I remember shedding tears when my job offer asked me to report to CHENNAI. Yes, I wept thinking of living in a hot, humid and unclean place. At least that was what I heard of the city before stepping in. I boarded the train and my fears came alive when I crossed Palakkad and entered the barren brown land of Tamilnadu. I puked when I saw human waste, and view of people defecating on the railway tracks. I begged Dad and Mom not to leave me alone in the city. No, it was not the first time I was living alone. But in Chennai, it was all different I thought.
But yes, like any “foreigner”, I fell in love with the place. I took baby steps and grew to someone who knew in and out of the city.
When I think of Chennai, the first thing that pops in my mind is the beaches in the city. Marina Beach, the second longest beach in the world, after Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, is the popular spot for all. I enjoyed biting into hot Corns at the Besant Nagar beach with friends. It was one of my favorite hangout places, just like many.
A place where Rajnikanth is worshipped next to God, the city is the second largest cine industry in the country, next only to Bombay. It was always a festival-like atmosphere when I went out for movies with friends. The ESCAPE and SATYAM cinemas are the favorites amongst theatres. We danced and whistled and howled celebrating Cinema.
How can you forgetting shopping when in Chennai? I have purchased 90% of my wedding clothes from Chennai. There is a lot in store for you in the lanes of this ethnic city, esp at the busy hub T.Nagar. One can buy garments and jewelry at great bargains. Oh God, I miss shopping at Pondy bazaar for bags, Egmore for great shopping plazas and classical dance jewelry from Mylapore.
I miss watching “Kalakshetra” students cycling down the lane after their dance classes in sarees. I miss the visit to IIT campus in Guindy where we sit for hours at the CCD watching deer and peacocks dance. Visit to Queensland amusement park or taking a beautiful scenic drive along the stretches of ECR road or the visit to Mahabalipuram are still fresh in my memory.
I hated living in a Paying Guest room in my early days of the stay in Chennai. It is a hot place to live in and the room did not provide any A/C. Ringing up my Mom and crying became a daily routine as the power also goes off for 6 to 8 hours a day in this humid climate. Drenching in sweat, pouring a bucket load of water at midnight and sleeping with wet clothes on, became a habit. You long for monsoon in Kerala! But when it rains finally, the city drowns itself in rain water.
But I was in love with the city. With the yummy treats from Adyar Bhavan, seafood from Besant Nagar beach, South Indian from Murugan Idly shop, Thalappakatti Biriyani I always had my heart and stomach full. Temples and music and each non-Tamilian wanting to learn Tamil, smell of Jasmine flowers…wow…Chennai has a mystical beauty of its own.
Today I watched the MADRAS SONG, created by Murugappa Groups and THE HINDU, a dedication to the city. I was so over the top watching the song as I’ve walked through each and every frame in the song. My husband accused me of being mad, yes, MAD. But only a true lover of the city would understand what I went through. Love you, Madras for all that you have given me!!!! I have made Chettinad Tomato Rasam as a tribute to you, my city. 🙂 “Namma Ooru Chennaikuu Periya Whistle Adiinge..”
Here’s the song to you: