Natural disaster damage & Climate change – Correlation does not imply causation

Before I read this article why disasters cost more, I would emphatically told you climate change is causing more powerful disasters but after reading this I was nodding my head and was wondering what made me change my mind so quickly …

First a short story, I have a vivid picture of flood in Chennai in 1984 (did not recollect exact year, so used this page to guess), I did one KM walk with one of my elders cousins to watch Adyar river crest in the below area of the map. For those who are familiar with this area this a pillayar temple  right before Kasi Theater, Basically my recollection is water touched the temple but did not flood it (kind of black line)! I saw boats used to rescue folks on roads I would normally ride my bicycle and this left an deep impression in my young mind. Another reason why I remembered this well was at that time one my classmates Sundar lived in that area but I did not know where, so I left anxious thinking about him and until School reopened did not know their house flooded ground floor and even some water in first floor and he lost even some school stuff!


Next I was living and also running my own software consultancy in this very same area in 1996, when the next big cyclone stuck. With 1984 disaster vivid in my memory, I was following flooding news and one of the anecdotes I remembered from 1984 was they opened flood gates of Chembarambakkam lake without warning folks in low area and that is why lots of folks where caught unaware. By 1990s a huge flood wall was built along Adyar river ostensibly to prevent flooding but I instinctively knew 1984 kind of flood would mean the place I stayed would flood and everything we have would be destroyed by water. So when heard they were about to open the lake floodgates again without hesitation, I rented a mini-van moved all our belongs – Fridge/TV(we were a bunch of bachelors ) to slightly higher ground where we rented our office. All my neighbors where puzzled and maybe some even thought I was crazy (I generally come across as a bit reckless person but I am very pragmatic and cover my risks)! Guess what – River Adyar flooded again the same night and the place I rented was 7-8 foot deep in water, I was so relived.  Incidentally my friend Sundar also still lived in that area, he had moved his two wheeler out of the area and since they live in first floor not much damage. When we compared notes we felt 1984 flooding was worse than 1996.

Why this story ? It my belief that life experiences shape who we are – when I was wondering why I changed my mind so quickly it suddenly dawned on me that I have experienced life events that helped me, let me elaborate.  Probably 1984 caused a few causality but property damage was not huge, not many of those homes had Refrigerator, TV or two wheeler. Relatively in 1996 the damage would have been higher and if similar level flooding happens today the damage will be even higher, so the story resonated with me.

BTW I am firm believer in the science behind climate change and it is irrefutably caused by humans.

Ability to read diverse set of news and form opinion is important skill and being a news junkie, I have a pretty broad view on happenings around me and generally around the world.

PS It usually takes me ages (multiple days & sessions)  to compose and post a blog, an attempt to share a quick thought (it took me about 45 minutes in 3 sittings to finish this one)


Thrill of bicycle ride


Finally the week of 3/3/2014 ended-up being the time when one of my long cherished thoughts finally happened – “Anand & Aparna rode their bicycle to school on 3/3/2014” !!

Basically my childhood recollection is all filled with me cycling around Chennai. I remember learning to cycle first time  while visiting village  during summer vacation and I over ran and disturbed paddy organized after harvest  and got away without any trouble. But had to return home next day.  So for next few weekends I would religiously trek half a km  to rent “hour cycle” and enjoyed cycling in the neighborhood, I slowly transitioned from smaller cycle to normal sized cycle. When I was in 5th Standard I got my first BSA SLR and  was soon permitted to go to school on Cycle. I was  also tasked with taking my younger brother to school on pillion, that used to not go that well!  I started cycling around in about 10 Km radius from our house  and graduated to doing quite a bit of house chores after school or weekend – transport gas cylinders, Rice bags, ration purchase, vegetables from MGR Nagar market.  When my friends from school meet even today one of the stories that get narrated is how I conned everyone to cycle all they way from KK Nagar to what today is Padi flyover to play a cricket match with another team there! Cycling gave me independence and because I used to cycle so much I ended-up not being comfortable riding in crowded  city bus.  I would not have survived my college days in  Trichy or Coimbatore without a cycle, for me cycling is what made me who I am period.

So I was eagerly waiting for Anand to be of appropriate age, so that I could get him started on riding a cycle to school and as with most things Anand initially did not like the idea and I refused to give-up and finally something interesting happened. Every day Anand & Aparana use School organized private VAN for return to home segment alone. Since there was only handful of working days in March & April, Anand did not want to pay whole month of fee for  March & April.  I tried to explain to him that it is fair to pay the Van drivers the whole month because for services like these you cannot pick and choose which month you will use services and they make money only if Van is full. So he started proclaiming he will cycle to school if we did not pay  for the Van. We were in stalemate. Finally Navadisha made the decision to give a long break summer vacation from March 8th to June 10th 2014, so it came down to one week of school in March. So I stuck a deal with Anand that if both he and Aparna use their cycle then we will not use the Van for March. Once Anand accepted I had to coax reluctant Aparna to join in the fun. Finally they both cycled to school on 3/3/2014 and I led them on Scotty.

As an affluent parent living in India one of my concerns have been that my children are living in a protected bubble and how do I enable them to learn “life skills”. It is tough to know what is safe for your children. A twelve year old riding cycle alone  to school today is probably slightly more complicated than in 1980s but we see kids of all ages from more improvised background still independently walk in busy roads, ride bicycle  in traffic heavy roads etc. So lot of times it is our apprehensions that makes this protective bubble larger than it needs to be. It is easy to second guess others but hard to make these decisions when it is your children!   I have shared route map for their bicycle ride – here. Not sure if I would have taken this step if their school was in busy Velachery Main road. These hypothetical questions are hard to answer and I try not guess what I might do …

After the first day Anand said he will go school independently and so on the second day I ended riding another bicycle along with Aparna. Anand independently went to school and returned on 2 days and on the third day as he was about to start to school, he encountered his first flat Tyre! Now we are actively considering if he should go to school on cycle everyday. As I have written before I want to equip my kids with two things – ability to value fellow Human beings and develop life skills . With these two I believe  they will be equipped to deal with uncertainties in their chosen field and have chance at leading a happy life. 

To end this post thought I would share some comparisons –>  Anand is about 3 years behind me on cycling to school and Aparna is about year ahead of me!  My School ride was slightly more than 1 KM theirs was slightly more than 2 KM.