Monday, April 01, 2013

Madras, My Madras

There is a charm in the name Madras, just like the City. It is officially called Chennai, for me, it will always be Madras.

What makes me yearn for Madras? - Sharadha has captured some aspects of it here in her post on "Chennai".

I have so many memories tied up with that place. That's the place I flew to when I left my nest - so to speak. Thats where for the first time I stepped out of the protective world of my parents, and started experiencing the real world - (more or less) in my own terms. Even though I lived with my Uncle and Aunt and my Cousin in Mylapore, they gave me enough space to make my own experiences.

Madras, has a unique culture - mind you culture is a broad concept that reflects on the way of life, encompassing a wide variety of parameters like food, music, art, attitudes and values etc.

Exemplar of popular music - AR Rehman a Madras boy. Ilayaraja, made Madras his home. Madras with its "Maargazi festival" and Madras music academy before that, has for decades promoted and provided stage for wide variety of carnatic music proponents. I have had the pleasure of listening to the likes of T.N Seshagopalan, Kadri Gopalnath, Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan, Kumeresh-Ganesh, been close to tears when they demonstrated their prowess in such a majestic fashion. The display of talent does not just stop at these elite artists. You get on to a bus that serves the various collages of Madras, or the "mufusul" trains, you will be treated to the irrepressible "gana" songs. The youth of Madras, belt out one after the other, awesome foot tapping, catchy songs. Many of these songs have a steep philosophical slant. They mostly use the bus roof, or train roof or the side walls as percussion instruments. Its truly unique to Madras!

If you are more favorably disposed towards dance and drama than music, you have sabhas that host great talents covering contemporary dance to classical dance. A part of my memory is going to watch dramas by SV Sekar, Crazy Mohan and YG Mahendran. You can watch all the comedy you want in telly, or youtube but, if you have not watched these "live" in a theater/sabha you have no idea what you are missing. Do yourself a favor, next time when you get a chance, watch some of these in a theater/sabha.

Thiruvalluvar said 

செவிக்கு உணவில்லாத போழுது சிறிது
வயிற்றுக்கும் ஈயப் படும்


After you have provided food for your thoughts, feed your stomach - a little.

The corner tea shops with amazing "masaal vadai" and "bread bajji" and "banana bajji" - (that you can wrap in a tamil news paper squeeze out the extra oil), "Thenga, Maanga, Pattani Sundal" at the beach, the kulfi ice at night around 8 or 9 pm hawked by a street vendor, filter coffee, kuruma that is quintessentially south indian that goes with pretty much every thing like Parota, chappathi, idiappam, appam. The idli's served in the "kaiyenthi bavans" (Road side stalls) of madras along with the "kaara chatni"...takes you to a different place!!. For the health conscious people, early mornings near marina beach (I guess opposite to IG office) you can get pavakkai (bitter gourd)  juice, arugampull (Bermuda Grass) juice, nellikkai (Gooseberry) juice etc. After a long run along the beautiful beach, these "healty" drinks are quiet a treat!

Kabaliswarar temple. Of all the temples in Madras, Kabali kovil is and always will be my most favorite temple. I have spent many a evenings, during what I considered my most difficult period of time (at that point of time). Karpagaambaal's statue, one of the most beautiful work of art, the temple in general, the murukku and the laddu you can buy as prasadam (a gracious gift) oh boy! The temple engages pretty much all the senses and helps you feel one with the almighty.

I spent my undergraduate days in Madras, in the company of my friends. I fondly recollect the carefree days, where the bills were paid by my parents, all I had to do was be wise, manage my studies, make sure that my attendance at college did not fall below the required minimum and do what a student worth his salt did. Bunk classes, chill out at the canteen, tea shop, be at front bench, watching movies in Satyam, Devi, etc. We were careful, We had a schedule. In a day we will make sure we attend at-least one language class, and all the major and ancillary classes. There will be days where we would bunk all day - but they were strictly restricted to once a month mostly on the days when we did not have practicals. I did not know and realize at that point of time, that I was learning key life skills. Like managing risk, prioritizing and stakeholder management, perception management etc.

I find that the people in Madras have a healthy mix of conservative and liberal outlook towards life and have a sense of "detached attachment". I feel that's what makes the city tick, and make me yearn for another chance to live there. I like to offer similar experiences to my children, so that they also have a chance to develop a sense of belonging, identity that I developed over the period of time.

Read it somewhere, cant remember where - From "Kaveri to Thames via Koovam". Yeah, you cant talk about Madras without talking about Koovam. Yes it stinks. Yes the city is very humid. Yes is hot in Madras. So what? It takes just few weeks to get used to the conditions, and with so many things going on you will hardly notice koovam. 

Madras, Nalla Madras
Madras, My Madras.


More Info:

Murukku - A savory snack  -
Laddu -


prof.a.v. said...

excellent. as days flow by, i am awe struck to see ur maturity of mind. what ever money spent on u is worth.
i am glad i am ur father. the master stroke that floored me was,"I did not know and realize at that point of time, that I was learning key life skills. Like managing risk, prioritizing and stakeholder management, perception management etc. avery new angle for a father and teacher-
dad, prof av

Vishwanath Natarajan said...

The past is for learning from and letting go. One can't revisit it. It simply vanishes. Also can't help but quote Proust here - 'Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the rememberance of things as they were'.

We shared many a memories in Chennai and I do look at it with fondness, but everything changes with time. The past is a candle at a great distance; too close to let you quit, too far to comfort you.