How can I make the biggest Deiva kuttham of not writing a post on Madras day especially when I’m physically present in my ooru aka HOME, Chennai. When I heard the announcement in flight, ‘We are now landing. Welcome to Chennai.’ my heart did a kutthu dance and the pain of 23 hours of flight vanished in a jiffy. I was on cloud nine and started giving out my close-up smile (visible outside the mask) to every human I met during the walk out of the flight and towards immigration. The friendly look and smile were so obvious that the person who checked my passport started wondering whether I may be some cousin who got lost in thiruvizha( temple festival) as a kid and now re-uniting with him by the mole on his cheek. He returned the smile and also checked my passport twice to see if it rings a bell. Once we got the luggage and came out, I had 1000 violins playing BGM when I saw the Tamil font everywhere around me. My husband had to keep a close watch to ensure I don’t enact a hero introduction scene on road announcing my arrival to Chennai. Next was the cab ride, I was getting excited at every single poster and nameboards that the cab driver had to confirm twice whether we were really from abroad and not coming out of hiding from some atthipatti gramam.
I had the Sivaji Rajini moment when I gave cash and the auto anna asked ‘Gpay illaya ma? Oorukku pudhusa?’ :-O Even the pookadai akka has a board asking us to GPay. After the initial shock of gpay usage, I went to the embassy’s center to submit my documents for visa stamping. I heard a voice ‘Visa stamping opens at 8.30. You can go and stand at the gate’. I looked around to decipher the source of the voice and noticed a tender-coconut seller, a guy wearing lungi and a white baniyan was shaving coconuts with his big aruva ( specific knife). He looked at me again and pointed towards the gate, ‘ Go and stand there’ in a perfectly clear accent and continued shaving the coconut. My jaw dropped open and I walked in a trance. I noticed the same pattern with the tea- stall guy, sim card-seller, and another guy distributing pamphlets there. While the place near the visa application center was a mini ‘Amreeka’ by itself, I went to a north-Indian handcraft stall and was about to ask in my broken Hindi about the items, the north Indian came to me asked- ‘Enna paakarenga ma? home decors anga, accessories inga’. It was my Ada! moment that can happen specially in #NammaChennai.
One thing I miss a lot when away is autorickshaws. To me, the experience of riding the auto can never be equaled to any other mode of transport. The best is the conversations with auto annas. Be it about Madras, chess championship, routes, metro date, restaurants..they are a nadamadum google search who is just a click away.
The happiness of waking up to ‘ Oho namma ooru’ kuppa vandi song, vegetable sellers using recorded voices in speakers ‘Thakkali, vengayam, kathrika’ in speakers, random people asking ‘Eppo ma oorlendhu vandha’, anna getting water-can asking if extra is needed as ponnu oorlendhu vandhurka, recharge shop anna topping up with just one call are some things that can happen only in #NammaChennai.
P.S. Chennai is a place where Ratna Cafe’s one plate idly with 1 bucket sambar coexists with Kakada Ramprasad’s jilebi and Alessandro’s pizza changes Arignar Anna’s Pizza kadai in isshttyle.
Happy Madras day!