Tag Archives: #wildfire

Weltschmerz

As if flipping pages in a magazine, I riffle through the recent pages of my life quickly and without close attention. Now entering the eighth month of sheltering-in-place due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I am tired of it all: tired of social isolation; tired of staying home, tired of reading charts and numbers documenting cases, deaths, and available ICU beds; tired of seeing how we are (or are not) measuring up to the rest of the world; tired of dissent between medical experts, scientists, and politicians; tired of a President who feeds us “really big” lies—“…children are almost immune to this disease…” or, “I tell you, it’s just going to go away…poof.”

And I am sad: sad for our economy; sad for those who have lost their livelihoods and their homes; sad for those who are hungry; sad for those who cannot continue the education they deserve; and sad for those who continue to work despite fear of becoming infected—those who take care of us, feed us, teach us. I am also sad for our vulnerable children and young people who are trying to grow up in this crazy time—toddlers neglected by parents who are working full time from home while doing their best to serve both employer and family. I am sad for teen-agers, bored by months of “lockdown” and social isolation, who are now finding escape in “wilding,” driving too fast, and eschewing masks, and sad for new college grads whose dreams have been dashed. I am sad kids who just want to play ball with their teams, perform with their orchestras, and follow their youthful passions. I am sad for people whose loved ones are dying alone in hospitals, and mothers who give birth, but cannot hold their newborn babies.

I feel sorry for celebrations missed, wedding plans dashed, funerals postponed, college days lost, and vacations that could have been. I feel bad that fear keeps us from doctors, dentists, and therapists, or from going to the grocery store, gym, barbershop, or manicurist. Life is too short, too dear, to put on hold. 

But most of all, I am sad for the lives lost, a multitude of deaths, both in our own backyards and around the world, lives that were snuffed out as quickly as blowing out a candle; some never had a chance to shine. As of today, 1.04 million lives around the world have been taken by the Coronavirus—210,00 in the United States and 102,685 in India.

The thought of continued social isolation, closed access, mask-wearing, illness, fear, and economic collapse is almost too much to bear. To add to this misery, our beautiful America is now on fire. There are currently (September 13, 2020) ninety-four—yes, ninety-four—large wildfires burning across several Western states. In California, most of the fires are due to a combination of drought conditions plus lightning strikes.

President Trump once again incorrectly blamed California for the fires. “…you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests,” he said, neither seeming to understand that lightning strikes caused a majority of the fires, nor that most of California’s forests and parks are federally managed. He went on to say, “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them (California) pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”  It’s all just too much.

There is a German word, weltschmerz, that sums up what I am feeling. It is an amalgam of two words, world plus pain, and means weariness, sadness, frustration, and yearning caused by the reality of the world as it really is rather than the way it should, or could be. I am suffering from weltschmerz, not only due to this pandemic, not only due to the fires, but also due to the current state of our country where the difference between black and white has once again reared its ugly head, and where we can watch…from the comfort of our couches…black people pleading for their lives as they are being murdered or hunted down by our own policemen, and in turn policemen being gunned down by anti-police mobs. We see immigrants fleeing desperate situations being turned back from our borders, their families often separated. How can we ever forget children in cages? 

Then there is the state of the world, our poor, war-weary world, that we can also watch from the comfort of our couches, as it is being destroyed, as people are being killed and babies are dying, as refugee camps are growing. Not a pretty sight, our world right now.

Weltschmerz. A good word, a necessary word. I need a few days to wallow in the misery that now surrounds us, and to pray for better. I need to immerse myself in the sadness of our state, our country, our world. It is not my nature to put on a happy face non-stop for months on end. I need to mourn the losses all around me, and to help carry the weight of the world, if only metaphorically. It keeps me from crying and will help get me through the months ahead.

Weltschmerz.


Pauline Chand is a senior writer who enjoys sharing stories with her grandchildren.

Comforting Thoughts Through Scary Times

As I sit in my family room, looking out at the smokey, orange skies of the San Francisco Bay Area, I can’t help but think about my child with special needs.

It has been 8 months since we have been stuck at home due to COVID. This morning, September 9, 2020, at 11 am, when I woke up, it looked like dawn. When I drew open my bedroom curtains, I saw the sky in bright orange color. I had never seen anything like it before.

I quickly looked at the weather on Google it said that the clouds covered the smoke which traveled during the night and will eventually open up the skies around 5 pm.  I then looked up the weather in Cloverdale, CA. It was 81 degrees with clear blue skies!  I was comforted that my daughter, Siri would be moving there soon, in early 2021.

As a parent of an Autistic child, I worry about her future. 180,000 adults live at home with their parents.  Siri, a 27-year-old young lady lives with us, her parents, and her two younger brothers at home.  

About 90 miles away from San Francisco is Cloverdale, in a small town in the beautiful Sonoma County, rests Clearwater Ranch. Their mission is to provide life-long housing and community that empowers developmentally disabled adults to live their lives to the fullest potential with dignity, purpose, and joy. What a comforting feeling.

Our family along with a few other like-minded families are working actively, partnering with a non-profit, Living Unlimited, to design, develop and implement a life-long housing solution for our loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

So as the skies burn, I think about the future. The future of my daughter, of disabled people, of seniors, and of myself. I have committed my time and my life to securing my children’s future. Have you?


Swathi Chettipally is a devoted mother and an Autism advocate. Find more about her work with Siri on PinterestInstagram, and Youtube.

This Bay is on Fire

Local families have been checking the news daily for evacuation orders since fires broke out in Northern California over two weeks ago, on August 15th. With over 1.4 million acres burned in two weeks, fire containment was barely in the 10% range for the first few days, with Evacuation Orders and Warnings given to many Bay Area counties.  

Krishna Parthasarathy drove to Fairfield to check his in-law’s home, as they were out of town. “There were cops all around,” he said. “We had to say we had to evacuate the cat. This is not the first time this has happened.” 

Mr. Parthasarathy tried to think about what his in-laws would want him to take. He cleared out the puja room. Every single thing, including the mandap, hand-stitched Bhagavad Gita paintings, and photos of the acharyas.

Face masks and sanitation supplies were the top two items on evacuation packing lists found online. With California reaching­ over 700,000 COVID cases this was a stark reminder that families concerned about the survival of their homes must also take precautions with their physical health. 

Padma Srinivasan of Fremont could not see down the street from her home, which was in an evacuation warning zone. “What happened was one day, it got so bad. The road going from our house is a little narrow. So, we left,” said Ms.  Srinivasan. “I took some essential things. Some things that are sentimental and some things that are valuable.”

After the fires started, the Air Quality Index for many districts went past 170, well into the Unhealthy range. Yaamini Rao, who lives up the Peninsula, was woken up by the lighting that first Sunday. Since then she has been staying indoors. “You can see the haze all over. It smells like an endless campfire,” said Ms. Rao.

CAL FIRE lifted the Evacuation Orders and Warnings for Alameda and  San Joaquin counties as of August 31st regarding the SCU Lightning Complex fires, which is at 60% containmentSanta Clara County continues to have warnings in place but many are in the process of being lifted.  Santa Cruz County has begun Phase 4 repopulation where fire containment is at 39%. The LNU Lightning Complex fires are at 66% containment. “The firemen are doing a fantastic job,” said Ms. Srinivasan. “We owe a lot to them.” 

This experience has prompted many to reflect on what is valuable and important and essential. “We have so many possessions and they can become a burden. We don’t need that much to live, you know?,” said Ms. Srinivasan. “When we go to Yama, Yama does not let us bring a suitcase. We go empty-handed,” said Mr. Parthasarathy.

Here are some resources to check on the fires if you’re in an affected region: CAL FIRE, CalTopo (California Topographical Maps), WildFire Information, Cal Fire SCU Twitter, Cal Fire CZU Twitter, Cal Fire LNU Twitter, Air Quality, Evacuation List.

Check out the previous India Currents’ article on disaster preparedness!


Sree Sripathy is a photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.