Jallikattu is the word of the month in Chennai. Before January 2017, this word just meant the sport played during Pongal in Tamil Nadu. But today, this word for many means Positivity, Strength, unity, Protest, Victory and Chaos. Personally, I do not know which word to associate myself with and I am nonchalant about this whole issue. I assumed the protests to end on Sunday (22nd Jan) as a fresh week was ahead and also the news articles were claiming that protesters were asked to leave that night! I am positive that the breed I belonged to, assumed the protests would end and planned their Monday just the way I did!
I had a school visit scheduled for Monday and I left the Report Bee office around 10:30 AM with Pallavi. We managed to reach our destination well before the expected time and had a successful visit. I love visiting schools just for their infrastructure and feel.
As we came out of our meeting from the school, we heard about the protests being continued in the city. The well-organized silent protests had suddenly become violent! We got news that the ice house police station vehicles was burnt and there was complete chaos in the city!
Obviously, reading news like this, Pallavi and I wanted to head back to office immediately! We booked a cab and left for office. The cab driver, was an active participant of the protests. He had an A4 Sheet of paper stuck in his car saying “I SUPPORT JALLIKATTU” with a picture of the bull. On reading the news and looking at his active participation, I started having a conversation about what was happening. Our conversations were constantly interrupted with calls coming in, giving us updates on what was happening in each area and families asking us to get home soon. With one of the calls the driver got, I overheard him saying he was heading straight back home! (I had to find out if he stayed near Kotturpuram. Just to make sure!)
Me: “Anna, where do you stay?”
Driver: “Ponneri! You guys get down here! I am going home.”
Me: (attempt of creating a sentimental dialogue) “Anna, 2 girls travelling alone. We do not know this area also. Only you can drop us safely. Please reconsider and drop us!”
Driver: “No Madam. I need to get home! I am sorry!”
Me: “Alright. Please drop us at the nearby bus stand atleast. Incase, we do not get another cab, we can take the bus back!”
We managed to book another cab and reach office safely. On our way, we spotted a lot of route diversions causing traffic. Protests were happening in all areas! I have never felt unsafe in Chennai. But, that day at 1:00 PM in the afternoon I did!
I decided to leave home as soon as I reached office. Manasa (a new joinee in Report Bee) and I decided to walk it back home.
Walking back home I noticed that 100’s of people were stuck on the road, waiting patiently, not knowing what to do. The exact same situation I faced few hours back while coming back from the school visit. Just as how I felt unsafe, I realised that all these people waiting will be feeling the same too! I decided to spread some cheer and positivity as I was passing by and do my bit to ease tension. Here are the things I did on my way:
- Since I love to talk, I stopped and chatted with as many people as I could. My favourite of the lot was meeting an aunt and uncle waiting to go to Thiruvanmiyur. (Something told me they were on their way to see a potential bride/groom. Don’t ask me why! :)) Their car was stuck right in the middle. So, while I was talking to them, I told them to step out and get some tea from the nearby tea shop, in case they got hungry . They thought I was really sweet and cute suggesting that. I didn’t know how to tell them I was serious!
- I met a lot of my friends on the way. Funny way to catch up with long lost people! 🙂 I met my very own class teacher who taught accounts in class 12. She used to be one of my favourites! The joy I had while meeting her on the way was such a happy moment for me!
- We spotted so many vehicles still finding their way to Kotturpuram to head to various areas (Adyar, airport mainly). Manasa and I managed to get as many people as we could to reroute and find another way. They all thanked us and were grateful for the updates!
Yes, Chennai was chaotic on 23rd January. Yes, I did feel unsafe. But I learnt that given any situation there is always some positivity that can be created and I am happy my new friend taught me that.