12 AM ( 0000 hrs) Between 12th and 13th Feb : A few of us were sitting in the college library reinforcing our management ideals. By 11 :59 , just when the closing bell was rung, our security guards came running in, frantically yelling “Firing!!” four times. That was too unusual under any standards. Instantly our minds ran through an intricate network of images and recent memories. Could firing mean a terrorist attack near Great Lakes? Simultaneously a few more neurons negated the thought telling that Chennai could not be a football field for terrorists …yet. For a moment, the grey cells reprocessed the word “Firing” – this time adding facts like the variations in the word usage , and thus removed ‘-ing’ . “Fire” , throbbed the gut. All of us rushed to the college gate and what we saw shook us momentarily.
The workers colony which is located just left of the turning ahead of the college gate was up in flares. The houses were not the concrete kinds and were made up of organic matter – all an easy fuel for any kind of splinter. The flames, engulfing the shelters , were standing tall and threatened to take on the adjacent houses along . Cables , trees , window panes and curtains of adjoining pukka houses were already caught in the onslaught . It was midnight and the blaze killed all darkness around painting a heart-sinking, scary picture. Loud explosions from Freon cylinders of the neighbors’ air conditioners sliced through the midnight quiet. The inhabitants of the four houses were all out into the street looking helplessly at all their belongings getting swallowed by the ruthless conflagration. There were men, women and children. The elders were trying in vain to douse the fire by splashing water from buckets that were getting filled at the nearby tube well. But it was too little an arm against the monstrous inferno that would not budge. The fire brigade arrived . However it was too late . Within a matter of an hour or so the dwellings were reduced into a barren ground carrying the charred remains of the homes that once used to be. The occupants, some crying at the huge loss were inconsolable at first .They took shelter in one of the temples close by.
The next morning saw Great Lakers pouring in immediate support to the victims. A central aid team was formed who talked with the victims, the mayor and others concerned to understand the ways through which help could be channelized. A fund collection cell was formed and generous contributions from all the students, faculty and staff poured in at once. Great Lakes Management announced an equal contribution to all the collected fund . By evening , the core team expanded and went on collecting used /unused clothes, utensils , utilities etc . to make sure that the basic requirements were immediately taken care of. Within a span of half a day a considerably large relief package was ready for deployment.
The rest is history…
(Suryya Sarkar, Class of ’09)