To Chennai With Love

It has been a year since I did some value addition to my blog. It is not that it has been an uneventful year. In fact, the year that went past was by far the best in my life. A lot has happened.
It has been a year since we shifted to Chennai. Chennai has taught me a lot. A timid guy who could not tell one street from another in that sleepy town can now find his way to any place in this big city. I have always loved Chennai ever since I came here first for a contest during school. We stayed in Triplicane and it was love at first sight. Today I feel wedded to this city and it has been a wonderful marriage so far.

Our house is right at the edge of the city. Anna Nagar West is the corporation limit and our house is just a few yards away, technically in Padi. Located at a junction of three busy streets you can hear vehicles 24X7. It is actually the meeting point of two ways of life. A short walk to the east would take me to Anna Nagar West,  the Cosmopolitan face of Chennai. Window shopping HealthNGlow and HiStyle showrooms, contemplating entering Kaya SkinCare, dreaming about which car to buy first out of the infinite variety rushing past and occassionally being tempted enough to enter one of the several glass malls , this is India Shining in all it’s glory. But that’s one side of the story. The other is just a five minutes ride  towards west. The chaotic bazaars of Padi where you can buy anything from a cell for you watch to a huge spring cot at a fraction of the cost at Anna Nagar West and all the while learn a few riding lessons on how to ride through a 15 inch space and avoid the policeman checking for License. Idhu Namma Madras. And I am fortunate enough to taste both flavours of Chennai in the same plate.

They say home is where you feel at home. In that sense Tuticorin was sadly never a home and Chennai feels like a bond from the past though we lived here last when I had barely begun to walk. The first month here was the most transformative. I was at home having failed to get a summer project to do. Every day I would board some random bus from Anna Nagar West Depot, just enjoy the sights and sounds of Chennai get down where it stops, spend some time at that place and return home. Sounds crazy? But that helped me get a feel of this big city and be confident enough even to guide people on streets in just a few month’s time. I was so confident that I took up the job of renovating our house in Ambattur where we had lived when I was a kid. It is a small house in an apartment said to be the first one built in Ambattur. But it is situated right on MTH road,the artillery of West Chennai. It was a tough experience. I had the invaluable help of Salaam Bhai, a family friend. I managed to get the house painted and refurnished all anew and a few months later even managed to get tenants. I can never forget those days where I had to walk and hike bike rides through a completely strange place and discuss the costs of paints and doors with complete strangers. Though tiring it was never frustrating. Down the years I feel this would be the one experience that I would pick as the one that made me a man.

Ambattur, Padi, Anna Nagar.. But that’s not the real Chennai I hear you say. Yes,Chennai’s heart is down south in the small lanes of Triplicane, in the ever crowded TNagar Usman Street and in the ever colourful College Road of Nungambakkam. It was this face of Chennai that I fell in love with while staying in Triplicane 4 years ago. Today I wonder if this is the same Usman Road I watched with awe struck wonder then. The fly over has sadly diminished it’s stature.  But that doesn’t change the fact that it is still Chennai’s shopping capital. Weekend trips to Pondy Bazaar for shopping are both a joy and a pain. The shopping is a joy even with the sea of human faces flooding you. You can always steal a few glances at the “beautiful” ones out of them. The ride back home is a pain. The bus takes forever to leave T Nagar moving an inch at a time. Another popular weekend abode is ofcourse our very own Marina Beach. I still remember walking along Marina Beach gripping my father’s hands as a 6 year old. Then the walk seemed to take forever and the sands seemed to stretch to eternity. Even today Marina brings out that small kid and in me and everyone around. It is Chennai’s breath of fresh air. Chennai would not be what it is without Marina.

North Chennai though not as fanciful as its more pampered southern brother, is still exciting. Where else would you get the latest technical books just out of print in a second hand shop. I got a 2009 edition once in Moor market during December 2008. Bargaining is the life saving art here. When I first came to Burma bazaar I was amazed when people managed to get goods for almost a tenth of the starting price. Interestingly North Chennai looks more like Tuticorin with it’s British era buildings and somewhat deserted roads.The added attraction in going to North Chennai is the direct metro train connection. Though Padi doesn’t have a station and I `discovered` Korattur station by accident during one of my several explorations.

Spencer Plaza deserves a special mention. Entering Spencer Plaza was a nervous experience. You don’t want to do something awkward and be laughed at.  I got the other love of my life, my acer Aspire 5920 here. Another experience I cannot forget is walking up and down the plaze searching for a suitable gift for Suren, with the clock ticking frantically for the night bus. I managed to settle down for a football shaped Mouse at LandMark eventually. Spencer definitely beats the more suave City Center hands down when it comes to shopping experience.
The post keeps getting longer and I keep getting many more interesting memories. Getting lost in the several avenues and lanes of Anna Nagar, going in the wrong direction from Ambattur station towards Avadi, getting down at the wrong stop and walking down the entire length of RK Salai from Mylapore to get to City Centre, hiding my incomplete knowledge of Mount Road from Naizath and managing to take him to Richie street, sitting in hot marina sand at noon just to kill time .. the list is endless.These days I am doing a project in IIT Madras which is a lovely place in itself. More of it in a different post.
The next year I will be busy with my quest for a job. There is a next to zero chance of my workplace being Chennai. Most probably I will be trying to get a feel of Bangalore or Hyderabad 12 months from here. Will Chennai recede from my memories and become just another city? Possible but not probable. They say that memories of first love stay with you forever. I will be in love with this lovely city always. If providence wills I might re-unite with my love somewhere down the lane. For now I am enjoying my date with her.

2 Responses to “To Chennai With Love”
  1. Sayee Ram.V says:

    Really a good read…. Didn’t know you enjoyed Chennai so much…. Hope you get to like Bangalore too 🙂

  2. Jeyashankar says:

    i had a great ride with you in chennai,while reading it..

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