When your heart is in Madras

Madrasa suthi pakka poren
Marinavil veedu katta poren
Light house-il yeri nikka poren
Naan mangaatha rani pola varen

Madras Day Special

My best friend from school called me yesterday and we went down the memory lane of school days’ fun. Almost all of them were about the places we visited, auto annas, roadside shops etc. That’s when I decided that I should do my customary tribute post even though it is late. I’m going to now virtually ride around flashback-Chennai in bicycle singing ‘Nyabagam Varudhe’ and halting at some places that can make all uncles and aunties say ‘Oh that place… Me and Ford Chandru/LIC mani/Nalli Kamala used to visit there often. Good old days.’. So get some filter-kaapi, spicy mixture , play Madras special songs and get ready to oor-sutthify with me in 90’s Chennai aka Madras.

<Insert flashes of lighhouse, central station with bgm here>

I was this kid who was basically an enthu-pattani and participated in all competitions during my initial years of schooling. I’ll be the first to go and enroll my name irrespective of I know it or not.. I have even participated in singing contests πŸ˜† So the reason behind my enthupattani-ness was that at the end of the year they ll do a prize distribution and give a huge parcel. That would have certificates and the most important gift for which I participated in all random event- Higginbotham’s book coupons. From the very next day I will start pestering my parents to redeem the coupons. The very sight of Higginbotham’s used to excite me. The ancient white British building, the pin-drop silence, the high ceilings everything about the place used to make me feel like some elite intellectual visitor even though I’ll head straight to kids’ section. The tradition continued even after I grew up.My uncle (Periappa) made it a point to always give me some money before my birthday to buy any book of my choice. I was this chamathu kid who would buy book and report him the same on my birthday. Thus, began my affinity to reading or rather visiting bookstores πŸ˜€

Readers’ Paradise

Since we stayed in Santhome/Mylapore from times immemorial, all requests for naatu marundhu (herbal medicines) would be redirected to us. The famous Dabba Chetty Kadai was (is) in our vicinity. It’s surprising, that, even the mere thought of this shop, brings memories of unique herbal smell that would linger around that area. As we have been customers for years, we have seen the couple of generations of owners take over and run the shop with same precision and dedication. It’s a very small shop but even then, the speed at which they find ingredients, mix them in front of you and potlam kattify (they use paper to wrap the ingredients) moving on to the next customer is remarkable. Oh! do you see a shop on the left side, that’s where my mom buys broomstick (thodappam) while we wait for our turn in Dabaa Chetty shop and asks me to carry it to the house πŸ™„

From even before the term ‘Organic’ came to use

Apart from the famous Karpagambal mess, Kalathi stores’ Rose milk, there is yet another spot in that area that is unique in its own way. If you are a Mylaporian, there is no way that you would have missed the medhu-pakkoda from Karpagambal Kabali Sweet shop. Even on a weekday afternoon, you will find people flocking in front of the shop to get one order of their hot pakkodas. If I go with my mom, she would cheat me saying she ll buy me while returning but as we near she would distract me…reason being the shop would be super crowded and getting your order is a pain (I feel it’s worth it). So this shop is my dad’s jurisdiction. He would go and get pakkodas on a lazy sunday evening. These are the BEST pakkodas I have ever had.

Always crowded

The first ever mall known to anyone in 90s, Spencer Plaza. My neighbour and I would be taken here during the time of Christmas . It would be the most anticipated picnic day. Though we would go only in the evening, we would start planning from the morning itself. As soon as we enter, there would be a Santa Claus sitting inside a house covered with fake snow. We would be thrilled to shake hands with him and a get a Lacto king chocolate. As a kid, I was introduced to escalators here. Escalators fascinated us. We used to go up and down just for the sake of it πŸ˜† Meanwhile, our moms would be busy shopping night clothes and other things for us. Slowly things started changing, malls started sprouting up every nook and corner making Spencer’s Plaza like a old Zamindar palace.

Very first mall

Near every school there would be small shop (pottikadai) that sold everything from last minute stationary needed to quick snacks. The shop next to my school (DAV Gopalapuram) was Joy shop (none of us know the real name of this shop. We call it Joy shop as the uncle’s name is Joy uncle.) Our Saturday afternoon sessions will end with Rs 5 Max Fun juice ice cream from Joy shop. That would be the treat we would look forward to from the beginning of the week. Once we reached high school, we were slowly permitted to walk farther away from school. So after the last exam, we would all go to Gangotree restaurant. It was quite close to my school and the best place for chaat. Our table would be piled up with dishes as we used to have friends entering and ordering more every few minutes. ‘Float’ was something very popular among us at that time. It was nothing but semi-frozen juice. Gangotree has been a part of so many treats, get-together and gossip sessions.

School days!

Apart from these spots for which I could find images in google, there are these kutty kutty shops that cannot be missed. Remember the stationary shop near your house where you would rush to buy ink pens, charts and other stationary. I had around 3 shops in that category. One where I bought chart, pictures etc for projects, one where I buy just ink pens and another for art supplies. So the ink-pen shop was pretty small one(that’s one of the reason I used to definitely buy there to give them profit). So the art of buying ink-pen is very special. Some like it very thin, some like the ink to flow generously. I’m the latter one. My specification is, it should be transparent in the middle so that I can see the ink level, thick flow of ink and compulsorily blue color. Yes! All my ink-pens were blue colored inside and out. Between Bril and Camlin, I’m the Camlin royal blue ink group. I hated Hero pens as it didn’t match my thick flow criteria firstly and secondly I was paranoid about the ink-level as I had the fear of running out of ink suddenly in exams. So always a buyer of traditional ink-pens that lets you to drop ink with that dropper until the brim. The joy of writing in ink-pen is irreplaceable. Then came Add-Gel pen and rest is history.

How can I forget the medical shops in every street. I understood the importance of them after coming to US. Though there was Dabba Chetty store, still pharmacies did their bit. Any minor ailments were treated by over-the counter drugs (although there are many complaints, I haven’t faced any issue with the medicines they have prescribed). One maathrai, all ailments would fly away.

Having grown up amidst the Santhome and Mylapore crowd , ‘Engakeera…koyil-ku annandaiya innandaiya?; Enga irukke? Andha TVS mama-aam theriyumono..Ava pakkathaam-ah?’ I have experienced the essence of Madras in its truest form. I have been brought up as this agmark ISI mark pota Madras ponnu. Wherever I go, my heart is always in Madras (Meiyalume ba)!

23 thoughts on “When your heart is in Madras”

  1. Enjoyed reading this. Took me back through memory lane. I am from DAV G too but never went to Joy or Gangotree much, can you believe that? Higginbothams and Spencer have become relics of the nostalgic past, do people even go there these days?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazingly written well. I can see the generosity and could know you are one such kind soul. From your favor buying ink pen in that small store. Right from kiddoo you had this helping for small businesses.
    Coming to your trip to madras, it’s wonderful. And the sprinklers at the last few lines Meiyalume ba!.
    Keep entertaining us Aishu.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent way of writing.. Wonderful memories.. You have narreted very well and expressed your feelings so nicely.. Keep on writing.. Proud to be Mylaporean.. Temples, surrounding shops, hotels, etc.. Etc.. Very lovable πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘Œ

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your drawing Auto central lighthouse bridge esp kolam super super πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘Œplus pics of the places excellent Aish.. Expecting more from you.πŸ‘πŸ‘

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Super Aishu. As usual kalakkal. You have brought us the exact situation of Mylapore . Your narration of the incident are super. I enjoyed throughout. Keep writing. God bless you. Your art depicting central station light house, simple kolam is excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your love for Madras is so chweet Aishu😍Every time you write something about Madras I’m so taken aback by your live for this place. We all have memories associated with the places we grew up and worth cherishing themπŸ˜‰


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