Memories...of two cities

January 22, 2015

A friend, Vasu Ramanjuam, living in the US, posted on a mailing list:

One of 2015’s Hottest Cities?

I have always known Chennai to be hot in the literal sense, now looks like Chennai is hot in every sense. Only, over here we think that is cool!

He also posted this video that describes the city and mourns the new customs and mores:

Love the “Madurai” Tamizh (more gentle and melodious than “Madras Tamizh”)of the song.

That set me off on a walk down memory lane, in not one city, but two.

Oh…are we still letting BBC tell us about our cities? Madras/Chennai (there are people who still don’t want to accept the “new” name) was a popular city with expats for as long as I know! Imagine actually liking the heat and humidity. I lived there for 11 years on the first stint, and 4.5 years on the second…could not make any new friends, and since my brother passed away, and my sister in law moved to Gurgaon, I hardly ever visit. The two months that are enjoyable there are December and January; I’ve enjoyed the Carnatic “music season” (and given concerts, too!) in less commercialized times, enjoyed the excellent public transport (buses, I mean…the auto-drivers are awful!…routes no. 12B, 29C, 21…there was a movie called “12B”, too)…enjoyed Moore Market, Luz and Pondy Bazar shopping…these areas had, and have, so much character, very different from today’s malls. I may detest the city’s weather, but love what remains of the Indo-Saracenic architecture…and the lovely houses that still remain in Mylapore and T. (Theagraya) Nagar. Besant Nagar was rather desolate in the late 70’s…and there was no East Coast Road (ECR).

However, I still can’t say that Chennai is a clean city (though Bangalore is getting just as dirty now, as the exploding population strains the infrastructure.) I’ve seen the Cooum and Buckingham Canal always as sewers, and seen the Adayar also deteriorate into one. In fact, I think I have a sneaky love for some things in the city..Ambika Appalam Depot, the once-fantastic Grand Sweets, maangai-thengai-pattani sundal on the Marina, jaathi malli, little shrines to Ganesha set in every wall that was part of a T-junction..

With regard to the video, Vasu…how clean and sparsely populated the city looks in the 60s! How lovely the buildings are …they appear dilapidated now. I remember seeing this movie, not in Chennai, but in Calcutta/Kolkata where I grew up…the Menaka theatre in south Calcutta would screen Tamil movies at 9am on Sunday, and we “Madrasis” would rush to see whatever fare was offered, because there were no other places where we could see them.I don’t remember very much about this movie, except that my parents condemned it out of hand as trash.

Thank you for taking me down memory lane… in two cities!… as a result of your email.