick prayers to any God who can hear me. As the last drip of charge in our phone drained, our hopes drained too. I can feel my end near. The pain was getting excruciating. Mahesh was doing all he can to relive me of my pain. But he is no doctor and I was still writhing in pain. I can see panic in his eyes, the fear of losing us both.
Amidst the haze of pain, I heard a shout in the distance. Mahesh opened the balcony door and saw that a guy was coming towards our apartment in a fishing boat. When Mahesh saw a guy, I saw an angel. The roads were so flooded that only a boat can get through to our apartment. We yelled at the top of our voice for help. When the last of our hope had flickered dead, miles away an angel was reading our desperate pleas in WhatsApp and decided to take action. He left the comfort of his dry home in search of me and my baby. A total stranger was wading through water, convincing fisherman to lend their boat and coming to rescue us. As the boat reached our balcony in first floor, my husband and neighbor lowered me into the boat. Once Mahesh joined us, he started rowing the boat towards dry land. I could see snakes slithering away in the dirty storm water. My pain was becoming unbearable and I was unable to sit calmly. The boat was rocking dangerously and I was filled with terror that my convulsions will overturn the boat completely. The angel in the boat was trying to strike up a conversation with me, talking about nothing in particular. I thought it was weird then, but it took my mind off the pain. Once we crossed the flooded area, I was shipped off to the waiting ambulance. Few minutes into the labor, I gave birth to a baby boy, a living breathing baby. When the nurse placed my bundle of joy in my hands, I was overcome with emotions. I searched for my angel as I did not get a chance to thank him properly previously. Later, I learnt from my husband that he left to rescue someone else. Of course, he is just not my angel.
I asked Mahesh “What was the name of the guy who came in the boat?”
“His name is Irfan”
I took a deep satisfying breath and told, “Then that will be our baby’s name”
“Didn’t you make a promise to the deity that you will name our baby after him?”
“I promised that I will name my baby after a God. And that’s what I just did. We will call him Irfan”
Sometimes we fail to recognize the Gods living among us. The idea of God in our mind sometimes prevent us from acknowledging and cherishing them. Sometimes, it’s not just the sword wielding, fire spitting Gods that needs to be venerated.