Crowdsourcing your way into a little faith in humanity

How apt that this week saw discussions about Climate Change in Paris, WordPress brings out this Daily Prompt asking us about Climate Control and the past couple of days, my city of Chennai is literally under waters?

As a kid growing up, I loved the monsoon that gave rise to cool nighttime breeze and as I grew, the monsoons too started fading away, and I would enjoy the mild chill only to realize that this would mean another year of droughts in the summer.
But this year, Chennai has witnessed historic levels of rain, brought on by depressions in the Bay of Bengal. With torrential rain the past few weeks topped off (like cherries on a cake) by an incessant 20-something cm of rain in 24 hours, the city is grappling with floods and stagnation. Early this week, some of my family had shared photos of water levels rising up inside their houses, friends’ families had relocated to higher grounds. I say early this week, because since the last time I spoke to the fam, there has been no electricity and hence saving up on energy for emergency communications. I could share those images and make an appeal, but that is not what this post is about.

In fact, I’m sure searching #ChennaiRains on Twitter will show you a collection of images of various parts of the city submerged, of boats on roads, and rivers overflowing across bridges.
However, you will also see photos of people helping each other out; and to me, these are some of the most touching photos and stories I’ve seen recently. Images that makes you rethink about the future of humanity – there is some hope after all. This post is mostly about the coordinated efforts of people coming together to play a part in helping out, and this hasn’t ceased to amaze me.

As the rain clouds tore apart normalcy of the city, people opened their hearts and homes to help those who needed it. And a lot of the efforts have been coordinated over the internet, demonstrating the power of social networks. It probably began with crowdsourcing help for stranded folks that grew into an international volunteer drive of people collating relief numbers, people who had medical emergencies to distribution of food. In fact, one group of people are having portable power chargers donated to Chennai since much of the city has had no electricity for hours. I am amazed at how people put together google documents and websites detailing all those willing to help in different ways to creating updating maps of levels of floods across the city. People took to twitter to reach out for help – yes 140 characters can indeed bring about help. 140 characters creates a powerful message.

And folks here, took to reaching out to the different helplines to make sure this message was relayed. It was a huge game of telephone, with a real-life crisis. These are the people who brought about rays of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy and grey situation. Good Samaritans abound Facebook and Twitter, thank you. You know you have done something positive and we are indeed grateful.


You know, one of the quirky quaint things about Chennai is the assurance of obtaining a bus ticket by passing along Rupee coins in chain. Stranger-to-stranger until it reaches the conductor and back again. Much like that, Chennai has leapt into action, relying on stranger-to-stranger communication, with the uniting force being let’s help the fellow Chennaiites.


While it might sound like a distant note, this incident is far from over. There is still rising water levels, and lakes overflowing and people stranded. Chennai needs help.


And as people discuss climate change in Paris this week, take note of how lack of sustainable city planning can create a huge mess. With no proper drainage systems and unabashed land development, excess water of course, obeys the laws of physics. We need smarter planning in the future.


As I’m sitting in Philly, watching it drizzle outside the window, I can only imagine what it must be like to have your house inundated with water, bringing in fish and snakes and countless other potential diseases. I’m sure this will pass on in a couple of weeks ( not the mental images of destruction, no), but until then, stay safe, Chennai.


(While I initially hesitated putting up a link, I am putting this one here, just in case it helps :


Also linking another great blog post mentioning some of the amazing things people have done to help.


6 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing your way into a little faith in humanity

  1. I couldn’t digest the fact that the city has been declared disaster zone. 😦 More rain in next 48 hrs… I am feeling helpless sitting in calif. All I am doing is retweeting and sharing fb posts. Hope Madras recovers soon.


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