Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Soul Of A Place

Have never been the one to be talking of one city being better than the other. Even now, all I am saying is I have grown used to this place that I can’t find any other place half as attractive.

Chennai, where I had spent 11 full years of my life and further 6 years as a part time (coming for holidays rather than going home) is the place which I am speaking about. So what is so great abut this place? People who come to this place, more often than not, crib a lot. It is very stuffy. No one speaks Hindi. Auto guys make a killing. And so on.

I would ask only the following questions.

Isn’t Calcutta stuffy? This is what you would get in a coastal temperate area you Dud!!!

No one speaks Hindi – This takes the cake. Now I am no pro-Thamizh culture buff. In fact if anyone speaks about this, I will be the first to put trash in their mouth. Even then, I must confess I have seen lesser no. of people making an effort to learn Tamil when they come here than vice versa. “Why should I? Hindi is the national language and you better know it” is the common refrain. Guess they forgot the maxim – When in Rome, be a Roman. All said and done, every place has its own identity. And one should learn to respect it.

The auto guys make a killing – Okay they do. But why don’t you go in bus? Or use a call taxi or for that matter use the electric train or walk? Yes these guys make a killing. But one can always ignore them. It is a plain case of supply and demand. Hen the demand for the auto guys is more they will make a killing.

Now for the things I love in Chennai/Madras. There is humanity. Even in the most posh of places, you will find people moving in the streets and approachable. Maybe that OMR stretch is developing into a Gurgaon like devil. But rest of the place is okay. Be it Besant Nagar, Adyar, Poes Garden, Gopalapuram. Anywhere you go, you have semblance of possibilities to indulge in conversation with people.

You have the wonderful Idly, Dosa and Sambar. No further elucidation on this. People who know it will appreciate it. For the rest, it doesn’t matter anyways.

The best thing is that the roads are big enough to appear good and small enough to not overawe you. All said and done, having a 30m-50m wide road is, what shall I say? It takes off any sort of personal touch that the city has to offer you. Any city, if it has to grow on you should offer that personal touch. The city has a way of speaking to you. You know, for example lets take a road trip; from Ambattur OT to Airport. The stretch from OT to Brittania tells you a tale of hardship. Trying to make both ends meet types. You get to meet people who toil for their daily bread. There is dust, grime and traffic which conveys the same message. The smell of baked biscuits at brittania is the stress buster. From there to Lucas junction, it is a story of disciplined industrialization as against un planned or small scale stuff. From Lucas jn to Anna Nagar Depot, you can see a free spirit in the wide, usually free roads. As you cross the depot, you come to a lively residential cum commercial area which is bursting with energy. From there to Koyambedu jn, you transition from residential to commercial area. As you near our Mofussil bus terminus, you see a multitude of people. Some leaving Chennai and some coming to it. In all their eyes, you can see purpose. And activeness. From Koyambedu to Vadapalani jn, it is slightly less populated. This is the place which says to you, ‘Bloody get going. Too much stagnation is not good’. From Vadapalani jn to Ashok Pillar – you again transition to a half residential, half commercial area. Be it morning or evening, you will find a sense of leisureliness in people that is heart warming. From Pillar to Kathipara – you see signs of working class population on the seams and IT/industrial ambience on the mains. Le Meridien will welcome you at Kathipara. And from there to the Airport, you start seeing signs of the urban, supposedly ‘modern’ roads leading to the airport. These try to resemble the wide roads of bigger cities. These roads are to show you what you will be missing by losing out on the personal touch.

I know that was a lousy description. But each person will have something to tell of his city. Madras is such a place that if you know it well, you can travel from any point A to any point B in 45 min flat. It is independent of the distance. All you need is to talk with the soul of the city.

It goes for other cities and towns too. Agreed. Maybe getting used to the place is what matters. Amen.


  1. mm...thats a express ride across the city!! Congrats driver

  2. Namma ooroda azhage azhagu thaan