Madras to me is…..
Madras to me is a home for ever…as a child who was born outside Madras and used to frequently visit the city for all vacations was a place of excitement all the time. As I grew up to a teen, my dreams weaved around the city that I loved watching, especially for the serene beauty of the marina beach, eating sundal and muruku along with sipping hot ginger tea. The waves aroused the lyrics of my heart to write verses that would jump between the beauty of the Bay of Bengal, the long shore line and music in the air. One day, I thought, I should make it to the city to live in it for ever. I wanted to dream big, make it big and grow with my Madras and its lovely dreams.
The love for the city only grew stronger over the years as I started exploring the ancient temples with great historic values and lessons. The architecture and the significant beliefs blended so well, that they mesmerize you when you enter the temple sanatoriums. The smell of the jasmine flowers swaying on the neatly plaited hair of the women clad in beautiful madisaru (Brahmin way of wearing sarees) made me feel the fragrances around me. The smell of filter coffee made my every morning in Madras a delight, especially when I could get a chance to have it at Madras Café or Eshwaran coffee. From the big Solidaire TV advertisements in the Mount Road, to the War Cemetery near Ramapuram, Madras gave its share of stories to a writer in me.
Namma Madras, later Singara Chennai, what ever it may be called as the time goes…to me it reminds me of the stories of Madras Presidency that my grand mother happily shared with me of those days of freedom struggle. Her memory of running to the Marina beach from the Wellington College for Women’s hostel to see the great revolutionary freedom fighter Netaji is unforgettable. The pain she shared on the Madras Presidency being divided as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in early 1960’s reminded me of the governance of the land, and how much people of Madras loved being in its arms.
The lush greens Guindy National Park was such an excitement to us a children, and seeing the creepy snakes beside in the Snake Park made me jump in fear, joy and screams. The ecological balance of the city remained undisturbed for several decades, with all types of birds still flocking to Vedantangal and Pulicat lakes which are within an hours drive from my beloved city.
The streets of the city are decorated with the kolams, the ancient art form that is drawn with rice powder by hands, early in the morning; on the roads even today welcome the Sun God to our homes with pleasure. Girls going to schools and colleges in half sarees and boys in their traditional white dhoties are always a dressing delight thought it lost its zeal along with the time.
The pleasure of Kutcheries – hearing carnatic demi-gods ring the bells of the heaven on earth during Margazhi month can be found no where else in this world. Madras to me is the god’s chosen place for those who want to emulate themselves with divinity, tranquility and inner beauty.
The day beginning with the filter coffee in the traditional tumbler-dabbara combination, with the boy on the cycle throwing the early morning news paper is the right way to begin a day. Watching the ladies praying to the Tulsi plants in their backyards, happily drawing designs of kolams (which actually have a scientific pattern and also act as feeding insects in the ground) makes you feel warm. What else can you ask for breakfast than a streaming Sambar with Hot Idlies or Ghee Pongal with Vada’s.? Mouth-waters as I write about it...and feel like going to the nearest Ratna Café or Saravana Bhavan.
The aroma of traditional Chennai chettinadu samayal (cooking) with a right blend of spices and rice’s makes your lunch exotic. Finishing it with Pal Payasam (Sweet Milk Porridge) and Vettalapakku makes you feel good for an afternoon nap.
An evening pleasant walk in the beach or a long drive across the East Coast Road is only a pleasure to experience.
Madras to me signifies the old British architecture…reminiscences of the past and beauty of our land. The Napier Bridge, Eliot’s Beach Symbol, the Central Station, Kalas Mahal, Rippon Building, Museum Theatre, The Dutch Cemetery and the World War II memorial, the St. Thomas Mount Church, Connemara Library, Mount Road Higginbotham’s, Police station, and Egmore Museum. Icehouse today stands as a symbol of visit of Swami Vivekananda who stayed for 9 days in Chennai and spread the message of universal brotherhood and all religions leads towards on Supreme God.
The transformation of Madras to Chennai, also symbolically represented the growth markets, emergence of the industrialization, vast expansion of modernizations, growth in hospitality and information technology sectors, and also provided world class education and health care. This means that it gave us an ample space to lead the life the way we want to live...with loads of opportunities and choices.
Despite all the changes, the city went through and would go through in the near future; to me this city remains my same old Madras, nalla Madras. LIC building, Marina Beach, Idly-Sambar, Kapaleswar Temple, Parthasarathy temple, Music Academy, Mount Road, Gemini Flyover, AVM Studios and watching the movie in IIT Open Air Theatre would always be my favorites.
Madras to me is not just a home, but a way of life.
I Love You Madras! I love you Chennai! Namma Madras- Nalla Madras....