“Chennai is the greatest country ever!”

…..a little boy squealed inside the plane as the flight landed in the Chennai airport. I turned and looked at him in astonishment. Here was someone like me! 🙂

Picture by Niyantha

I was born in Pondicherry and brought to Chennai when I was just five months old. I’ve been a Chennai-ite since then.  I was told that I was cranky and a cry baby when I was in Pondy and became all happy and cheerful once I landed in Chennai. I think my adoration for Chennai started even as a baby 🙂 I have visited many cities all over the world and lived in a few for several years. But no place has given me as much happiness as Chennai has!  Mid pleasures and palaces though I may roam, be it ever so humble there is no place like Chennai 😉

My parents used to live in Mylapore, but for some reason took me all the way to Vadapalani temple for my first birthday. The priest somehow immediately assumed it was my birthday and garlanded me, even before my parents could tell him anything. Perhaps it was destiny, as I became an ardent devotee of Vadapalani Murugan from a very young age, and even today I live close to the temple 🙂 I believe in those days there were only stretches of paddy fields all the way from where the present Kodambakkam flyover is to Vadapalani and beyond.  In fact the bridge came much later.

Photo by Keerthi

We moved near Ram Theatre in Kodambakkam shortly after. I am sure that was again through the grace of Lord Muruga as this enabled me to frequently go to the temple on my own even as a young person. I would go to all the nearby shops without any adult accompanying me. I used to be in and out of all my neighbours’ houses having fun playing with kids my age and with those older than me too.

Summer vacations used to be so much fun! We kids used to gather together in the street and make “kootanchoru”. We made a stove with three bricks, collected twigs from under the trees and cooked rice in an earthern pot. Mixing a little buttermilk with the hot cooked rice, we ate it to our heart’s content to the accompaniment of five paise pickle packets. No chef from any five Star Hotel could whip up something more delicious than that 🙂

We used to stage plays as well. Once we staged a play about Kovalan and Kannagi. I donned the role of Kannagi (I was 7 years old). The guy who directed the play was probably fifteen years or so. He used to efficiently manage us kids, make us learn our lines and conduct rehearsals during the hot summer afternoons. When I found out that his son was my son’s classmate in Padma Seshadri, it was such a happy coincidence.

My brother was younger to me by five years. He used to take part in every game of the season with full zest. He was good in carrom, “goli”, “pambaram”, an expert in flying kites and of course our national game cricket! There would always be a gang of boys in our home sharing the loot of mangoes plucked from neighbours’ trees or running in the streets to get hold of a loose “bana kathadi”. I am pleased to say that I am still in touch with his friends.

I did my schooling and my college in Kodambakkam. Going to movies was as great form of entertainment then as it is today. I have seen so many movies with friends especially in the Sathyam Theater. We learnt Hindi by watching the same Hindi movie repeatedly.  Standing in queue eagerly waiting for our turn to purchase tickets was fun by itself 🙂

I have a very strong belief in God. This helped me through tough times when my family encountered many problems when I was quite young.  I owe my strength of mind to Vadapalani Murugan. We have no control over many things in life. But a strong belief in God helps you tide over the difficult times with courage. My prayers are always conversations with God. I learnt a lot of my life’s lessons at an early age. I should say that this was indeed a blessing. I became a very responsible person, capable of judging people and situations. Patience and perseverance were the other by-products 🙂

When I moved to the US, I really missed my temple and my Murugan. But He is so compassionate that He showed me where He was housed In San Francisco as Palaniswamy. It was a small but beautiful temple. Life was great in the US. Lots of friends, a lovely place with all the comforts one could ask for, no interference from in-laws… yet I missed Chennai 🙂

Then we moved to Singapore.  It was the best of both worlds, the confluence of the east and the west. Every thing was available in Singapore that was in the US, and we could even afford hired help, and the temples there made you feel at home. But still it was not Chennai 🙂 There were too many rules and regulations and the government interfered in the private lives of their residents. They even monitored the weights of the school children and took action to make sure that they did not become obese. Above all one did not even have the freedom of throwing a single piece of garbage on to the street 🙂 At the first opportunity we moved back to Chennai. We owe a big thanks to our daughter for hastening our return.  She was just 9 years old, and told me and my husband that if we decided to move out of the US, we should not have chosen a place where we were again a minority. She in fact moved to Chennai first, even without us. All we had to do was to follow her!

People of Chennai are like the jack fruit. They may sound disrespectful when they speak but have a heart of gold in welcoming others into their fold. The medical facilities available in Chennai are unparallelled. Public transportation is great. Compared to other metro cities, Chennai is definitely an affordable place to live.

Photo by Niyantha

I love the Marina beach. Soon after the tsunami the sea was rough for quite some time. Now it is back to normal. Marina beach is such an integral part of any Chennai-ite’s life! The sea breeze and the salt water is sure to wipe away the restlessness of one’s mind. All that is needed is a single visit to the sandy beach.

My friends! They are the secret to my youthfullness and vitality 🙂 We owe it to Chennai for our frequent getogethers and interactions. We used to live in different places but all of us now live in Chennai. Now as a group we travel to different places together starting from Chennai!

It is not surprising for one to love the city one is born and brought up in. But it is really a joy and an honour that my husband, who was brought up in Bangalore, loves Chennai the same way I do 🙂

21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Selva Ganapathy
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 03:52:56

    Very nice one! :-).. I have a similar kind of attachment for Delhi! 🙂


  2. ipokkiri
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 07:13:54

    I too love chennai. Chennai is the best place, I have ever seen in this world. Good writeup


  3. ILA (a)இளா
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 13:31:21

    Even though I am from Tamilnadu, somehow I didn’t Like Chennai, may be Only because of humidity/weather


  4. Rahini (@R_Rahini)
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 20:49:59

    Sorgamae endraalum athu nam ooru pola varuma? 😀 Lovely article ma! 🙂


  5. Apoorva
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 05:02:50

    Love the post, love the fact that it’s about Chennai! There’s no greater city than Chennai 🙂


  6. Sumathi Raghuraman
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 12:29:33

    reminds me of what Ratan said whhen we landed at Delhi Airport Chennai is the greatest country ever


  7. hawkeye
    Aug 24, 2012 @ 02:52:20

    i agree with your daughter. The reason why i prefer chennai to any other place in india is because I am not a minority there.


  8. Trackback: “Chennai is the greatest country ever!” | SABAS LOG
  9. Saba
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 03:43:48

    //We made a stove with three bricks, collected twigs from under the trees and cooked rice in an earthern pot. Mixing a little buttermilk with the hot cooked rice, we ate it to our heart’s content to the accompaniment of five paise pickle packets. No chef from any five Star Hotel could whip up something more delicious than that //
    Sweet memories of my childhood as well.

    Expatriates longing for their homeland is so clear in your post. A very good post and you have poured your heart into it. I could relate to Jaffna as you have a relationship with Chennai ….and this would be only understood & appreciated by those who have lived away from their homeland for long. 🙂

    I have re blogged your post to mine .

    Many more wishes for the future posts.


  10. Martian Poet
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 03:46:15

    ? country or ? city


  11. Heather Wilson
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 22:46:12

    I love Chennai too! Thank-you for a fascinating glimpse of the city. I generally visit every year before heading further south to Trichy, and I love the fascinating little parks and bustling shopping strips in the city. Such a wonderful place, and yes – I agree – lovely people, and always happy to stop and talk to a stranger 🙂


  12. amas32
    Jun 08, 2014 @ 03:14:12

    Thanks so much for your validation, means a lot 🙂


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