Generally when a person is questioned which his/her favorite city is, normally it would be the place where they have made best memories or had/have a great social circle or work culture irrespective of the city’s weather, politics, lack of infrastructure and even traffic and with that definition, my fav cities are Madras,Bangalore and Hyderabad in random order.
Though I have never lived in Madras, I share a special bond with this city. No matter how far you go, your childhood stays with you and this city other than giving me memories has been the venue of my wedding and my birth too.
This place celebrates its formation day as ‘Madras day” on August 22 every year and the week around is celebrated as Madras week.
The character of Chennai lies in the fact that it has not lost its culture and deep rooted values while adapting itself to new, for which reason it attracts many foreign tourists on its shores some of whom have made this their home. This is very evident from the many visting foreigners who went on to become students at cultural hubs like Kalakshetra, cholamandalam arts village and at many other cultural centres, but due to paucity of time, technological advances and the world shrinking into global village, we do take our own culture and heritage for granted, at times like this it is occasions like our festivals which helps us to take a step back in time and ‘Madras day’ is one of them.
A team of enthusiasts who value heritage like Mr.Vincent, Mr. Muthiah , Mr. Sashi nair supported by many volunteers and organizations connect the present generation with the past by arranging and focusing on an eclectic mix of madras related activities like heritage walks, photo exhibits, docu dramas and talks at the various parks,schools and hotels which volunteer to host.
It just feels beautiful to share this series of post which is not a travel guide of madras but a celebration of memories that is madras for me apart from its culture, couture, craft, coffee, cinema and cuisine, especially these memories were made in 4 old suburbs of Madras – Adyar( where I was born),Mylapore( my maternal grandparents home ), Nanganallur( my paternal grand parents place) and now my marital (extended family) home at T.nagar.
There could be lot of grammatical and spelling errors, and some lines could even be repeated, a very random list straight from my heart, To you Madras.....
As a little girl while travelling by Brindavan express( Bangalore to madras), I used to be so excited when the train reached Basin bridge junction because Madras was just a few minutes away and thatha would be there to receive me at the station and I would be in the company of my loving relatives and cousins.
As the car passed through Napier bridge and the world’s second largest beach Marina, I would be bursting with joy to capture the beautiful moments that lay in store for me.
Here’s where I caught the sights, sounds, scents and sweet people like in the list below and all these are so symbolic and represent Madras, On a personal level these are the things that I have done in madras long back,
- A vibrant and active city( thoonga nagaram) is awake as early as 5 or before, and you will find people splashing water and cleaning the door steps to put kolam(rangoli). Most people rise here to the south Indian wake up music of noted carnatic singer M.S.Subbalakshmi’s suprabhatam, followed by a cup of Filter kaapi.. Here filter kaapi is served in a stainless steel davara and tumbler( cup and saucer). The way kaapi is poured from the cup to the saucer from a great distance to make it frothy is an art to be mastered and could keep capuccino, mocha out of the race.
- The scents and sights of the beautifully strung kadhamba poo made up of flowers of henna, bluebells, kanakambaram, marikozhundu, the scent of jasmine flowers all these were strung beautifully on a banana fibre by the florist on almost all street corners. The paneer rojas( a scented rose used in gulkand) would be made into huge garlands and encased in silver threads and the scent of these flowers were always in the air, the marikozhundu(Spanish cherry), thazhampoo(screw pine), Manoranjitham(ylang ylang) and the festoons made of coconut glade during ocassions.
- The lovely procession of janavasam( baraat) where the bride groom goes in an open car piloted by the mellifluous tunes of nadaswaram and mridangam band and relatives ,flanked by the carriers of petromax lights( Ilike the effect of the filtered light in the night) all this from the balcony of our patti’s home. The baraat passes through our home to the Raja kalyana mandapam beside Buckingham canal.
- The pattu pavaidas brought at rasi silk and nalli and tailored by maadi tailor and all those colorful rustling silks of the madisar maamis around kapali kovil and Nanganallur anjaneyar koil.
- The taste of the Goli soda at T.A.S ratthinam pattinam kadai, kaara sevai of the matthala narayanan street, the jeeraga mittai , eli mittai and 5 star bought at sankar stores, the herbs at dabba chetty kadai, the softy,flavored milks and palkova of aavin and of course nothing to beat the taste of patti’s malligai poo idli, suttennai and milagai podi and the rose barfi of Grand sweets.( I was very angry with my grandpa once when he told me to share a 5 star with a co - passenger on my train).
- I studied for 5 months during my mom's confinement while my sister was born, and amirtham our maid used to take me to kumaran's school, not wanting to go to school, I swung the oonjal (swing) against her head while she was mopping the floor and while she was writhing in pain, i was so happy i would miss school till thatha punctured my happiness by tellling me that he would take me to police station.
- My first sight of Television and I loved to watch oliyum oliyum, wonderballoon , here’s lucy, and non-stop nonsense and I would be delighted to see those east man color movies and this oliyum oliyum was telecast on fridays during the archanai at kapali koil and my patti told us cousins to accompany mami. Oh, How we hated to go to kapali koil those days, and now almost daily before going to sleep, I am mentally go around this temple.
- The pride I and my cousins felt while giving neer more( chaas/buttermilk) to the passers by sitting on the steps of the sengalineer pillaiyar koil which patti specially churned during ramanavami and summers.
- The utsava murthi( god in procession) which used to exclusively pass in front of our home and all of us would come out with pooja items to offer pooja( this arrangement is done by the temples so that invalid and old people can have the darshan of god)
- The sidaru thengai( breaking coconuts on the road in front of Ganesha temple) and the rickshaw wallas rushing to get the sidaru thengai.
- My own choppu basket( toys) made of cane which was downloaded from the attic when i went for holidaysand the games of pallankuzhi. I still have my patti’s pallanguzhi ( a traditional game which has a wooden base).
- The strolls around maada veedhi (road), luz church and the narrow alleys like matthala narayanan street, bazaar street, walk to santhome beach, around the lanes of my mom’s school and the various falls I had while learning to cycle in the vast ground before 41, lakshmi nagar colonynanganallur and union carbide colony , the walks to watch movies at ranga, kapali and kamadhenu theatres.
- Shopping at luz, mada street, t.nagar, pondy bazaar, Burma bazaar and the old red spencer building .
- In nanganallur home, there were sepia toned photos of our ancestors walled in a linear fashion along with those was a photo of nehru and gandhi. As a child, when I asked who was that? my thatha answerd as nehru thatha and till many years I was thinking nehru was related to me and he was my thatha.
- Our visits to the temples of kapali kovil, luz anjaneyar, mundakanniamman, nanganallur anjaneyar , ashtalaksmi koil, velanganni , ayyappan koil at R.A puram and santhome church .
- The aroma wafting out of patti’s kitchen while she makes keerai masiyal, urulai curry , vengaya sambar and that tasty arisi upma made in vengala uruli , the kaisuttu murukku and adirasam were too tasty and how can I forget the special atthi kai( fig) sambar . These atthi kai was not available in all shops, only in a roadside shop outside hindu chit fund office, paati sent amirtham( our maid) to get this because I love this atthi kai sambar and the taste is still lingering on my tongue
- The sound of the cycle rickshaw bells which carried rosary matric children, bells of the soan papdi cycle the nearby pillaiyar koil still chimes in my ear.
- The cool sea breeze which caressed us while we played on the hot summer terrace.
- The smell of amrutanjan while you stood outside the bustop at luz,The casual bow to luz vinayagar,My cycling experiences at the huge open area called nanganallur.( On my last visit to this place , I could find no open space, only flats), My first electric train journey from Pazhavanthangal to mambalam and our joy rides in my thatha’s amby MSR 2277, the phone number 73762, the beautiful chettinad mansion on adyar, the various kutcheris at Ramana kendra, the dramas( madras has a very active theatre group), The Christmas cakes at universal bakery, the sand castles built on the beach, the maangai sundal and chocobar of santhome, marina and elliots beach, the cool breeze that caresses your face while you walk up the narrow alleys of Ashtalaksmi kovil,,The warmth and service of people like mani mama( jewelry shop), veenai mami, Shankar stores, the archakar at kapali kovil, srividya manjal kunguma kadai , rickshaw puller kapali, Dr. kailash his wife Dr. chitra and all those people at the post office, thambi pharmacy, sarasa pinman, Shankar stores, dabbachetty kadai,the gurkha of the United bank, the librarian at the nearby library who went on mouna vrat’s on Monday , my aunt’s and mom’s typewriting and shorthand institute, devi milk depot. and our maid amirtham ,
- Come December and this city experiences concert tourism where musicians from all over the world congregate to celebrate and experience the December katcheri – a music fest which is unparalled in the world.
The aroma of Patti's kitchen, idli moligai pudi, nallennai or sometimes suttennai
The spirit of madras - dance and music
Interested may find the madras day events listing here
All the photos are from :Global village's Best of chennai - a coffee table book. except the theppam photo which is from mylapore times.