People, people every where, not a soul to stop around; that’s Chennai in a phrase to me. Every time I visit this place, the space has crunched further and people have expanded mercilessly beyond what the city can hold. Time seems to be a friend, long forgotten and nothing seems to stop to at least sigh. I don’t really care if you head up against me in the road as long as you don’t damage my car. I have no reason to tell you have been driving like mad because everybody does. People and more people, I was one among them and I had to like every 5 minutes, push myself a little harder to keep with the pace; when I had to place order for my food, when I had to ask the cab driver if he would take me to a place, when I was using the ATM or when I was paying my bill, there is a natural fast belt that keeps life on the move in here. Chennai, I would say, is a people’s city, the growth, the uplift in life style, the ever increasing space-constraint and all the facts that make the city as wonderful as it is, well, I can only think of one reason, people and more people.
It’s a cool December week, slowly creeping over the weekend and thankfully the climate plays a friendly host. I do not know the city. I don’t think I would ever, but I pretend to do so, conveniently when I speak to people and I believe it is to safe guard the lie that I knew the city and you couldn’t cheat. “This is not my kinda place, ma” I heard myself tell amma when she was talking about how quick the returns would be if you invested in Chennai’s real estate. When I told her I would rather invest in a place like Coimbatore, I saw her sigh and I think she told appa that I was hopeless in building money. Yea, that I am, I always knew that.
But strangely and almost always, I feel at home when I stray around the streets in Chennai. And coincidentally I have rarely had to put up with the city’s summer, prompting me to count another reason to like or dislike the place. I think I like it, I really do, but not in comparison with the other cities I have lived in. I expect more space and a relaxed pace to live life. I wouldn’t want to spend more time traveling than I would in the actual destination. I wouldn’t mind if it was crowded. But I need to have that time to stop and talk to a person, if in need. I don’t know, Bangalore is nothing short of crowded either. And the traffic is crazier because there is lesser space. People sprint for a hide-out which gets more crowded on weekends than how an office would be on a week day. I still have a never-ending crush for the place.
There is something new Chennai has in store for my each visit. The new mall Citi Center resembled Forum to me but surprisingly less crowded. I think I feel nostalgic about Spencers every time I visit and hence would choose to say Spencers remains the hottest spot to hang out despite getting a little older and withered. After hanging around the multiplex-and-branded-stored-malls for a day, it was and it has always been excitingly convincing and tiring at the same time to bargain and do street shopping through Pondy bazaar. After all, what would a trip to Chennai mean sans buying loads of goodies.
After a couple of days of romancing with the Singara Chennai, it was time to pack off and leave. On my way back from the city, my cabbie wants to know if I belonged to the place. I smile and give him a No. We were driving through Sterling road, Nungambakkam and the lights and the hoardings were brilliant.
“Can we reach in one hour ?”, amma asks him looking at the blocked traffic. He politely says, ‘I will try ma’ and the next half an hour he took us through the shortest but bumpiest routes possible, or at least we believed, to avoid the wait at signals so we get to board the flight in time. We smile at him thankfully after paying and he asks “inime eppo varuveenga?” (When will you come again)”.
“Varuvom, seekrama”, Appa replies (We will, soon ), signing ourselves out of the city.
Yet again, I get convinced by the truth that this is the thing that brings life to the popularly favorite Chennai, its people.