A room of one’s own is considered a basic necessity for a good life. But having one’s own space to work, study and rest and a guarantee of privacy are a dream that is seemingly unattainable for many in Chennai. At a time when the city’s real estate price seems to be skyrocketing, there are still many families who live in a single room in Chennai, without a proper roof and any ventilation.
For these residents, the dream is not to build or buy a big multi-storey house, but merely call a space home where they can stretch their legs and sleep in peace. They dream, not of luxurious apartments with swimming pools, but of a house which would not be flooded during the yearly monsoons.
For decades, they have been living on the streets and in makeshift thatched-roof houses. They have survived heavy rains, floods and even cyclones in Chennai. “But, for how long should we live in fear!” asks Suganthi R, a resident of Kannappar Thidal, a makeshift settlement for over 120 families since 2002.
Shobana Radhakrishnan is a Senior Reporter at Citizen Matters. Before moving to Chennai in 2022, she reported for the national daily, The New Indian Express (TNIE), from Madurai. During her stint at TNIE, she did detailed ground reports on the plight of migrant workers and the sorry-state of public libraries in addition to covering the renowned Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections (2021) and Rural Local Body Polls (2019-2020). Shobana has a Masters degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Pondicherry Central University and a Bachelors in English Literature. She keenly follows the impact of development on vulnerable groups.
For 11 years, tsunami survivors here had been living in temporary shelters, in sorry conditions. Now even those have been destroyed, supposedly to make way for houses to be built for them. But TNSCB hardly gave them any notice and they have nowhere to go.