No, its not an impending India trip that has stirred this homeland-Chennai-loouws this time. In fact it is the result of months of exposure to Chennai bhasha – Chennai tamil, their slangs, culture and habits that has brought out these emotions in me. I realize, I do not qualify to be called a Chennai-iite. I lived in the district of Chennai but cocooned in a suburban (bordering on rural) estate that was a mini-township in itself. I did roam the city like crazy – all the bookstores, eateries ( HSB, for those who don’t already know – Hotel Saravana Bhavan), frequented all the malls, studied in an extremely cosmopolitan school located in one of the modern localities, attended a gazillion weddings that took me in and around the city, played on the beaches and learnt Tamil. But I have come to realize that these were things that any outsider would do too. At home, we are typically not really south Indians – eating rotis and rajma-chawal, speaking in a mixture of Hindi-English, not sporting bindis or following extremely orthodox traditions or pujas. Most of our friends were also not from Chennai or south India. My parents though hardly aware of most of these customs ( they never lived in Chennai all their life until 5 years back) strived to give us a good heady mix of north and south Indian stuff. We are what you call – hybrid. This realization dawned upon me only when I came to the US (surprise surprise!) and when I met the folks who roamed the streets of Royapettah ,Gopalapuram, Mylapore and T-Nagar, played cricket (or was it Gaadji (batting)) in corporation grounds, terraces and beaches, ate at Bhagya’s or gorged on Aatu-kaal paaya at Ponnusamy’s, or stopped to have tea and biscuits after a game of cricket in a Nair kadai. I dont know this chennai but I am loving everything I am learning about it.
Add to it, the addictive following of some fantastic blogs by regular bloggers – I realized I had to move beyond my college folks who have synced their frequency of new posts with the occurence of solar eclipses, resulted this new found love and respect for chennai. It is indeed a city that is like no other. From Krish Ashok to the eloquent Maami and Tamizh Penn, they reflect this new modern era that youngsters in Chennai are ushering. Not afraid to flaunt traditions or mock fun at some of our oddities, they bring pride into traditions and culture. Not to mention – Tambrahm rage, the comic strip creating waves all over, pokes fun at extreme irritation caused by brahmin traditions on children. I particularly enjoy all of this because though my parents did not strictly enforce all of that at home, (they do enforce some) it still resonates with my daily life to a great extent. It is fun to read about how all grownups cringe when their mom calls curd rice “Thacchi mumum” in front of friends (happened to me a gazillion times) or the scorn of the maamis in Kapaleeshwar temple when they find me not sporting the pottu. It brings a warm gooey feeling inside to connect with your culture and poke fun at it, being proud at the same time. It is a feeling I cannot describe.
Why am I forgetting cricket? There is something unique about the love for the game Chennai-iites have. We are the city that gave Wasim Akram and his team a standing ovation after losing a match instead of flinging things at the players. We are ardent fans of the team as is and not of any one player. Take CSK or Team India. Never do we support a member from any one team, it is always the entire team and the sport we love. I don’t know if I have seen such widespread support for the entire team anywhere else. Now thanks to all the World Cup celebration and the whistle-podu videos (did you know it has been converted to Six-podu this year?) I cannot wait for CSK to win the IPL again this year. The tunes are so catchy, not to mention the dance moves. How can you resist from joining in?
And finally, my joy of discovering madras bhashai. Though known mostly for being rude, crude and incoherent with pure tamil, this is something Tamil purists (esp. those from deep south like Madurai) cringe or even chide. But I love it. I love it for the sole reason that it sounds like a lot of fun. To me, it sports a very cool and carefree attitude. I am still learning since I don’t understand many of the terms but I love saying the words and the phrases. My tamil movie knowledge, close to 0 (no wait, it was 0) is slowly inching up. I enjoy Senthil, Goundamani and Vadivelu and their crass comedy which despite its low standards, can bring a chuckle to your face. Seriously, apart from lines in Sholay and Andaz Apna Apna – why dont I remember anything funny from Hindi movies? Did I just forget our Thalai, the greatest ever? My apologies.
I wouldnt express the same kind of love for all the people there though, thanks to some very unpleasant experiences.But I have met a few good ones and I am eagerly looking forward to finding those makkal, who would make my day whenever I meet them. It is sad that some sorry-ass chennai hater had to write the lonely planet guide brief for this fabulous city. ( I did not know this until I read it myself in some of the blogs I mentioned. I wholeheartedly support the writers in showing complete hatred and bewilderment to whatever has been written). Ask any person who doesn’t like a particular place/dish/person to write something about it/him/her, I doubt it will be the true picture.
I know many people try so hard to shrug off this tamil culture when they leave India and sport fake accents and try and follow American customs. They feel embarassed to admit liking movies starring Dhanush or supress liking some of the unique traditions we have. I really feel sorry for such people for trying so hard to leave something so precious. Anyhow, having vented out my feelings, I can now get back to that term paper due tomorrow.
In any case – “Chennai ku oru periya Whistle podu!!!” ( A big round of applause for Chennai – decently put).
PS: I am excited about the Royal wedding. To all those folks to sport the “I-dont-give-a-shit-who-is-William-and-I-dont-care-if-he-married-a-guy” attitude, I dont care. It is not everyday a commoner (okay she is super rich and hot) becomes a princess.