As the days of this year seamlessly roll over, passing month after month in the flash of second, I personally would like to pause right here and admire this beautiful month of August, for it is in August I can relish the ‘birthday’ of the place I hold dearest to my heart – Chennai. Even as I write this article, I have about a dozen cliché, poster-worthy one-liners to sing praise about Chennai, about Madras. But if I want to produce something that is even remotely different from a hackneyed Times of India article, it’s got to be from the heart, and from the heart, this is going to be.
Since the last 3 generations my family, both maternal and paternal, have dwelled in Madras almost all of their lives, my grandparents never ran out of stories to tell me. Scattered across various parts of Madras, I often got anecdotes about how different places bloomed and perished, about dacoits and Arak, and the rise and fall of political dynasties.
As I grew up, I experienced Chennai in my own style and at my own pace. I don’t exactly recall when I started considering Chennai as more than just the city I live in. Was it after watching the Chennai Super Kings win their first IPL game against KXIP in 2008? Or was it after learning that Chennai boasts the 2nd longest beach in the world? Whenever it might’ve been, I’ve come to realise that every seemingly trivial experience that Chennai has to offer: like the noisily entertaining bus rides, and the rare, cool mornings, has made me fall deeper in love with this city.
Indeed, like all priceless things, Chennai’s charm doesn’t lie in its perfection. It is not the cleanest city out there and the heatwaves during the month of May will compel you to tear into your own skin. The peak hour traffic makes you question your life decisions (“Why did I choose to take this route, today of all days?!”). But have you ever gotten the warm feeling of being on your own turf when your train rolls into the Basin Bridge station or when your bus reaches the SRM toll gate? What gives Chennai a special throne in our hearts is this sense of peace and aegis.
Unsurprisingly, Chennai patriots are not restricted to only Chennai dwellers because this city can cater to just about anyone’s needs. Are you a foodie? Grab an Auto and go restaurant hopping. A techie? Richie Street and anywhere beyond Madhya Kailash is your zone. A biker? Have you visited the Pudupet shops yet? A shopaholic? Pondy Bazar and Ranganathan Street welcome you, now enhanced with Smart Bikes to pedal around leisurely. Interested in music? Magical month of Margazhi. Movies? Take your pick; there are theatres everywhere. Sports? Chepauk’s available but so are our therukkal (streets). All in all, this UNESCO Creative City attracts expatriates from all walks of life, from pious pilgrims to healing health tourists.
Madras is family. It has seen me, seen us, laugh, cry, get broody, throw tantrums and live life. We may curse at it for its vices, for having hot, hotter and hottest as its seasons, but we wouldn’t have it any other way, would we? People say, “Home is where the heart is”, and my heart is with Chennai.
Happy Birthday, Madras! Vayasanalum un style'um azhagum innum unna vittu pogala. ( ͡~ ͜ʖ ͡°)