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Published: December 12th 2018
We have been following news of the nearby cyclone for several days, continuing travelling not too far from its changing path, wondering if our little group would be detoured to keep out of harm's way. Other than our windy and slightly wet lunch in Mahabalipuram, and seeing the ocean with its angry waves, we have been very lucky with our travel timing. Yesterday afternoon our group arrived safely in Thanjavur, where the cyclone had hit between midnight and 4AM this morning. The hotel was open, running by generators, but trees and power lines were down, limbs and whole trees broken off and lying across roads, power lines hanging lower than a person's waist. The city was a mess; everything was closed except for our hotel. At the last count I heard eighteen people had already been killed by this cyclone. Staff was short as many were cleaning up at their homes or helping others elsewhere, trying to get this city of 200,000 people back to normal. When we arrived our bus could only pull partway into the hotel's driveway, its being blocked by large debris from the storm, but barely an hour later the entrance was totally cleared and the decorative lights outlining the roof of the hotel were shining in the twilight, announcing to the public that at least here was one place to come, for shelter or food, a beacon of refuge after the storm.
I wondered why we had come here, knowing that the city had been so recently in the direct path of the cyclone, but others thought where else would we have gone? We are so catered to, the minimal staff making sure our rooms were ready and that dinner was served on time, but we were not the only ones staying here this night. There was no wifi; the internet wouldn't be restored for almost two days, but everything else needed or desired was made ready for all of us guests. I was very impressed with the cleanup efforts outside; where the tree limbs and fallen debris had been taken was not for us to know. And when the power was restored it was a seamless transition; very few were aware when the switch back to live power was made. By our second day even the pool area had been cleared of debris and families were enjoying watching their children play in the water. Everything had been taken care of without our knowing or even our offering to help. Most likely no one would have accepted it anyway. So we spoiled Westerners went about as if nothing had happened, enjoying our uninterrupted lives and our travels, even though I felt discomforted knowing that while we continued to enjoy such ease, people had lost their homes, their lives. This enormous disconnect was disturbing, but there is also a huge void simply between what we Americans always expect to have and experiencing much of the real India.
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