This post is a part of an initiative by Chennai Bloggers’ Club; a Facebook community for likeminded bloggers. Around 30 odd bloggers are writing about, What Chennai Means to Them.
This tag was previously taken up by Sahi Sridhar- http://sahisridhar.blogspot.in/ Sahithya who writes to the Rythm of the heart and thoughts of the mind.!!!
When Amma moved to Madras in 1985, she walked into a completely different place. For somebody who spent 23yrs in a carefree place like Bombay, she was in for what the modern world calls – Culture Shock. I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like moving in here, because her only connection with Madras was her maternal relatives and she hadn’t really spent a lot of time in this part of the world. So, every time I asked her, she told me the same thing; everything around me was different, people dressed differently, spoke differently (she has a prominent Palakkad accent, and I have inherited parts of it), nobody spoke English or Hindi, the roads were different, and even the water tasted different.
Once she finished telling me this, I would give her the tightest hug and say, acho pavame! Then she would feed me in with dreams about a wonderful glorious place called Bombay, where; you were free to do anything, you din’t have to pump water from a hand-pump at 2 in the morning, you could bunk college and travel by local trains, Panipuri, tasted like Panipuri, nobody cared about how you dressed or how you spoke, roads were made of concrete and the rains were beautiful. And we would finish this conversation singing – Madras otta Madras, Bombay nalla Bombay.
So while growing up; Bombay was my city of dreams, I always wanted to live in Bombay, go to the school right opposite the colony, travel by local trains, shop from the streets, and eat vada pav and kala-khatta gola all my life.
You get the picture right? This stuck with me through my formative years in Bangalore and even for half a decade after we moved to Madras. When we moved back to Madras from Bangalore in 1995, yourstruly was in for a shock. I couldn’t fathom why the house we chose to live in did not have my playmates and not have a garden or a swing.
In the meantime, I was doing my bit of exploring the city, I literally drove a van driver and conductor crazy by making them show me all around, Adyar, Besant Nagar and Indira Nagar in vain to spot the apartment my Perima was staying. And also by bunking Hindu School in class 3, and walking aimlessly through the streets of Indira Nagar not knowing where my house was. That’s when some Good Samaritan spot yourstruly and dropped me back home. (this time I had the address written in my handbook).
My real experiences began when I was enrolled in a stricter school which penalised students for having one little brown spot on a white canvas shoe. The discipline they instilled in me still runs in my blood. This place was a real eye opener, I spoke English which I enjoyed and also learnt proper Madras-Tamizh. I met a lot of likeminded people, read lots of books, honed my skills and generally grew up. I loved that place and never wanted to leave.
My next life changing experience was one school in the IIT Campus. If I were to describe it one Madras Tamizh word and get done with –it was plain Galeej. It was all that my previous one was not. This showed me the other side of Chennai city.
So by the time I started college, I was your proper Madras Ponnu, with an unmistakable Tam-brahm twang and a penchant for prim and proper English. I loved everything that was Madras; food, music, language, culture and people (mostly). I started spending more time on the streets than inside classrooms. I was experiencing a whole new wave of change and I quite liked it.
This is when I started feeling for the city, I started bonding more and it felt like home. Bombay suddenly had lost it charm, or atleast diminished by a huge margin. I started feeling more at home; I was one among the Tamizh speaking junta around, I knew the city like the back of my hand. I could recommend places, things to do and be an encyclopaedia in my own right.
Today, 17yrs down the line; I cannot imagine life outside this city. I know that I can be safe at 10 in the night, a walk on the beach can clear my head, that praying in Ratnagirishwar Kovil can have a burden heaved off my chest, that I can buy a fortune on the streets of T-Nagar, and I can have the best Panipuri in Nungambakkam!
I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life roaming around the streets, soaking up whatever it has to offer and I know that this my city, my home and the only place on planet earth where I will feel comfortable in my own skin without any pretences.
As I finish writing this, I realise that I have to pack my bags and move to a city that’s like 1700Km away from home in exactly 3 months. I’m filled with the same kind of apprehension Amma would have felt 27yrs ago when she was moving to Madras.
Until then, I’ll catch up on the bits I’ve missed out, visit places I’ve loved visiting again, I’ll soak in the unforgiving sun, run on the beach, eat cotton candy and molaga bajji, will swear in chaste Tamizh at as many auto drivers and motorists as possible.
I will carry a part of the city with me and I will look back at it with the fondest memories. I will do what Amma did to me; spin tales about a place that has world’s second longest beach and where you could walk into somebody you know at every street corner. I really will.
This post will be followed by Shashi aka Virtual Citizen India; he blogs at - http://shadowdancingwithmind.blogspot.in/ > Shashi who loves to write Haiku, poetry and about great books and enjoys spiritual journeys along with a camera and meditative mind