Fault-finding need not necessarily emerge from a dark place, but can also be an irrefutable sign of being invested in someone or something.
S Karpagam could see what was missing in the recent redemptive work on the Nandanam Canal (maintained by the Greater Chennai Corporation) as easily as one would a football. The Nandanam canal runs through Sathyamurthy Nagar, which emerged as a neighbourhood chock-a-block with TNHB flats for low income group in the 1980s. A resident of one of these flats, Karapagam has a greater engagement with the neighbourhood as she also runs a petty shop, one facing the Nandanam canal.
“This is our canal. It takes in the rainwater from our locality, and it flows at a fast clip during the rainy season, sometimes filled to the brim. There is another canal behind us (referring to the Mambalam Canal) which flows slowly, and that canal is not for us,” Karpagam clearly “owns” the Nandanam Canal. In truth, the Mambalam Canal and Nandanam Canal meet and form a union.
She wants to see a section of the wall that was broken down recently to let in a robotic excavator to clean the canal, rebuilt.
“Around two weeks ago, they did this, and there is nothing yet to convince us the wall will be rebuilt,” says Karpagam. She views the canal as traditional communities would a river with which they share space — a benefactor who can turn vile and virulent anytime.
“During 2015, the Nandanam Canal was bringing more water into the locality than it cleared from it. There was five feet of water in my shop,” says Karpagam, marking an imaginary line on the wall to denote the height of the damage. Another resident — D Lakshmi — recalls how the ground floor flats guzzled huge volumes of rainwater.
“Leaving the wall in this state is dangerous. If the rains are heavy, it will bring water into our neighbourhood. Besides, children peep into the canal, taking advantage of the broken section, and it can cause a mishap during the rains,” says Karpagam, adding the canal could also do with some more cleaning.
The further reaches of the Nandanam Canal that can be seen as one treads further into Sathyamurthy Nagar, display a high degree of squalor, with pigs muzzling around in the refuse.
The point where Nandaman Canal flows under Anna Salai may need a “scrub”. The culvert looks constricted, and the criss-cross of cables does not help its cause.