Two posts in two days; someone seems to be racking up the words. It’s almost two months since I moved to a new city and job. In all these two months, I haven’t explored the city as ideally as I had planned to. Frequent visits home and the sheer joy of sleeping in on the weekends made me overlook a vibrant opportunity that lay around, literally waiting for me to pick it up.
The image in the side was something that I came across in the near past when I was browsing the internet at 3 am for no particular reason. I did not see the relevance or significance of the image back then; but now that Chennai has opened its doors to me, I’ve seen glimpses of what it means to be in a city with divided souls. That is pretty much what the post is going to be about, my inroads into Chennai and Madras.
The malls, the high roads and a typically brand conscious populace. I’m only barely scratching the surface and I mean no offence to anybody, but that is the vision of Chennai that I have as of now. Two malls over the weekend and that was all that I observed. We were just window shopping although I did pick up a Manchester United kit, so there’s that. Looking through all those stores leaves me with a couple of questions that I’d rather not voice to the world. There is no hustle and bustle; just people in their cars, moving from one signal to another; the men on their bikes with their girlfriends, the happy couple celebrating their day-off. There’s feeling in all of it, yes, but not the kind that people like me are accustomed to. We stepped out of the mall and had a brilliantly conceived idea, but that takes place in Madras, so, hang on a second……..
The plan was to go to ‘Ratna Café’. Now, y’all might have heard of it in very many ways, but I came across the term for the first time in a Tamil-Noir movie, “Quarter Cutting” (which is essentially a measure of drink which is one large and one small together). Standard hotel procedure dictates that the idly be placed on the plate with the sambaar in a small vessel provided separately or with the plate. Here the service was one of a kind; the idly was on the plate and the waiter just poured the sambaar over it and lo and behold, I had a two idlies floating over a lake of sambaar. I’m putting it down on the top five best sambaars I’ve ever tasted; it’s a close battle with Salem’s very own Sri Krishna.
Dinner was a pleasant affair; we then proceeded to walk through Triplicane, an area abuzz with folks shopping for Ramzan. It lived to be a bazaar street true to its name and it was then that I realized that I had stepped from Chennai into Madras. The old man with the flowers shop in the street corner; the waiter at the hotel who knows how to treat their customers, the gentlemen on the footpath who came out of his way when we asked him for directions and the buildings, all these are the signatures of some of things that won’t change with time. It’s something that should be preserved and cherished, for now and forever.
Thank you Chennai for welcoming me and thank you Madras for revealing yourself.