A Stranger City..

“Madras” was what I used to call it in my childhood. The very mention of “Madras” meant holidays and fun. It meant – train ride from Bangalore to Chennai, walking with excitement in Central Railway station at Chennai amidst the growing stink of dry fish,  being welcomed by the warmest and genuine smile from grandparents, visiting relatives after a long gap of time, evening visits to the Marina beach with paternal grandfather and cousins, playing around in grandfather’s heritage-like house with cousins, sugarcane juice and “Samosa” from Gopalapuram, waiting for the late evening “Sonpapdi”/”Kulfi” seller at the steps of my grandfather’s house, listening to stories from the past from maternal grandmother and enjoying the affection bestowed upon us by her, watching Tamil TV programs with grandfather and mocking the Tamil-dubbed advertisements, occasional late night shows of movies in cinemas and lots more.


And then we grew up and “Madras” became “Chennai”. But most of the fun and excitement remained till grandfather left us. The only other person who longed to see us visit Chennai was my mother’s mother. As infants, we were raised by my parents with her support. It would be difficult to imagine us children growing up in Bangalore without her helping out my mother. Naturally we had a great bonding and she showered us with abundant affection and care till her last breath, a few months ago. If my paternal grandfather one person who longed to see us visit Chennai, my maternal grandmother was the other person who sulked at the mention of our return to Bangalore from Chennai. Her frail looks are deceptive as she is a strong person who had fought many a battle valiantly in her life. It suddenly occurred to me very recently, that I have never ever seen her angry or with a frown on her face. She was always the ‘fairy book’ grandmother one can just hope for; but we were blessed with. She was a person who had very few needs and always content. One would usually find her with religious texts and sacred ash and giving away blessings, but if you would drop in by her in the mornings, she would be found reading the newspapers of the day. She used to read in Tamil and English and was aware of the happenings around the world even in her late 80s. When I read the words “compassion”, “unconditional love” I remember my grandmother, who for me is another ‘Mother Teresa’, for I owe her a lot for what I am today. The only consolation is that, both of the grandparents that I have mentioned above, left this world in a peaceful manner having led a life with very less complaints.


But “Chennai” changed for me after them. It’s a strange city for me now. There is no more frantic running inside my grandfather’s house playing “I-Spy” or the long chat with my grandfather in his living room about “those days”. There are no more tear-eyed goodbyes or the spreading of the sacred ash on my forehead by my grandmother during farewell. I also wish she would be there to give me money when we left for Bangalore. I am stuck up in Chennai when I visit now doing nothing and meeting very few people reluctantly. Chennai meant “paati” and “thatha”, but it now doesn’t mean much to me; it could very well be “Chennai” or “Madras”.

~ by Jayanthan Ravi on January 16, 2012.

6 Responses to “A Stranger City..”

  1. well written…..i would say the exact same thing…maybe not so beautifully 🙂

    • I know ka… actually had a lot more things on mind about what we all did in Chennai… but only could manage so much 🙂

  2. Nice write up Jai… Made me go down memory lane!! Nothing to beat time spent with grandparents!!

  3. Well-written da..

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