Someday I will walk up to you and show you the bits and pieces of Chennai that I have captured in the last two years. Be patient and bear with me then. For if you look long enough, maybe you will see my mother's city through my eyes.
There will be hundreds of photos of the IIT campus, lazy afternoons in the lab, the deer grazing away to glory, their beautifully symmetrical antlers pointing threateningly at you. There will be all the sunsets I captured from my hostel windows, the last tea and onion uttapam in beloved Suprabaa, the bright, happening and trippy nights of Saarang, when Rajhesh Vaidya treated his veena as half a guitar and belted out all the popular Tamil hits to a screaming audience, a photo with Manu Pillai, my first photo with any author ever, a 2-minute conversation I shall cherish ever after, and his signature in my book.
Picture 1: Deer in IIT campus
Picture 2: Rajhesh Vaidya at Saarang
You will see a few moments from the cool December season, a few blissful concerts here and there, some food from the famed Sabha canteens, more than a few immensely mesmerising Kalakshetra dance ballets, the cast all looking as if they have stepped straight out of our myths and Puranas into this old old city for a brief time.
You will see, through my mediocre camera, the very mundane sights of mornings spent trudging through the temples and by-lanes of Mylapore, with its road full of kolams that traffic ploughs through unceasingly, somehow keeping the intricate white designs intact, and it's Jannal Kadai breakfast, the literal hole-in-the-wall outlet that rustles up hot and greatly satisfying meals. You will see, from the bus stop across it, the Kapaleeswarar cast its divine reflection on the temple tank at night, and itch to remove the Rasi Silks insignia that shines beside it. You will see countless photos of beaches, old houses and small lanes, and signs of a vanishing era, and wonder, as everyone always must who enters this city, how the old still lives on in such harmony with the new, with such good grace, that most of the time we just pass by all this history without really noticing it.
Picture 3: Kapaleeswarar Temple
Picture 4: The shore
If you have the patience to sit through a few more hundreds of photos, you will see all the steaming hot food Chennai is famed for, the dripping-with-ghee and slathered-in-podi uthappams of Murugan Idli, with a soothing glass of jiigarthanda beside it, the soft-as-a-feather idlis from Rayar mess that just melt in your mouth, the very rich and fresh pal-khoa from a random Aavins stall, the light and dreamy neer dosa and thatte idli from Mathsya, the homely vegetarian meals in Mummy Daddy Andhra Mess, with its comfort rasam and sambhar rice, and its Gongura pickles, and the flat screen television with its never-ending run of so-bad-its-good Telugu action movies. There will be photos of all the chaat and the vadapavs we 'North Indians' have eaten in the quest to recreate the street food of our home states in this South Indian city.
Picture 5 : Hot paniyaram and Burmese Atho
I started writing this article in January 2020, freshly in love with the city as a result of all the solitary sojourns in the very pleasant December weather, and now it's June and I'm at home in Bombay, missing Chennai more than ever. There's something about that city, an undefinable quality, of music threading across the roads, abuses swirling through rickshaws, water never coming through the pipes. Of dance and drama and music and lights and jasmine and dosas and Tamil.
"My mother grew up in Triplicane and I was born in Adyar. Quite a sizeable number of mu maternal relatives are distributed all over Chennai and almost all my summer vacations were spent in Triplicane, hence my fondness for the city."
About the Author:
Sindhuja Mangalwedekar is an engineer from Mumbai (Thane) and is currently a research scholar at IIT Madras. She read, sing, write, and do research, in descending order of frequency. She occasionally blogs about books and other things at The Random Book Review.