Here is one more of Nageh’s never-ending letters. Start it only if you have enough time .. You should not blame me that I did not tell you enough about my life here in Chennai, you see. So here goes….
Settling down In Madras/ Chennai
I had been going to Chennai (Madras to all old timers) from the start of my career if only to for GRE/ TOEFL exams or enroute to Guwahati or a few times for US visas.
So the city was not new to me, strictly speaking. But then settling down here has been neither easy nor difficult. Suffice to say, it has been different.
Well, settling down in new jobs/ cities/ country has been a regular feature of my life so far, anyway!
I started seeing this change coming at a crucial time in my life as a thing for the better and that helped.
Initially I just knew I had to be near Adyar a posh locality known both for big bungalows and bigger shopping circuits ( akin to Bangalore’s Jayanagar or JP Nagar,) as my office is situated opposite the Adyar River Bridge and flyover. I started searching places in this area.
I stayed in Hotel Raj palace, T Nagar in the first fortnight of my arrival here, courtesy of my office that bore all my expenses in this nice Air-conditioned hotel. The Hotel is near Hindi Prachar sabha and close to Shivaji Ganeshan Road ( called so because his house is on the same street) and MGR Memorial( His house turned to a Museum now). Quite a few film-stars like Saritha, Lakshmi, Arjun and Cricketer Srikkanth etc live in this locality. Good for both residences and shopping.
I moved to my own place in Adyar on the Christmas day. Still I keep checking out the malls and bazaars of T nagar- Pondy Bazaar on Sundays. My favourite haunt, you can say.
I traveled to Office on Auto Rickshaw although Buses are the most popular Mass transit facility in this City. I did not know the routes then and then the language either.
I had to pick up the geography and Tamil quickly, well enough to know my way around.
At the Office it is different; being a UK company, English is popularly used although Tamilians speak in their mother tongue among themselves.
I used a city map to know my East from west, so to say and bought a ‘Learn Tamil’ book. I used my raw Tamil on poor Auto Rickshaw drivers and got coached in turn. It wasn’t really difficult. English is quite popular on the streets here too and one can safely use it with any educated looking person, without being stared at (which happens in Kolkata). If you fumble for Tamil words a bit, many readily speak in Hindi nowadays too assuming you are North Indian. More so if you are fair complexioned!
Yes, the OLD Madras is gone, the place whose impression I used to carry as a dirty, smelly Tamil dominated City.
In its place, is now a multicultural, modern looking metropolis, not really cluttered with Traffic the way Bangalore is. I do feel less pollution on the roads here.
The roads are wide, straight, plain and well-laid out. They are frequently re-laid and they have done a good job of it. Very different from uneven steep and potholed roads of Bangalore. Basically Chennai being on the coast is plain and flat contrasting with the ‘ups and downs’ of Bangalore topography. On the downside, Old Chennai which is mostly Northern area is still languishing the same way.
It is only an occasional ‘Khushboo’ kind of controversy which erupts and disturbs in an otherwise peaceful city.
The buses are very regular as I am slowly learning now and dirt cheap too.
For Rs 2 ticket you could travel like 10 kms. For a 3- 4 bucks’ ticket, you could travel to the ends of the City which are 25- 30 kms apart. Well, though bus fares are cheap and ‘Ladies seats’ rule is followed strictly, the condition of the buses is not really High class. But that is OK. I don’t travel daily.
There are metro trains running on the main line – Central- Nungambakkam_ tambaram route, which is far away to me There is MRTS , the elevated train service running close to my place on Adyar- Mylapore- Beach route.
Even the Trains are not crowded like Mumbai’s but then the trains are not as many as in Mumbai either. Ok, you do get trains at every 15 minutes on peak hours and 30-45 min on off -peak hours and Sundays. With all those buses , this works well for Chennaites.
I took up accommodation about 2 kms from Adyar’s Main road called Sardar patel road in a residential colony of Nehrunagar.
This extension has good roads, clean, and inhabited by Upper Middle to affluent classes who live in bungalows built in 50x 80 plots. I live on the second floor of one such building.
There are tall road-side trees and there are all kinds of shopping availble-provisions, dairy, newspapers, dry cleaners, bakery, medical shops and even a Pizza hut and Dominos’ all a stone’s throw from where I live. Cricketers Venkata Raghavan, Robin Singh and Film actress Revathi live in the same area.
The areas of the Adyar are called after Gandhi, Nehru , Indira and Annie Besant.
The main road has several Nalli silk show rooms and big shopping plazas that seem to be cropping up everywhere. Peter England, Nike, Reebok, Pantaloons, Spencer’s and such boards seem to stare down at you when walk.
I take an auto’ in the morning paying the mandatory minimum of Rs 20/-(Yes, they fleece you if you are not careful. They don’t operate Meters) But then I walk back home finishing my supper at 7 or earlier at a nice Veg Restaurant chain ( 10 branches in all) called Sangeetha on the way. I don’t get to eat rice at night ( You don’t get plate meals at night) and I end up having Noodles or sandwiches or Chappathi topped with a milkshake or a lassi.
Occasionally I splurge on ‘chat’ or Dosas and uththappams too (Medical check up showed I was fine but I am about 10 KG overweight and am losing weight by brisk walking daily). I have a simple 2 –idly diet for breakfast.
Yes, you do get excellent ‘chat’ items in Chennai now. Adyar Anand Bhavan, Sri Krishna’s and Saravanas’ Chain restaurants (15 restaurant chain) do roaring business in the evenings. Good old ‘maamis and maamas’ of Madras have taken strongly to Pav Bhajis and Dahi puris, racing with the younger generation.
Adyar is really a hub of education. The next bus stop near my room is IIT, Madras. Opposite that is the Anna University for Technical education which adjoins the wide, sprawling Guindy National park and Raj Bhavan. A prestigious IT Corridor Project is coming up in the neighbourhood too.
Tata Consultancy Services have their TIDEL Park housing many IT Companies already. Locals say, all this has gone only to increase the influx of Software engineers from Other States and rentals of houses / rooms have sharply increased these days in Adyar. (Just like BTM layout JP Nagar in Bangalore!). This is why probably I hear many languages on Sundays in the restaurants and shopping areas!
I met several Kannada speaking Students and lecturers too Of IIT, Madras at Sangeetha restaurant. IIT at Madras has been favorite among Karnataka Students from my student days too.
Mylapore here is a ‘malleswaram type’ area of Bangalore, with lots Of Brahmins and known for tradition and culture, especially for Music, Carantic type.
Balamurali krishna, Yesudas and Sudha Raghunathan- and their brethren live and perform here regularly. I heard that old-time legends like MS and MLV lived here too. So do some living ones like S Janaki and Chitra.I keep visiting this area for Kachcheris. A No of fine a/c auditoriums showcase their talent quite regularly, especially so in the last 2 months of ‘Music Season’.
Films have been a religion with Tamilians from the days of MGR, Jaya to Rajani and Kamala Hasan. Obviously there are hundreds of good theatres here. Multiplexes have come up in three places and many are in the offing. Sathyam, sangam amd Mayajaal are doing well now. I saw Amir khan starrer,‘ Rang de Basanthi’ after trying a no of times, in a multiplex and liked it. Hindi and English films do well here from what I could see now.
Some 2 to 3 latest Telugu moves are always running in the City and at least one Malayalam. Kannada films..no news!
I had to buy a TV-set top box for 4k to see all my favourite channels which otherwise cable operator does not provide anywhere here.
‘The Hindu’ still leads the English newspapers’ sale with Deccan Chronicle- Chennai edition running closely. This originally Hyderabad based newspaper is sold at a meager Re 1!
There are Sify Internet parlours everywhere and our office completely wired too.
The weather is keeping within 33 deg-22 deg limits with 75% humidity now. Mercury can only go upwards now, the locals declare. So I will need an AC, sooner than later.
Shyamala and Children were here for three days last weekend and I was on leave for one day. We had been to Guindy National park, some temples and Marina and Elliots Beach at Besant nagar here.
That’s for now. Thanks for listening to my monologue, ramblings…