Just Make Chennai Dry

Outside the Chennai apartment building where my late father, Daddykins, once went about his life, runs a river. Daddykins estimates—from his perch over fat rain clouds hovering above the flooded city—that it’s fifteen feet wide and three feet deep.

From his rust-orange sofa behind the pearly gates, he whistles at the sight of the river, noting that Jeeva Park, his old stomping ground, is now an island, with the peepal tree and the Ganesha rising out of its center.

“My arrival in heaven could not have been better timed, in retrospect,” he says to his friend Peter. “I could not have gone walking for all of November.” They chuckle.

Daddykins hands him a stainless steel cup of his best Amudha coffee. Peter’s wings flutter a little. “This is heaven,” he says, between sips. Daddykins nods. “Yes, indeed, it’s heaven,” he says, with a smile.

Daddykins looks down at his town again. “You know, if a city in America had been flooded in the way Chennai has been whipped, just about everyone—the Red Cross, the US Army, the Air Force, the Navy Seals, all kinds of doctors with and without borders, and all the press, including CNN, NBC, ABC, Al Jazeera, BBC, Doordarshan, NDTV, Barkha Dutt, Oprah, Amanpour, you name it—would have flooded the city a day later. The fellows would have put up their cameras and lenses and braced for the rain and thunder in their raincoats and hardhats and broadcast a million stories.”

Peter shrugs. “Which is why I banned all media here.” He picks up The Hindu that Daddykins has been reading. He peers at a photo. “Boats in T. Nagar?” He lets out a cackle. “Since when?”

Daddykins laughs. “Yes, like Uber here in Heaven. Ola started a boat service. Each boat is manned by two rowers and ferries five to nine people.” He taps Peter on the arm. “Listen, now the Chennai airport has shut down too,” he says. “I need to do something.” He gestures to Peter. “WE need to do something. Wait, can’t you do something from up here?”

“I can’t turn off the rain, buddy, you know that.” Peter says, picking up his cell phone. “That’s not my department.” He inches closer to Daddykins. “And, Indra is so moody. Like Putin," he says in a low voice. "He can do whatever the heck he wants but he won’t take advice from anyone. Certainly not from me.”

Daddykins edges forward in his seat. “But you can put in a word with Surya? C’mon, you’re pals with that flashy god at least?”

Peter squints up at the sun. He smiles at Daddykins. He straightens up and peers at his face on his phone camera and picks at his snow-white beard. He adjusts his halo and dusts his wings.

“I don’t care what you do, Peter,” Daddykins says to him, shaking his hand and hurrying him on. “Just make Chennai dry.”

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