There are a number of quotes I could pick from to describe my love for Chennai, the place I call home. Words that articulate the love for a place. But those are words about a different home – theirs.
In the past couple of months, quite a few people have asked me to write about Chennai. And everytime I replied, I’ll think about it, I did. And every single time, I was left to ponder over what makes Chennai so awesome. It wasn’t for the dearth of ‘namma ooru’ things to talk about or the Chennai memes to share; rather it is the fact that there are just too many things.
I’ve grown up in this chaotic city, and its inhabitants’ idiosyncrasies is something that I’ve imbibed. Being a Chennaiite and loving it is kind of like a way of life.
It is how, as kids, we cycled to school with lunch bags in the basket.
It is how ‘Bessie’ (aka Elliots Beach) is the place to go to (Well, I’ve never really liked calling it Bessie. Sounds like the name of a cow, right? But again, this name grows on you. But for me, it will always be ‘the beach’ because I’ve practically lived right next to the beach ever since I moved to Chennai). The beach deserves little extra words because for me, it’s the place of crazy fun, stupidity, food and weekend-zone. It’s where I’ve lost countless shoes and slippers, been told me charlatan women that I’ll get married in some x years, ate bajji/manga and all the little shops that have spawned over the years around the beach.
It is how you see the different beach-walkers in the morning.
It is about thayir saadam, kaapi and all other gastronomic delights.
It is about planning to start your own hi-tech tea-kadai.
It is in finding those tiny little shops that are awesome.
It is in how we complain about the city.
It is the awful traffic, one ways and metro-rail construction issues.
It is the exorbitant auto fares, which only climb higher when you tell them you want to go to Besant Nagar. These autos – an evil necessity, really. I’m sure everyone from here would agree to that.
But there is not better form of public transport than those mean-monsters-on-the-road. The buses. Not like how you stand outside, sometime near a toll gate waiting for that blessed AC bus, but those normal green-toned metal boxes. Which I’m sure carries thrice the allotted number of people on any given day. Where you have people passing money, like the telephone game, just so you can get your ticket.
It is the language. The smells. The sounds and sights.
It is how we long for the rains.
So, when someone says they’re visiting Chennai, I find it difficult to tell them of the ‘must-see/do’ things. Sure they can see the beaches, the museum, the temples etc., but that is not what really makes up Chennai. It’s the people, their voices and all the inexplicably linked nuances of daily life.
I guess, all I’m saying is, visit Chennai and embrace its quirkiness.
Or Chen-ay, as a friend I’ll call Blues, would say.
P.S. If you’re a Chennaiite reading this, what do you think people should visit when they’re here?