"Parrys la kadaikathathe ila, adutha vaaram anga poi paakalam!" my aunt exclaimed, while talking to her friend over the phone. I wondered why she was so enamoured by this place and how it was possible for everything that one needs to be available here! I decided to accompany her and find my answer. We took the famous 21 number MTC bus and travelled for about 30 minutes to reach Broadway bus stand. As soon as we got down, she instructed that we hold hands tightly and walk closely with her.
Our expedition began in a street filled with the aroma of different spices and masalas. We stopped at a shop that seemed quite small when compared to our regular general store. My aunt started reading off from the list she had prepared and items were rapidly stacked on one top of the other. Next on our list was Abbai Paaku store, on another street, that amazed me with different varieties of paaku (areca nut) that they had in stock. We continued through multiple other streets that 've lost track of now, to buy multiple other items. The expedition ended at the famous Agarwal Bhavan, which my aunt declared happily as the end point, and bought us the customary lassi and samosa The 12 year old me didn't comprehend everything that the place called Parrys had to offer then, but after that day I agreed with my aunt - "Parrys la kadaikathathe illa".
Today, after having been to the locality multiple times, it continues to be a bag full of surprises! I get excited everytime I hear "Parrys poganum samaan vaanga". The wide range of goods and products and the ease with which they can be purchased in bulk sets the area apart. More than that, George Town for me is an institution in itself. It teaches one how to take changes in stride, how to handle chaos and most of all how to age gracefully. But, what it teaches best is how to offer something for everyone! For the stationery buff, you have Anderson Street which is an absolute delight and teases one with the latest, affordable stationery products. For the architecture enthusiast, it is the perfect place to understand the coexistence of various forms of spatial typologies and how history and the culture of the past are intertwined in the development of the present. For the foodie, you have the numerous eateries that serve diverse and delicious cuisines. Having shifted to the city from Mumbai, I had a nagging feeling that Chennai will never be able to satisfy my desire for North Indian food. But out came another surprise from the bag! From lassi and samosas to different pani puri stalls, the area had it all!
Being a locality that has seen the rise and fall of different political states, George Town holds within itself the answers to questions we face in our everyday, urban life. Each and every community that has made George Town its home has left an indelible mark, a mark that continues to teach us about vernacular and traditional practices. But at the same time, it continues to be a mystery; a mystery I enjoy unravelling bit by bit every time I pay a visit. So many shops yet to be explored, so many historical buildings yet to be seen and so many people yet to be met. Similar to visiting monuments and historic buildings to understand the history of a settlement, one must walk through George Town to understand the history of Chennai.