Cyclone Vardah

Imagine, over the span of 40 years, watching a forest grow from delicate saplings to towering trees.

That is the power of nature.

Yet, with a strong gust of wind and some drops of water, everything is ruined.

That too is the power of nature.

We work at a zoo; we understand nature and its fury. Be it in the form of a ravenous crocodile tearing apart its prey, an angry mama monkey protecting her child, or even the persistent bandicoot gnawing through four inches of wood to get to an uneaten apple, we appreciate nature in all its glory.

Yet we are human too. We place value on our creations and feel despair when they are taken from us.

On December 11, we joked about the Cyclone Vardah that was going to hit the coast, according to the weather reports.

“Cyclone var-daa???” (In Tamil, this coincidentally translates to “is the cyclone coming?”)

The next day, the joke was on us.

For about 12 straight hours, strong winds flung branches, leaves, and bits of roofing in every direction, plastering any available surface with a layer of wet dirt and debris. As the day went on, the wind increased its speed persistently, diligently working to detach every leaf from its branch and every branch from its trunk.


As night fell upon us, we curled up onto our damp beds and were lulled to sleep by the constant mist of rain on our faces and the sudden cracks of slamming windows. Every startling sound reminded us that we were nothing but tiny humans; a product of the same Mother Nature that now left us cowering under her wrath.

The next morning was something else…

The sun glared mockingly at us. Birds were happily chirping. The air was dry and still. It was as if nature just showed off, laughed in our face, and walked away.

Unfortunately, the tranquil weather was juxtaposed with the masses of damage that lie before us.

In addition to the damage to all the buildings, the cyclone uprooted many of the trees that were lovingly planted 40 years back by our same director. And a few hours were enough to undo all of that work.


Yet from every storm, a new seed can germinate.

In the weeks following the cyclone, we experienced teamwork at its finest. About 20 extra people from the village lent themselves to help us clear the debris and get back up and running.

After the first few days, we were all working together, laughing together, and chanting together! What else could we do but make the best of it?

As I reflect on the experience, I must say that working together to rebuild the Croc Bank was a heartwarming and memorable experience. Our rebuilding efforts are still going on today, four weeks after the cyclone, yet things are looking much better. Although we have lost many large trees and therefore much of the canopy, we have been able to clean up the mess and keep moving forward.

And guess what? 40 years from now, the saplings that we plant today will once again grow to inspiring heights!

Take care 🙂

Avan will have the fantastic opportunity to work among over 2,000 beautiful reptiles and amphibians. Her placement lies at the intersection of her love for science and education, deep interest in development work, and lifelong love for animals. She aims to learn from the experts and be able to form a practical waste management strategy, supported by experimental results. Avan is excited to finally visit South India, meeting new people, tasting the cuisines, and indulging in the culture of the community where she will be staying. Prior to AIF, Avan has served as co-president of a student organization called SHARE, which sends unused, surplus medical supplies from local hospitals to under-supplied clinics abroad. She has also participated in the Critical Language Scholarship program to learn Hindi.

You Might Also Like

One thought on “Cyclone Vardah

  1. Avan, this is a very inspiring blog about resilience. Despite this tragedy, you never lost hope or gave up. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Us

Stay up to date on the latest news and help spread the word.

Get Involved

Our regional chapters let you bring the AIF community offline. Meet up and be a part of a chapter near you.

Join a Chapter

Help us help those in need.

Subscribe to newsletter

Become a Fundraiser or Donate to Light a LAMP

Skip to content