My favorite city turns 378! The city I had the privilege to call Home for eight years introduced me to a new language, culture and gave me a lifetime of memories – happy birthday to you Madras!
Often I find myself vacillating between Madras and Chennai. But the sweet spot is right in the middle where the perfect balance of old and new world exists. Somehow it this balanced outlook towards life and culture, that helped me fall in love with the city even more. The city transformed a timid small town girl into the confident, independent woman who is writing this blog today.
The year was 2006 when I first arrived in Chennai. I was awestruck by the simplest things – the tall multi-storied buildings, winding flyovers, wide four lane roads – an entire new world for someone from a small town in Jharkhand.
Though its been close to three years now that I have moved out of the city, it remains very close to my being. Here’s my ode to the city by listing down some of my favorite experiences.
Bread-omelette slathered with the spicy green chutney was my lifeline during college days. Over the years I remember the price rising up from Rs 5 to Rs 15 but it has always remained a favorite with everyone.
Connemara Public Library and Museum Theater
Being a literature student meant frequent trip to libraries across the city. Connemara Public Library is one of the oldest libraries in our country and has a wide collection of book, journals and magazines. I have spent countless afternoons in the library looking for reference books, making notes and sometimes just sitting down and savoring the moment. There is a section of the library which still retains the old structure of library and has ladders to access books.
Ten Rupee Tickets at Sathyam Cinemas
AC hall tickets to the latest movie all for Rs 10 – a dream for a college student as one can always enjoy Sathyam’s special butter flavored popcorn and a movie without putting a dent in the weekly budget.
This was my getaway place. A tough week at work or tiff with my BFF, I took the MTC bus to the beach. Sand scrunched between toes, sea breeze in hair, one can almost taste the salt in the air during evenings. It offered me solitude and reassurance in troubled times, almost like a true friend.
Kailash Kitchen and Naga Reju
I would not have discovered Tibetan and Naga cuisine if not for these restaurants. Both are hole in the wall eateries with a dedicated patrons who keep coming back for their lip smacking thukpas and momos.
That unspoken street food scene
It is disheartening how the street food scene does not get the focus it deserves. Kothu parotta, jigarthanda, onion samosa, kuzhi paniyaram – these are few delightful snacks which I never knew existed. Also there is a very active Arabian and Burmese food scene in various pockets of the city.
I identify myself as a spiritual person who enjoys visiting temples. The charm of the city lay in the many temples located in the city who can trace back their origin back to hundred of years. Kapaleeswara Temple and Parthasarathy Temple were some of the few famous temples that I have visited while staying here. The elaborate rituals, offerings to the various deities, intricate designs on the temple walls and architecture are fine work and speak volumes about the beliefs of the people who have resided here and worshiped in these temples since long. Also the evening aarthi sessions at Ramakrishna Mission in Mylapore are nothing short of magical.
Ease of commute
With the existence of MTC buses, local train, MRTC and now, metro rail – the city is very well connected to its sub-urban and central areas. This is not taking into account the presence of autos and various app based cab services like Uber and Ola. MTC has a neat website which lists the bus numbers, their location of origin, destination and bus stops in between. Also the origin and terminating bus stops and bus numbers are written out in English which enabled a novice like me to move around the city without any issues.
After I moved out of the city, I grieved for a good part in the following months. I had never felt like an outsider in those eight years. The city had accepted and embraced me as one of her own and it was difficult to let go. But then as I boarded the train, I realized I didn’t have to let go for it would always remain a part of me. I owe it to her and likewise no other city would be able to replace Namma Chennai for me.