Well done, Chennaiites!

Chennaiites have been living by John F Kennedy’s exhortation to Americans in the 50s – ”Ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for the country.”

Reading all about how Chennaiites reached out to those in need from day 1 amid all trying circumstances, going beyond religious and other narrow considerations, fills me with joy and elation. This is the kind of India that will lead to progression of the country!

JFK quoteCalamities do always bring out the best of humanity. A united society in the best of times, not just in times of despair, is an ideal climate.

If I  had been living in Chennai during this difficult period, I will never have ventured out to participate in relief work. I may have good intentions but it is not in my personality to be in the midst of social action. I will have merely confined myself to the social media!

The city owes it to the good samaritans who thought beyond themselves and brought relief to rain victims defying all odds. Help came in from neighbouring States, too, and countries such as Singapore! The U.S. offered help as well.

How YMCA Lost its Way: I remember during my time in Chennai the YMCA had adapted JFK’s quote in its campaigns with: ”Ask not what the YMCA can do for you, ask what you can do for the YMCA.” 

It has been an organisation powered by both Christians and non-Christians to serve society. They seldom failed to rally teams to help the under-privileged.

But corrupt YMCA leaders have also ripped the organisation apart, lolling in luxury with looted wealth. Those selfless, capable leaders always faced pressure from the incompetent, corrupt people who could not think beyond their families. 

I am proud, though, that my father stayed loyal to the organisation and its ideals till the very end, leading a life rooted in simplicity and humility.

I am not sure what the YMCA has been doing during the current Chennai crisis. A pity that self-seeking leaders have turned this well-meaning organisation upside down! 

I hope they have been doing some good work silently without seeking publicity. Many philanthropists and celebrities have been doing this without publicising it. Their motives should hardly matter as long as the affected are served well.

Poor Disaster Response: Back to the rain, I cannot help saying the local government has been appalling in its reaction to the crisis as well as failing to do enough in terms of building infrastructure that could have mitigated the effect of the natural calamity. Here is a media report that highlights the blunders committed by the government.

Worse, the disaster was even used as an opportunity to market Chief Minister Jayalalitha. Authorities ensured the water bottles and food packets they organised had images of Jayalalitha plastered all over, according to some reports.

The delays in getting the image-built wrappers appeared to even have resulted in food getting spoilt. All the MPs from Tamil Nadu representing her party happily stayed in Delhi without taking the effort to return to Chennai and connect with their constituents.

G Joslin Vethakumar


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