My city celebrated its 371st birthday a few weekends back. From Madrasapattinam to Madras to Chennai (I personally like Madras the best of the lot) the city has come a long way. Though largely unpopular for its conservative nature and relatively slow paced lifestyle, when bench marked with other metros, we Chennaiites like it this way, just the same. Chennai just wouldn’t be Chennai without all of that. And the Cooum. The “machi” slang. The haggling, over charging auto drivers. The scorching sun. And so many more!
Chennai is just a misunderstood city.
Then I wonder, what do we see in Chennai that the rest of the country misses?
Life is slower than usual here. We know our neighbours, their extended families, their joys and sorrows. We feed their kids, dogs and fishes when they are on vacation/late from work.
Our weddings are sober, silent events, but they are magical in their own way. A death, in contrast, is accompanied by loud, characteristic, one-of-a-kind music and dance.
The trains are less crowded. The buses are more frequent. When you call some unknown stranger “Anna” a brotherly bond suddenly springs into place, and stays till you say “thanks anna!”
We are obsessed with getting a medical degree or an engineering degree. Every family MUST have kids studying or intending to study either of these. Or they are frowned down upon. Words like ‘lesbian’ and ‘sex’ freak us out big time, and our pubs are mandated to close at 12 midnight.
The city has something for everybody. When I am absolutely bankrupt, I can go to the beach and still have the time of my life, without having to spend a single penny. Man, we adore our beaches!
WE HAVE RAJINIKANTH! In which sane world would you have people investing cores of money on a 60 year old hero? To most people here, Rajini is next to God. A Rajini movie should be watched in a theatre on the first day of its release, at least once in a lifetime. Experience electricity!
The Sun is at its best here. After freezing for four hours in the air-con, the sun is an unasked-for boon. “Soak” is the word to use. We love you, sun-dude!
We boast about the ECR like it is our family property. Imagine driving (read-racing) down a never ending road, with the endless sea on one side, and innumerable recreations on the other- from movies to paint ball to restaurants that cater to every cuisine and every interest.
We have a Sowcarpet which is a mini Mumbai in itself. We have Mylapore where you find a temple in every street. We have Express Avenue which is South Asia’s biggest mall. And we have Ranganathan street, where at any given time you will find atleast 5000 shoppers who will risk being trampled/suffocated to shop.
We have Vedanthangal- a bird sanctuary where birds fly from all over the world to roost every year. We have a croc bank where any homeless crocodile can find a home. We have a zoo (which I’d rather not recommend) and a national park. And an IIT which I highly recommend visiting. And a NIFT, which has such colourful classrooms and infrastructure- that every movie based on college/school life has a scene filmed there. We have the MIT and the Anna University (which churned out prodigies like our beloved APJ Abdul Kalam).
We have Kodambakkam- The heart of Tamil Cinema (I will not use the term “Kollywood”). We have AR Rahman, who springs surprise after surprise on us, and we love him for it!
We have the Moore market and the Burma Bazaar, where you can get anything that is not exactly “legal”. We have police men, some with hearts and some with deep pockets. And we have auto men who would make great lawyers.
We speak a language that is the national language of many other countries- Srilanka, Malaysia, and the like. And despite its complexity, our favourite costume is the saree. Well, it can be worn to cover, or worn to reveal. It can be both, the most decent or the most indecent outfit a woman could wear.
The ants and kuruvis (sparrows) make a meal out of our kolams everyday. And we love the variety that our cuisine offers us! To those who don’t know: we DO eat dishes other than Idly and Dosa. From uthappam to pongal to vadai- there is a lot unexplored by those who haven’t heard of these yet.
I want to write more but this post is a month old and crying out loud to be published. This list is just a glimpse of my city- It is a lovely place, sadly, very misunderstood. I love it, nevertheless.