Saturday, February 09, 2008

Chennai Undiluted

Filter kappi. Vengaya chutney. Beach. Nidhi. Occassional showers. Vast blue sky. Photographs. Sundal. Saravana bhavan. Ghee Dosa. College. Draping saree. People. Hostel. Birthdays. MLC. Mittu’s house. Sleeping on the floor. Beach. Sunrise. Long drives. Starlit nights. Friend. College Play. Memories. Chennai.

If only I could live all my life between the warm, cosy spaces of these words.

Five days in Chennai has done good to my cynical soul. All that this wretched city had drained out of me, Chennai generously proffered again. I was staying at a good friend’s place, and it was almost like going home to Kerala. Her mother fed me well, and always insisted on one more dosa, or another helping of thayirusadam. Best of all, I got filter kappi the moment I was out of bed.

The minute I entered college, I was greeted by friends and juniors as if I was a sister, long lost at a Kumbhmela. Although it was just a few months since I had met them last, we had so much to talk about. Lunch, candid pictures, and several hours later, we all assembled at the college grounds for our Convocation function, which turned out to be the most solemn occasion of my life.

The sun was just setting, and the sky was a brilliant orange. The wind was blowing in that cool, careless way that it does only in colleges or schools with large open grounds and big, old trees. The excited chitter-chatter slowly died away, and the combs and Kohl pencils were artfully tucked away. The speeches begin, and although you had planeed to doze off as you always did during the morning assembly, something makes you sit up and listen to the Principal’s speech. After a few minutes, you realize you are getting goosebumps. Although the chief guest’s address was really long and made no sense, the message had gone home. We were all grown up women now, with a lot of responsibility towards our family, college and country.

Later at night when I was sitting by the window and looking at the sky, I suddenly felt very grown up; very mature and old. It was like I missed out on adulthood and slipped right into middle age. Maybe it’s the monotonous work I do, or maybe it’s because I stopped writing. So I promised myself that I’m going to write more from now on. All those ideas for short shorts have been long pending. I have been sticking to my New Year’s resolution to read two books a week, and this one is going to be a slightly late addition to the list.

Watching sunrise at the beach is one of the most satisfying sights ever. Chennai wakes up at 5 in the morning (or maybe even earlier). During the auto ride to the beach, the sudden whiff of fresh coffee from a road-side shop puts a smile on your face. The beach is dotted with people who are exercising or just walking around, vendors selling this and that, the laughter club guffawing away, occasional romances and holding of sweaty palms, eve-teasers, policemen, and the list can go on. Everything is alive and there’s a joy all around.

There isn’t much to see in Hyderabad in the mornings. The cab ride to my office is quite uneventful (maybe this is because I live in the city. They say there’s a lot of local flavor if you travel away from the city. but it's no fun to go hunting for it. the beauty lies in seeing it when you're not looking for it.) All the same, I like to go to office early. I like those ten-fifteen minutes to myself before the day begins, and before the others come in, carrying the entire outside world on their shoulders. It prepares me to face all the small talk and fake conversations that punctuates my days here; it helps me spend the day per the schedule; moving from room to desk and back to room, from meeting to meals and back to the computer screen. One monotonous day that follows another identical monotonous day. Sigh.

Tara and I plan to go to Chennai every month, so that we can come back refreshed to face this depressing city. Looking at things that have happened to me in the past few weeks, it feels like a year in Hyderabad is preparing me for the rest of my life.

This is by far my most explicitly personal post, and I'm writing this between sending polite emails to dumb customers, getting documents ready for my passport, phone calls from the advocate, my mom’s phone calls @ 2 calls every hour, monosyllabic chats with a dear friend, and so on. Work beckons, and this is it for now.

(PS: No, I am not going to remove comments moderation. I enjoy reading what you all have to say from my inbox, and prefer not to share it with the world :)

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