I was born long after Madras was rechristened as Chennai. I was born long after the trees along the Marina Beach lost itself in the growing roots of modernism and globalization. I was born long after bell bottoms paved way to formal pants and tight shiny clothing of women from the retro era moved on to where we are now. I was not around for the period when Spencers had a much different and a glorious facade. I was born after the fires licked the Moore Market that I only see in pictures now. I never got to see those beautiful trams nor the clean Coovum river. I was not around for a large part of what many people claim to be the best and glorious period of Madras, but it's still the part I connect with the most and if God wills the time machine's existence, I would love to return to the 80's and live here, all over again.
In an age of fast-pacing and rapidly moving world where change makes its presence felt all over and spilling, my city has managed to hold on to Her reigns and let the gallop slow down, but never stopping. The change that has come about has always been nothing but gradual, taking one step at a time and relishing what it may have to offer. While cities like Bangalore and Delhi may have lost the scent of itself over the years, Madras still lingers on. There was no greed with the city in wanting to swallow the latest and the newest. By this, I do not mean that we shunned anything new and progressing. There has always been progress. The beauty of the ascendance and progression is largely determined by how it is done. In that manner, there is no beating Madras. We hold on to our davara-tumblers long after porcelain coffee mugs have come in. Filter kaapi still beats CCD's cappuccino hands down.
Very few cities have a classiness to it. On that front, Madras is almost synonymous with culture and dignity. Margazhi season kutcheris, bharatnatyam recitals, the flavour of Mylapore, literary fests and a long list of festivals and fairs that we celebrate in our own little silent ways.I've heard North-Indians say how South-India, Tamilnadu and Madras in particular don't have fun in celebrating our festivals and weddings. 'It's a drab', they say. But who says loud music and heavy dancing is the only way to unwind? Have they witnessed the 'maalai maatharthu' of a typical Tamil-Brahman wedding here, the excited talk and chatter between households and people across the streets during Navrathri Golu or taken a walk along the long roads on the pristine night of Karthikai Deepam? This just happens to be a different character and hue altogether that no other city has. A silence that shouts joy more than anything else.
Yes, on more issues than one, Madras is said to be conservative.But it has never stopped anyone from doing anything they want to do. What I love most about this city are the people. Large-hearted, warm people who despite their inhibitions, never throw you about. Shorts never changes a good old auto-driver from giving us the right directions and goodwill. On a particular night, I got lost in North Madras (Royapuram side) and it was pretty late. I didn't know the way around that area quite well and had to stop two or three times to reach back home. Each of them told me the way like I was related to them.The kindly auto-driver called out to me to be careful and made me wait till the vehicles on the side of the road had passed and the sweeper ladies on the flyover said, 'Badhrama ponga, kannungala' after my friend and myself thanked them. The local departmental store owners smile every time I walk in and the Bhaai's never let go without saying a bye.Religion is not a problem for us and Madras is a a haven of mutual co-existence and religious harmony. Everyone smiles.The bus conductor, the traffic policeman, the daily commuter on the train and the kids on the bicycle. From a city so welcoming, what else would one want?
It's been 375 brilliant years of sambar-vadai, filter kaapi, Carnatic music and divine beaches. It's been 375 years of happiness amalgamated with street plays, MGR, Shivaji Ganesan, Superstar Rajinikanth; plays and theatres that support drama and art. It's been 375 years of diverse architecture: vernacular, Indo-sarcenic, colonial and the ones now. It's been 375 years spread with tree walks, temple walks, Panagal park and Ranganathan street hustles. It's been 375 long years of sentiment, love, emotion and pride for Madras.
Like I read somewhere, Chennai is a city. Madras is an emotion. That explains everything I have to say.
Happy 375th to you Madras! :) We love you. Let's clink our tumblers together for the years to come.
|Image source: Internet -google images|
|One of my Madras doodles.You can check our the rest of the sketch series on Madras over here.|