Category Archives: Madras
The title refers to buddy’s beautiful prose on city profiles. A city as lovable as Bombay.
This is not a city that I’ve loved right from the word go. It’s not the city I grew up in. The more appropriate statement would be that the city grew upon me. Like buddy articulates, the je ne sais quoi of a city takes keen observation and experience to come in terms with. That’s exactly what happened with Madras and me.
This is going to be short and simple. There is no question of being defensive. The city is not revered for famous buildings or past happenings of importance. The city pulsates with a characteristic balance absent in other cities. Madras does not enjoy cult status. Nobody asks you if you’ve seen the Gateway of India. Nobody asks you if you’ve had bun maska and chai or a pitcher of beer at Leopold’s. Nobody asks you if you’ve visited at least one pub on M.G. Road. Nobody asks you if we can go on a weekend visit to Madras(It is totally Bangloreans fault in projecting MG Road and Brigade road as The City). Nobody asks you if you’ve traveled in a tram. Nobody asks you if you’ve taken part in a protest in college.
You don’t need all that. They say you are what your company is. So there. Your city becomes what you are. I believe that you and your interactions with the people you know in a city shapes what you think of it. It’s not about landmarks, characteristics or pop culture references. It is pedestrian to think that you love New York City because you walked on Wall Street, went clubbing on 14th street and took a leak at the eighth avenue subway(true story!).
This may sound pretentious but sample this. Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar may be from Bombay. Virender Sehwag may be from Delhi. Dada comes from Kolkata and, not to leave the south, Kumble and Dravid may come from Bangalore. But you need a Madras to witness the best Test match. History and statistics tell you that the chances of Sachin scoring a century at Chepauk are higher than any other place. I know this doesn’t drive home the point. I confessed this is not an explanation. I don’t feel obligated to give one. Just wanted to write something on the eve of the semi-finals.
But hey! The credit for the best promotional video among the IPL teams, also goes to Chennai:
They just zoom past you on all fours. As in, from all the four sides. The green scooter guy dares to butt in just in front of your side mirror. He has three people squatting tight behind him. An elderly woman holding a kid and a five year old sandwiched in between. You just apply the breaks to let him pass through. And there you are contributing to the unruly traffic.
The second gear is down and as you negotiate a pothole, a grand convoy of three bikes try to slip in on the left. There is just daylight between the car and the parked SUV. It’s whats popularly known as cycle gap. When you just thought you succesfully negotiated the daring family man, you are stalled once again by the Valentino Rossis of Madras. Back to first gear and the pothole means you rev up to more than 2000 RPM wondering if you are really that bad a driver.
It’s all smooth again and the car is making the perfect noise on third gear. A couple of rickshaws have adopted right hand drive and create chaos in your mind. They just took a free right in front of you and you had to hit the breaks hard, hold the clutch and come to a full stop. Silence follows and you are authorized to move again.
As you digest all the swear words and the occasional Oram Pos, you become one among them. Then driving in this city is as electric as it is watching it from the sidelines. By now it’s a guilty pleasure and then you feel at home on the roads of Madras. The fifth gear is just a showpiece.