“Welcome to Chennai… Idhu enga ooru” no such lines blarred in the radio to welcome me when I made a loud entry to this special place 25 years back… Instead it was the vividh bharathi news that was getting read with a monotonous tone in a tiny transister that kept the nurse awake I squealed at the top of my voice though the tiny transister gave me a tough competition with its “Thadha ri na naaaa“…Such was my entry into this world and the day my association with Chennai began!
The first faint memory that I get when I think about my toddler days is of building mud houses with colour colour cups for moulds Since I was closer to beach, my childhood was closely associated with the sands, water, shells and the salty breeze. I uttered my first word much before my peer group did but didn’t take slightest effort to take a step (oh ya.. peer pressure began ) .. Everyday after my play in the beach I was given training to stand ! My leg was buried deep in the sand… I found it ticklish and fun… My mom used to hold my hands and I stood… For the first time I saw the world from an elevated position From then on, till I took my first step (which was in 2 or 3 months from the day my training began) I had this standing training after my play session! My neighbour/bestie who walked by then still gave me company by burying his legs too
Holidays were the best… We used to go on a cycle race and used to apply brakes at the finish line with full force! The dust cloud that formed was an indication to people that our summer vacation began. We have gone cycling far and wide ignoring the warning “Do not go to main road”.While cycling when we cross a temple, we used to leave one hand from the handle bar and do a prayer gesture It was a way to show off that we can cycle with 1 hand We used to park our cycles in beach, get a corn/mangai (uppu- kaaram extra) with the coins in our pocket and happily walk back pushing the cycle. In between, we step into the Santhome church where we have a “father” friend… He used to tell us stories from Bible and give us an apple.. I have never tasted a sweeter apple in my life ! We had “moonlight dinner” where all of us pack our dinners and go to terrace… No elders allowed… We used to eat and lie down facing the stars… We name the constellations on our own… treated constellations as pets and we used to look out for it everyday
Usually kids in the house are sent in the morning to get necessary groceries. I was no different. I loved it as I got a commission of 2Rs and it would be useful for the evening corn session. My bestie and me used to walk together to the ‘Ramesh Anna Kadai’ which was a normal departmental store but the biggest according to us. While we waited for our turns, we would be arguing about who won the last WWE cards game , simultaneously popping arusi (rice) that will be kept in the jute bag outside. We used to run to ‘Ramesh Anna kadai’ to get the latest free tatoos in boomer and the milo gifts… We have even argued with the enemy gang (next street gang) that cars will be sold in that shop.. According to us, there is nothing which is unavailable in ‘Ramesh Anna kadai’
I used to go to school by van…I missed my van one fine evening as I was busy playing book cricket with my friend. When I came out, the road was desserted and “watchman uncle” was not at the gate. There was an auto stand nearby , I went to them and said “Anna… veetukku ponam” (I asked him to take me home). I was having my face stern as I was instructed not to talk to strangers. He laughed and started the auto… I didn’t know to express the directions properly as I was just 10 years old… he had a tough time deciphering the landmarks… All I told him was “Anna… Beach irukku la… Adhu pakathula street kulla street kulla street kulla pona… oru amman temple varum… adhu pakkathula oru dead end irukku. Anga dhan en veedu ” (Forget the translation… I just didn’t give him any address ) Then somehow he asked me to show the school diary, got the address and dropped me home. I happily told “Anna…. en kuda veetukku vanga… Amma kita ketu money vangitharen” (I asked him to accompany me to my home to get the money from my mom). My mom was shocked… She paid the money and what followed was a live WWE show at home We started meeting that auto anna frequently on the roads and he still reminds me of this incident Such auto annas and share auto incidents can never be negected in Namma Chennai.
My first ever outing with my friends was to Spencers Plaza… It was a huge achievement then. We took change of clothes from uniform, changed at a friend’s place and went to spencer’s… That day was the day I felt “Am no more a kid ” After which, treats were in Gangothri where 1 Bhel puri was shared by 10 of us due to budget constraints We were enrolled to summer vacation classes at Ramakrishna Mutt where they thought us Yoga, drawing and singing… I went to the class throughout just because they gave me yummy hot hot sundal at the end of the class
Then came a time where I had to stay away from my home… I missed Chennai big time… Though it sounds filmy, I used to keep dreaming about my beach (yes! it was my beach) church, long rides….People tell salt water and air makes you to tan, but it was the other way round for me. I became tan as soon as I went away and used to get back to normal after a shower with my usual salt water at home
It doesn’t seem like a perfect morning if I don’t wake up to the smell of filter Kaapi… Shopping never feels like it till I walk down the streets of Pondy Bazaar and bargain at 2 or 3 shops… It never feels like am home till I get to smell the world’s best sambhar and rasam when my mom is cooking…IPL matches never feel complete till Dhoni and Raina come in yellow jersey to say “Namma Chennai Super kings-ku whistle podu’… Rainy days are never complete without the hot hot Bhajji..My sentences never feel complete till I sprinkle a little of my Chennai tamil ‘scene podadha’, ‘mass-u’, ‘gethu‘, ‘kalaaikadha‘ atleast once…On the whole, am truely deeply madly in love with Madras… Namma Chennai
And yeah…my post doesn’t feel complete if I don’t Rajini-fy it Idhu epdi irukku
Happy 375th Madras Day (Aug 22nd)
This is my tiny tribute to my Chennai
Picture courtesy: Google