rain maker

Cyclone Nada brings rainfall to Tamil Nadu, reviving hopes for good crop and memories of flood

National Disaster Response Force teams have been deployed as precaution against cyclonic damage.

Residents of Tamil Nadu are watching Cyclone Nada as it makes its way towards the state’s coastline with a mixture of relief and apprehension.

After a disappointing monsoon, steady rain doused parts of Tamil Nadu, including Chennai, as the cyclone made its way across the Bay of Bengal on Thursday. Overcast skies, cool breeze and the showers have lifted the hopes of farmers, who bore the brunt of the inadequate rainfall in November. The cyclone is expected to land between Vedaranniyam, a town on the state’s coast, and the union territory of Puducherry early on Friday, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

However, the deluge in Chennai and other parts of the state in December last year, which killed nearly 300, is still fresh in the minds of residents, who are hoping that the state administration and municipal body will be better prepared this year to handle heavy rainfall.

By Thursday afternoon, reports said the cyclone had weakened to a “deep depression”, though private forecaster Skymet Weather has said that Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai and its surrounding areas will continue to experience heavy showers as the cyclonic system moves northwest.

Preparing for the worst

Tamil Nadu receives the bulk of its rainfall during the retreating North East monsoon, which arrived in the state after a week’s delay on October 31. However, the monsoon failed to bring much-needed respite to the state, recording an over 80% deficit and the state is facing a water crisis. The neighbouring Union territory of Puducherry has not had better luck – seeing an 84% deficit in rainfall.

While the showers could help reverse the declining lake levels in the state, private weather forecaster AccuWeather has predicted the possibility of heavy flooding across a large parts of southern India through the weekend. But S Balachandran, Director of Area Cyclone Warning Centre in Chennai, told The Hindu, “While there will be fairly widespread rains till Friday in most parts of coastal Tamil Nadu, there may not be torrential downpour like last year.”

Tamil Nadu’s School Education Department had announced holidays for schools in six districts across the state on Thursday and Friday. Schools are also shut in Puducherry for these two days. Fishermen have been warned not to venture out into the sea, as the water is expected to be rough along and off the coast.

Tamil Nadu authorities told the media that necessary precautionary measures have been taken. According to reports, teams from the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed in the coastal districts as a precautionary measure, while the Western Naval Command said it is on alert.

Disaster prevention measures have also been stepped up near the coastal village of Kille in Cuddalore district, where the cyclone is expected to land. “The revenue department has been giving us regular updates about the weather,” said Neethi Mani, one of the leaders of the fisherfolk in Kille.

But Mani said that although the lives of the fisherfolk were not in danger, the same cannot be said about their livelihoods. The fishermen fear that strong winds will tear apart their boats and sweep away their fishing nets.

“This region is hit by a cyclone almost once in every year,” said Neethi Mani. “Cyclone Thane destroyed all the fishing equipment, for which we fisherfolk invest over Rs 5 lakh totally. These cyclones take away our year-long savings in one day.” Cyclone Thane hit the coast of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on December 31 last year, killing at least 33.

Will it be enough?

South Indian farmers are heavily dependent on the North East monsoon for water for irrigation. According to the Met department, Tamil Nadu receives 48% of its annual rainfall in this period, while Kerala and Karnataka receive about 20%.

The farmers thus have welcomed the rainfall with relief.

However, some are sceptical about whether this will make up for the shortfall in November. “It did not rain at all in November, said K Shanmugan, a farmer from Chinnaippet village of Kanchipuram district. “Only yesterday, it began to drizzle a little. If it continues to rain this way, our lakes will never fill up.”

Credit: India Meteorological Department
Credit: India Meteorological Department

Shanmugam said that the farmers of this region usually irrigate their crops through the excess water discharged from overflowing lakes. This is sent to the villages through a series of channels. “Those who can afford pump sets sowed their crop earlier this season,” said Shanmugam. “Many others were waiting for signs of rain to even begin sowing.”

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.