Muse n' Motivation

The Thinking Blog!

Celebrating the Chennai Charm!

On 22nd August, Chennai celebrates its birthday. Yesterday was its 373rd birthday.

My tribute to this wonderful city!

Madras (now Chennai) had always been the stereotype voor for me. Chennai represented all that was South Indian (remember, there was a time, when South Indian was presumed Madras aka Chennai!!) – masala dosai, idly, bharatnatyam, MGR, Kamalahasan, Rajinikanth and all. In spite of having grown up in Bangalore, destiny seemed to have groomed me well enough to adapt to a Tamil surrounding. My best friend in school was a Tamilian, my neighbor akkas were Tamilians and family friends lived in Chennai. I frequently kept hearing old Tamil film numbers on loudspeakers. My little mind then knew not what the songs meant yet I enjoyed them all the same humming them making others laugh in return.

My father’s chance posting landed my family and me in Chennai. Ooh! I was warned about anti Hindi campaigns, about hatred against everything North Indian and all that ‘lottu-losku.’ I remember coming with bag and baggage to Chennai a day after MGR died. The roads were eerily lonesome, all the shutters were down and papers strewn on streets. Wow! What a welcome to my new home, I wondered silently. I got admitted in school, which was an English medium all right but where many students spoke Tamil to get that ‘bonding’ feeling I guess. I remember hesitating to speak the local language although I learnt the language surrounded by Tamil words filtering in my ears and brain, getting stored for future use. Here, I give due credit to my friends for bearing with my murdering pronunciation especially of words like Kuzhal Mozhi. I wondered then, as to why somebody would be called so. It was only later when I learnt the difference between La and Zha did I understand. Until then, I rocked my friends with my atrocious pronunciations!

The ride from home to school and back home carry many memories for me. It was here that I learnt all the tricks that required you to hold yourself without falling. More than anything else, watching passengers of all ages and professions discussing almost everything under the sun, made me master the Tamil language at great speed. Pallavan Transport Corporation had become my Tamil dictionary!

Much before I frequented Pondy Bazaar and More Market, Burma Bazaar was a terrible attraction selling all those imported goods at cheap rates. I still can flashback into that particular piece of history of mine and relish that feeling of exhilaration at having got a nice product for a good bargain. Fountain Plaza, Cisons Complex, Pondy Bazaar and Ranganaathan Street were some of the main shopping attractions for me. After Bangalore, Chennai had become home for me. It had become a storehouse of memories from G.K.Vale to St. Thomas Mount, from Higginbotham’s to Landmark – Buying second hand books with my friend Aruna on Mount Road,

searching for that right paintbrush for my oil paintings from the shop near LIC Building.

Much later, Mylapore became a favorite haunt what with my Math tuition for the 12th Std. being taken there. That phase exposed me to the Tamil Brahmin way of life in Chennai with different kinds of houses (agrahaarams), the maamis and the

beautiful kolams spread right across the road.

When I think of Chennai, memories just come gushing out like a spring of colors on a painting board. I know Chennai is different now; a different modern culture has captured the imagination of Chennaites today. The IT boom has not spared it either. Many of my neighbors I grew up with are settled abroad – courtesy IT. But the spirit of the city remains the same.

The Music Academy still religiously has its annual music festival in December. I remember attending the Reggae concert at Music Academy apart from the numerous English plays. The Alwarpet sales and exhibitions caught my imagination many a time frustrating friends and family alike!

The city is crowded now. Many youngsters in glamorous outfits zoom around on bikes and cars. Even though the temptations of competing with other metros are high in terms of style, lifestyle and values, thankfully the spirit of Chennai remains the same. Hospitable, simple, friendly people and delicious food are reasons enough for people across the globe to keep coming back here. Three cheers to the Chennai charm!

(This article was posted two years back. It still stands good as far as Chennai is concerned.)

  A CHENNAI INSIGHT – AN YOUTUBE Insight!

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26 Comments

  1. Thanks Shail for this interesting account of Chennai. I am living in Madras for more than thirty years. Like the name, the character of chennai has changed a lot. People have become very selfish now, thanks to cut throat competition in all aspects of life. Still Chennai is much better than other cities. What do you think?

  2. Sneha

    How nice to see you describing a place so dear to you. Always awaited you to write something about a city close to your heart 🙂

  3. Sudha Sharma

    Lovely description of a city that I have grown to love and respect after Bangalore. Every city has it’s own charm and Singaara Chennai is a delightful place. Everything about the place is good except for maybe the weather 🙂

  4. A.Hari :
    Thanks Shail for this interesting account of Chennai. I am living in Madras for more than thirty years. Like the name, the character of chennai has changed a lot. People have become very selfish now, thanks to cut throat competition in all aspects of life. Still Chennai is much better than other cities. What do you think?

    Hi Hari,

    I did not know that my dear friends would express their comments so very quickly, soon after my posting the blog. I love Chennai. Yes, as I mentioned, some things have changed, values too, it has become materialistic too but I still like the place. Home for me anytime.

  5. Sneha :
    How nice to see you describing a place so dear to you. Always awaited you to write something about a city close to your heart

    Hi Sneha,

    Yes, like Bangalore, Chennai carries a lot of memories for me. I formed some of my best friendships here and literally grew up here.
    Thanks for dropping by.

  6. Sudha Sharma :
    Lovely description of a city that I have grown to love and respect after Bangalore. Every city has it’s own charm and Singaara Chennai is a delightful place. Everything about the place is good except for maybe the weather

    Hi Sudha,

    So good to see you here! Yes, I love the place. Weather could be a deterrent for some and people could make fun of the Tamil accent, but it has a special place in my heart!

    Thanks Sudha.

  7. sridhar

    That was a great article on Chennai, Shail. I live in Madurai. But I was born in Chennai. And I spent some of the most memorable holidays in Chennai. People in a tier 2 city like Madurai go to Chennai frequently for many reasons, personal and professional, and at times for no reason at all as I have done several times.
    I now have more friends and relatives (all my brothers and my only sister and my only daughter are there in Chennai).
    Your style is as usual soft and gripping. Keep writing, Shail. And always count me as your fan.
    sridhar

  8. Kumarendra Mallick

    Chennai for that matter Tamilnadu has treasured many of India’s ancient traditions. The pronounciation of sanskrit slokas is best done here in Tamilnadu. I like Chennai for many reasons, specially for good sportmen. Chennai is also a good centre of tennis.

  9. sridhar :

    That was a great article on Chennai, Shail. I live in Madurai. But I was born in Chennai. And I spent some of the most memorable holidays in Chennai. People in a tier 2 city like Madurai go to Chennai frequently for many reasons, personal and professional, and at times for no reason at all as I have done several times.
    I now have more friends and relatives (all my brothers and my only sister and my only daughter are there in Chennai).
    Your style is as usual soft and gripping. Keep writing, Shail. And always count me as your fan.
    sridhar

    Hello Sridhar,
    It is always a pleasure to have you here at Muse.
    Yes, Chennai has special memories.
    Thanks for your lovely comments. Enough to last me a week through:)

  10. Kumarendra Mallick :

    Chennai for that matter Tamilnadu has treasured many of India’s ancient traditions. The pronounciation of sanskrit slokas is best done here in Tamilnadu. I like Chennai for many reasons, specially for good sportmen. Chennai is also a good centre of tennis.

    Dear Mallickji,

    Today, my article on Chennai is attracting special guests and friends if I may say so. So nice of you to drop by.
    Yes, Chennai, Tamil Nadu is a beautiful place. We need to gel with the place and appreciate all that is beautiful. If only everyone did that wherever they stayed there would be harmony all around. Don’t you think so?

  11. Satish

    Hi Shail, wonderful article! I was born and brought up in this great City and I can relate all that you have articulated! Madras – the cultural capital of India. I believe this is one of the very few (or perhaps the only) city where one can see traditional and modern values in equal measure. As “The Hindu” newspaper tag line goes “Always classic and always contemporary”. At the outset, people are highly intellectual and carry an air of austerity. I have been to other major cities in India and one thing that strikes me is the motoring sense people of Chennai have. Traffic, in comparison to other big cities, is MUCH organized in Chennai and people still respect the traffic lights. Your article has opened the floodgates and I can keep writing about Chennai with a beam! Three cheers to Chennai and to the people who make the city what it is! Regards.

  12. knot2share

    Of course 3 cheers to Madras! To start a blog with superstar’s photo on it can’t be more auspicious…hehe! I love the crazy people of Madras. It only reminds me of Manorama’s song “Madrasa sutthi paakka ponen……” You know, on the day MGR died, my mum and myself were arriving at Madras. We had to get down at Mambalam station and walk to my aunt’s house. We took a rickshaw and kept our bags on the rickshaw. Then the rickshawallah, mum and myself walked! Having lived in non-city areas, coming to Madras was like a huge experience; a culture shock-nne sollalaam. I had lot of fun during my college-days in Madras and my most memorable time was here.

  13. knot2share

    Hey Shail…I hope you won’t mind me adding something here on top of the above. Here is a link that I found on facebook and so apt 🙂 to this blog. If you think this is rude/offensive then please feel free to delete it ok. The video at the end says it all anyway – ellam namma paarkira parvaiyiley irukku! Hope you enjoy…

    Thx!

  14. Hi Shree,

    I loved your link. How did you even come across it? It is now part of my write-up on Chennai.

    Thanks Shree!!

  15. Satish :

    Hi Shail, wonderful article! I was born and brought up in this great City and I can relate all that you have articulated! Madras – the cultural capital of India. I believe this is one of the very few (or perhaps the only) city where one can see traditional and modern values in equal measure. As “The Hindu” newspaper tag line goes “Always classic and always contemporary”. At the outset, people are highly intellectual and carry an air of austerity. I have been to other major cities in India and one thing that strikes me is the motoring sense people of Chennai have. Traffic, in comparison to other big cities, is MUCH organized in Chennai and people still respect the traffic lights. Your article has opened the floodgates and I can keep writing about Chennai with a beam! Three cheers to Chennai and to the people who make the city what it is! Regards.

    Hi Satish,

    So nice to hear from you about Chennai. I am sure there are many Chennai lovers residing in Chennai and outside.

    I am loving it!

  16. knot2share :

    Of course 3 cheers to Madras! To start a blog with superstar’s photo on it can’t be more auspicious…hehe! I love the crazy people of Madras. It only reminds me of Manorama’s song “Madrasa sutthi paakka ponen……” You know, on the day MGR died, my mum and myself were arriving at Madras. We had to get down at Mambalam station and walk to my aunt’s house. We took a rickshaw and kept our bags on the rickshaw. Then the rickshawallah, mum and myself walked! Having lived in non-city areas, coming to Madras was like a huge experience; a culture shock-nne sollalaam. I had lot of fun during my college-days in Madras and my most memorable time was here.

    Hi Shree,

    So, we have something more in common – the love for Chennai and what a similar experience on the first visit to Chennai! (MGR death time)

    See you around here, in Chennai I mean sometime soon!

  17. Geetashree Chatterjee

    Thanks, Shail for this lovely account of Chennai which I’ve never visited but in my mind’s eye scouted the city through this write of yours. Thanks once again!

  18. Geetashree Chatterjee :
    Thanks, Shail for this lovely account of Chennai which I’ve never visited but in my mind’s eye scouted the city through this write of yours. Thanks once again!

    Dear Geeta,

    Comments like your gives a lot of satisfaction as it serves a dual purpose. Not only am I happy sharing my views and emotions; I am also able to convey my view to others.
    🙂

  19. I love this. I am so glad that you grew to love this city, in spite of its shortcomings, and keep coming back…. I have been here for 45 years now, since I got married, and though it has changed a lot since then, I still love it.

  20. I am a native of Madurai being born there. But my studies and living are in Pondicherry! I have studied my PUC (Pre-Univeresity Course) for one year in Loyola College, Madras in 1967-68 and there after I have finished my B.Sc.(Physics) in Pondicherry 1969-72, then privately MA (English) at Sri Venkateswara Universty, Tirupati in1977-79 and MBA in 1983-85 in Maithili University, Bihar working as an industrialist in a small scale industry, Sri Lakshminarayana Industries, Pondicherry. Even today I feel Loyola college days are as if being spent in Cambridge or Oxford University! The electric train commuters going between Tambaram and Beach Station in Madras bring so many interesting thoughts and the developments of my personality! That is the spring board to many of my tours to Bangalore, Mysore, Pune and Bombay there after for business trainings and my becoming a novelist, poet and article writer since 1972 on and my becoming a publisher too being the founder of The Halo Papers, India in1996!

  21. Bhargavi Srinivasan comment at FB:
    Nicely went around Chennai which is bringing nostalgic memories in me, Shail…I liked the way you used the word..:lottu, lozukku”..:))

  22. Malathy Jey (founder of IndusLadies.com) says at FB:
    Great blog on Chennai, Shail Raghuvanshi. I am a hard core Chennai person, so was feeling very nostalgic reading it 🙂

  23. Arindam Roy at FB comments:
    Wow! Super like, Shail 🙂

  24. Raji Muthukrishnan at FB says:
    Very nice – the charm of Madras is how it welcomes an outsider/visitor and enfolds it in its warmth – and I don’t mean just the heat.

    Shail Raghuvanshi’s post prompts me to post this piece by Maiji, my mother, all about Madras and Chennai, which was published in the Feb. 2009 issue of Eve’s Touch, a Madras publication.
    http://lifeinpondicherry.blogspot.in/2009/02/madras-then-chennai-now.html

  25. Sujata Parashar (author, poet) comments at FB:
    Beautiful write Shail! I so enjoyed the journey. And to share with you … Chennai for me is all mouth watering South Indian delicacies and simple smiling and friendly people. 🙂

  26. Brinda

    Lovely, Shail. Sorry it took me so long to read it but it brought back a lot of lovely memories. I love chennai.

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