By Sahaana Sankar
“Chennai is a city. Madras is an emotion” – the picture rightly said, with a cup and saucer near Chennai and a davara-tumbler near Madras. Before I proceed, I would like to state that this might be an esoteric topic surrounding a single city. But let’s not forget, this is the only Indian city that made it on to ‘New York Times – 52 places to visit in 2014’ and it’s my city! When I think of it, I feel nostalgic, memories of home shadowing me. Madras has evolved into Chennai, a smooth transition to metropolitan city, but at the same time has held on to its unique culture.
Madras, I’m sure reverberates strong memories of the British amongst the older generation, while Chennai is hope that freedom has its own ways forming a beautiful city. Madras is a land of filter coffee while Chennai is a concoction of friendly 1Re idlis (steamed rice pancakes) and Kumbakonam degree coffee stands. Madras is the happiness of watching Tom and Jerry and Powerpuff Girls on Cartoon Network; Chennai, well, watching Dexter and Masterchef on Star World. Madras, is a period (in my head) when there was no existence of anything but A,B,C’s while in Chennai I can do multiple integrals under limits! But yes, both are home to me.
Memod uniforms to school and Indian wear to college , flowers on women’s hair, fish markets, the beach, the sharp sound of mosquito bats swatting the mosquitoes, cricket, hero worship, Fishermans Cove, Ascendas, and IIT-Madras– some random thoughts that flicker in my mind when I think of my city. It’s a place where you wake up to the smell of strong filter coffee,hot sambhar anddosas (flattened rice pancakes)that will make you want to gorge (at any time of the day).
Mornings are crisp withries of strippe hot water baths, ironed uniforms and polished canvas shoes (sometimes if you forget, rubbing it vigorously with white chalk had a similarshiny outcome), quickly stuffed lunchboxes and handkerchiefs pinned to your shirts. Afternoons remind me of wafting flavors of lemon and tamarind rice with fried pappadams and of course curd rice with spicy pickles. Evenings involved playing on the grass barefoot, climbing the few trees in your back yard and just being carefree. Dinner was a simple affair to discuss all the minute details of the days’ activities with your parents, and them taking an utmost interest in those details. Nights, cuddled up under blankets, praying to God – thanking Him for the day that’s been, and praying for the next.
It’s a land where it is not right to wake up after 8am and to cut your nails on a Tuesday. Its home to doting grandparents who cook you meals, no fast food can ever beat. It’s a place dotted with auto-drivers who hate using the meter, posters of politicians plastered to every empty space on a street and the infamous lungis. It’s a home to the wonderful Theosophical society, quietly sitting in a corner, bundled up with a plethora of species of flora and fauna. It’s a place where Pondy Bazaar is a flea market with so much to offer; yet people haunt malls just to walk about, observe and eat.
It’s a city that boasts a beautiful Coromandel Coast, complemented with the East Coast Road – serene for long drives and peaceful thoughts. It’s a land of exclusive traditions, where cold January mornings are made ever so beautiful with “Margazhikolams” (patterns drawn outside the door of each home) and recitations of holy scripts. Ganesh Chathurthi, celebrated in September where one can stuff their faces with kozhukattais (dumplings with sweet and salt in it), the onset of monsoon comes with regular (and much awaited) rain holidays. The year always ends with a musical note, as December is a month of ragas (musical tunes).
Chennai is modern, chic and cool. Madras is a traditional, simple and down to earth. But at the end of the day it’s a city filled with culture, smiling faces, proud parents, smart children and happiness. The city has a charm, like no other, which only a person who has lived there and soaked in every bit of it will understand.
Sahaana Sankar is currently pursing her Masters in Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is an Electronics and Communications Engineer from Anna University with a passion for the environment, science and innovation. Her latest calling is economics and social entrepreneurship. She lives in London , where she is learning, exploring, spending hours in the library and soaking in every bit the city has to offer! Ping her at – [email protected]