Friday, July 13, 2012

bittersweet

It's been three years since  I left Chennai, a city that has meant various things to me at various points in time. From family weddings, nadaswarams and crowded marriage halls, it suddenly transformed itself into a hub for gigs, hordes of friends and house parties. It also meant different people at different points in time. I've always been attached to places I've lived in but Chennai had a different kind of power - it was a place which could make me ecstatic, afraid, content and lonely. Very unlike the standard happy high Bangalore offers.

It used to be Madras for the longest time. A Madras of endless tongue-twister names of neighbourhoods. Of having to wear mallipoo at weddings. Of cousins and well, lots of cousins. Of a favourite uncle and Marina beach. And then it was about hurried, calculated train rides. To eat pizza. It became Chennai of - Chennai train eppo? - at the Katpadi station. Short trips were followed by longer visits for Saarang, JRO, Festember and the other inter-college fests. We all did the same things, I think. Many of us girls bought silver rings at Spencers. We all went to Sparky's. We all went to Landmark. We all went to Fruit Shop on  Greams Road everywhere but on Greams Road. Some made their presence felt in the party scene. Those of us who didn't listened to fascinating stories of R's beach house and the events that took place there. Gradually, the city grew important to me because of less than a handful of people,  2 or 3 regular eating joints, one street, one bookshop and about two familiar routes.

Loyola brought all kinds of change. There was joy in meeting new people, whole sets of new friends - and then there was the confusion and the angst of a twenty something. There were fun train rides and there were sleepless nights. There was the grand thrill which the Loyola air offered - a grand big college sitting among grand tall trees - with all sorts of grand activities taking place inside as well as outside the gates of the campus. There was the excitement of the new, but the apprehensions as well. My whole life revolved in and around Nungambakkam - and it took me around in circles with its maddening one-ways.  Endless walks in the area usually ended in mallu food at Crescent, a peep into Just Casuals or a stop to buy groceries - usually a comforting packet of curds. There was chaos.

Chennai forced separate worlds to converge and clash -- my memories alternate between dreamlike and nightmarish. Every day saw an emotional graph akin to the temple border of a silk saree.There were happy times, like those on the beach, with water swirling around my feet, cleansing and therapeutic. But the aftermath remained - the nagging, uncomfortable feeling of sand adamantly sticking in between my toes. When I left, I left with the feeling of not having made peace with the city. I haven't gone back since and I am yet to find out what now might be like.

I seem to have a love-hate relationship with Chennai. And revisiting that place would mean another layer formed over pre-existing lasagna-like layers. Despite what the new brings,  I hope not to forget -- even a little -- the ones buried beneath.

But that's inevitable.

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