The great deluge of Chennai not only uprooted thousands of residents of the southern city of Chennai and adjacent Cuddalore but gave sleepless nights to hundreds of Bay Area residents whose parents or relatives got caught in the swirl.
Frantic calls were made to friends and relatives seeking information about their near and dear ones in Chennai, especially in the low-lying areas and those on the banks of three rivers – clogging the network in Chennai.
“It was a sleepless night for two days as my aged parents who were in Thiruvanmiyur suffered a lot when the floods entered their house submerging all the belongings. They had to be evacuated in a boat to safer place,” said Jaishree Chandrasekar, a leading Tamil actress and an IT professional in Los Angeles. “I was on tenterhooks unable to reach them and those moments are scary, to say the least.”
Like Jaishree hundreds of Tamils living in Bay Area frantically searched for their parents or relatives for over a week that was unprecedented in the history of India and Chennai in particular.
The great deluge has triggered an enormous amount of volunteer participation and donation activity around the world. Diaspora Indians as well as Indians from other parts of India have come together in this moment of need with their generous contributions.
An ad hoc group has also come together among some friends in the Bay Area, which was an outgrowth of the anxiety of a couple of former Chennai natives.
Rohini Ashok, a long-time resident of the Bay Area remarked, “The reports coming out of Chennai of thousands rendered homeless without food and electricity, with barely the clothes on their backs only increased the level of anxiety.”
The two friends, Jaishree and Rohini, out of a sense of desperation, felt they had to do something to mitigate the total destruction and loss and started reaching out to folks both in India and the Bay Area.
In addition to Jaishree and Rohini, the ad hoc group in the Bay Area also consists of Giriprasad Lankipalle of Spandana.org, Mani Krishnan, a Bay Area entrepreneur, Vijay Nathan a former co worker, as well as Maylene Olivera, Jaishree’s Zumba and Bombay Jam certified instructor, and many other community members.
There has been tremendous support from Pragati Grover of ICC (India Community Center) who has donated the time for the Zumba / Bombay Jam sessions @ Malavalli Hall on site.
Jaishree has been actively involved in rescue efforts of her friends’ immediate families. She’s whatsapped with another Bay Area resident Jai Kumar, who in turn connected to his niece Sandhya Ramesh in Bangalore. Sandhya was already doing a fabulous job connecting from Bangalore with Chennai volunteers via Twitter.
Sandhya had a chance check up with Vennira Aadai Murthy, a legendary Tamil movie comedian.
Murthy’s son contacted Jaishree who in turn pinged Jai Kumar and Jai Kumar whatsapped Sandhya. She put out help; Sowmya Bhat in Germany picked it up and asked her brother in law Sri Krishna Bhat to go check on Mr. Murthy. In parallel, Bay Area native Sridhar a family friend, reached out to Jaishree, looking for his brother in law Murali.
Jaishree and Jai Kumar were looking for Sridhars brother in law in Eekattuthangal defense colony via Sandhya. On a couple of very intense morning hours for the two Bay Area residents, Sandhya reported Murali called his daughter and confirmed he was safe. Sandhya recently told Jaishree, the lady who started the website is Sowmya Rao. She was working on a Google spreadsheet first and they were all getting folks to use it on Twitter. Then Karthik Balakrishnan approached her for data and he was the first tech guy who bought the chennairains.org domain and set it up for fund relief.
Jaishree is now coordinating volunteers using Whatsapp and Facebook connecting with the relief efforts of noted South Indian Actress Suhasini Maniratnam and ace cinematographer Jayendra Panchapakesan.