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Alvida Chennai

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By Kunal Anand:

Four years isn’t a long period in a man’s life. But if those four years are your college life, they ought to be special and memorable. As my college life ends and in all probability, I will leave Chennai for some other place; I can’t stop myself from saying a final goodbye to this beautiful city that has given me the best four years of my life.

My first brush with Chennai wasn’t very pleasant (and is not talking about the summer heat. That’s the only thing I wish Chennai could get rid of). As I got down at Chennai central station for my first trip to SRM to attend the counseling session, my uncle realized he needed to replace his wrist watch battery. The roadside vendor charged us Rs 100 for a 20 bucks Chinese stuff. When I tried to reason with him, he said that the battery was big. This made me blurt the most ridiculous argument ever. I asked him, “By that logic, you will charge Rs1000 for a pencil battery!“. He gave me a nasty look and that very moment, I decided this wasn’t the city I wanted to spend my next four years in. As fate would have it, I wasn’t left with many choices. I joined my college a few months later and thus began my love-hate relationship with this city.

Like most people from north, I too was prejudiced. The sambar smell, the flowers in every other women’s hairs, the undecipherable Tamil billboards, the life size cutouts of Capt. Vijaykanth with Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda (I swear I am not making this up!) were a few of the things we used to joke about in the hostel. Add to this the horrible mess food and not so friendly college administration, and the hatred for Chennai, Tamil Nadu and anything remotely associated with Chennai was complete.

Then the classes started. Slowly, I realized that my Tamil and Telugu friends are way cooler than me. They give a dime about LTTE (contrary to the belief that Tamilians sympathize with Prabhakaran). They know Hindi! Unlike the rich spoilt brats we see in Delhi and other major cities, the rich guys here are down to earth, although they love to splurge on luxuries too. They do drive Audi, but don’t run over the lesser mortals. They don’t kill Jessica Lals for not serving liquor. And money is the last thing that decides their friend circle.

The city, many people still refer to it as Madras, is as colorful and diverse as the Tamil movies. You can see 1950 Premier Padmini waiting on traffic signals alongside Lamborghini Gallardo. The Victorian structure Ripon building can still give a run for the money to the newly built Express Avenue in terms of grandeur. This city has given us India’s most sophisticated sci-fi movie- The Robot, but it still comes to standstill when India’s biggest superstar-Rajnikanth makes an appearance in his trademark black shirt and dhoti, sans make-up and wig.

The beauty of Chennaites lies in their simplicity. Their matinee idols don’t need to look young and ravishing either on-screen or in real life. They know how to love their stars the way they are. This is why a bus conductor can become a worldwide phenomenon and actresses with waist size double to that of Deepika Padukone can give her a run for her money. Inspite of mushrooming of KFCs and McDonald’s, there’s still no match for the idlis from Ratna café. A Chennaite is deeply rooted in his culture while embracing modernity. He is as comfortable eating at the Taj with French cutleries as he is in the traditional banana leaf. If there’s one city where the old and new India isn’t two different localities but are one single entity coexisting in perfect harmony, it’s Chennai.

In Chennai, it’s impossible not to notice the omnipresent political graffiti. They are everywhere-on walls, flyovers, subways, vehicles. Karunanidhi is almost as famous as Rajinikanth in this part of the world. When you distribute free color TVs and rice at Rs1/kg, you are bound to be idolized.

This city is unique. You can sit in the local train with your friends and talk loudly in the not so decent version of “engineering Hindi” without the fear of being scolded by some elderly uncle. This city is relatively safe for girls and working women even late at night. This is one aspect in which Chennai is totally different from the national rape capital of India. Unlike other metros, people here are busy amongst themselves, too busy to think about teaching “lessons” to girls who venture out at nights for work or even discos.

Spencer’s plaza was my favorite destination for the first two years. Even now, if you visit the mall on weekends, it will resemble a mini SRM buzzing with students from our college. It’s still one of those few places where the biggest brands share space with cheap fake goods. With the opening of Express Avenue (EA), Spencer’s might have lost a lot of its admirers, but the old lady still lures us once in a while.

Watching Chak De! India on the main screen of Sathyam cinemas with a packed crowd was amazing. That was the day I became a fan of Sathyam cinemas like every other guy who has visited this multiplex at least once. You can’t escape its charm. Oh wait! You can escape to ESCAPE!

The sweltering heat can make anyone hate Chennai. But you need to know Chennai to love her. And once you do that, there’s no escaping her charm. Who can forget this city after driving on ECR, watching the sunset at Besant nagar beach, and exploring the chariot temples of Mahab? This city is like a shell. To know her worth, you have to look in to see the shining pearl-pure and immaculate, she holds inside her heart.

I was lucky to experience the joy called Chennai. Contrary to what I had thought four years back, I will leave Chennai with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. I will forever miss this city and the friends I made here. But the memories will always lighten my heart whenever I will be sad.

P.S: This might well be my last post from Chennai. I hope I get a chance to be back soon. God knows how many times I have dreamt of buying one of those beach villas on ECR and spending my life watching the waves crash against the shores. 🙂

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

You must be to comment.
  1. Neha Bhandarkar

    And hence I say why Delhi disappoints me. Every line in your article is so true! I will miss this place too and will not mind coming back if i ever get a chance to! Well written piece Kunal. 🙂

  2. Kunal

    @0b150a56349f03c3afea1c54c93968df:disqus , same here. I too would love to come back to this beautiful place…

    1. Kumar

      Awesome Well sd machi.., 100% truth & touching…
      But u missed to explore North Chennai So sad of u.. Ithu Enga Area.!

  3. Ranjani

     no place to match Chennai and her elegance… 🙂

  4. Shankar

    i miss her a lot. hope to get back soon to the city

  5. Jeyashree Krishnan

     nice one :)..its hard 2 find such fervent admirers of 🙂

  6. Meenakshi

    hey, I am a hard core chennaiite and i loved this article…. 🙂 but one thing though – how did u see the sunset in besant nagar beach? we live in the east and the sun rises from the beach…. 🙂 very gud article…. 🙂

    1. Kunal

      A valid point. But Besi Beach looks surreal in the evening,even if one can’t see the setting sun. As they say,”love is blind”. Looks like i am blinded by namma chennai’s beauty 🙂

  7. Shrayjaimishra

     VERY WELL WRITTEN KUNAL…..if a north indian has ever been to chennai…he would surely relate to every word written there….just like i do… left that city with tears in my eyes and  now working hard to buy that villa  on E.C.R to see the waves crashing…..

  8. Prakashb2

     Nice Article Kunal and all the best for you furure.

  9. Chennai_pras

    Totally in love with the article……Happy to see this from a north indian. North indians generally have very bad opinions abt the south. No body thinks of this as part of India. Good work!!!

  10. Deepika

     I have never seen anyone say they miss the place the college was in.. I studied in delhi…but then  I just misss my college. Chennai is truly a bliss!

  11. rahul

    that’s the whole thing – you need to spend a LOT of years in chennai to really liker her! its never love at 1st sight. bangalore isn’t like that… you descend in the city and you’re already in love with it. and all the issues related to traffic and pollution that non-bangaloreans rave about to support their own city becomes completely secondary as the moment you step out into a bangalore evening with pleasant sunlight, light breeze, lush greenery with leaves wet from the afternoon showers – there’s nothing like it ever! for outsiders, its extremely easy to love and live in bangalore. chennai has its vibrancy no doubt… but the rarity of non-chennaiites liking the city is something! nice article though…

  12. Deepa Chakravarthy

    I can sense the deeper feelings associated and the intention for writing this article are truly genuine, however wish you had mentioned Margazhi Season as well….. Probably when u revisit at a later stage of your life you will experience and enjoy that aspect to it….. May God bless you with that dream house 😉

  13. Nishant

    I was also an student at SRM University few yrs back… its been 3 yrs i left chennai. M very affectionate to my college n wud like to see it again. In my honest opinion, chennai and its ppl are nice but weather is not so favorable… Dhaba Express is a reasonable place to eat north indian dishes.. Adyar Bhavan has 20 varieties of dosaa, really gud.. my favorite place was Besant nagar beach… miss many things there.

  14. Tamilthathuvam Thathuvam

     Loved the article…. Chennai Rocks 🙂


  15. Johnny

    I have lived in Chennai for 24 years, in about 5 different localities and tell you what, i can’t stand this city. Its quite a depressingly docile town, nothing ever happens here. Nothing of note. Nothing worthy mentioning except the odd political debacle or a mega star’s movie release.

    You might as well be living in a village down south, oh no wait, atleast villages have a culture. Chennai is seen by some as a melting point of various cultures, i just think its a rather confused town trying to become the next Bombay.

    You did 4 years in chennai and loved it, good for you! 🙂 I think ive been here way too long and maybe the romance hasn’t lasted. I did 40 days in Bombay and fell madly in love with it. Thats the city with everything. Insane highs, incredible lows, money, poverty, pride, prejudice, hate, love and most importantly, the spirit i badly needed. I’m Indian, i need the masala, sue me.
    Chennai doesn’t give me that. Maybe this city speaks to each of us differently. 

    My parents and friends say I’m a blood traitor for not liking my native land lol! :D 

  16. Leyameera

     Love this!!!! Proud that Chennai has inspired good opinions from the normally judgemental Northies!

    1. Anonymous

       Leyameera, sadly, you are right in telling that many people are prejudiced in their opinion abt chennai. but its not a phenomena confined to north. indians from evry region have such mentality about some part or the other of India. its high time we shed such narrow thinking in interest of this nation

  17. leah

     make me feel proud that i’m a chennaite..!!

    1. Anonymous

      Leah, we all are proud of this beautiful city :) 

  18. Plramram

     Hi Kunal, loved ur article!!Can u brief on the LTTE part?? its potraying as if ur college friends were unaware of the happenings in SL. Thank you or the article…its wonderful!!


       Thnx Plraman.As far as the LTTE issue is concerned, i wanted to say that while many people from northern states assume that TN masses have a soft corner for LTTE,the fact is that my Tamil friends nevr displayed such an inclination. I WISH ALL OF US UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AFFECTION THAT TN PEOPLE HAVE FOR THE POOR TAMIL MINORITIES OF SRI LANKA AND DON’T CONFUSE IT WITH SYMPATHY FOR A TERRORIST ORGANISTAION

  19. pallavi

     Absolutely loved this straight-from-the-heart post. And given that it describes my most favourite city in the world, you can imagine how thrilled I am 🙂 Sniff sniff (btw, those were tears of nostalgia :-))

  20. Neha Saxena

     Good one!

  21. Ajay Prasad

    I m a Tamilian living in Baroda, Gujarat…
    After reading this article, I actually realized what all I have been missing out on, all these years…!!! I m yearning to go back to my home…!!!
    Excellent article Kunal… I wish u Good Luck on all ur future endeavours…!!!
    Thanks for portraying Chennai’s realities so beautifully…! 🙂

    1. Kunal anand

       thanks Ajay. The irony is, I will be moving to Ahmedabad,Gujarat in a few months. Looks like i will feel the same like u about Chennai…

  22. Kishi1985

     Love this article…! I’m a chennaite and I miss it like hell..!

  23. Sundari Subramanian

    Brought back my nostalgic feelings. Thanx. Yes, very much happy to see this from a young north indian. It is our simplicity and little bit of orthodoxy that makes us unique and strong. Many a times i feel that I have not given such an opportunity to my children to live in Chennai. I am a mother of two grown up children who are in their twenties. However , I just convince myself that they would be having something to write great about the city in which they were brought up, Bangalore!! And….. I think sunrise is much better than sunset at Besant Nagar beach!

  24. krishna

    Jus luv the article 🙂 Each line that reflects about chennai’s charm is sooooo damn true! U get to experience everything what life’s all about….. It feels so heartening that i am a chennaite… i get to experience all this forever* SRMite here dude.. Nice one:)

  25. Bharadhwaj

    Wow. Nice post from Non chennaite….Awesome one Kunal way to express how you felt about “Madras”.. :-).. Hope you get that home on ECR ..;)

  26. Siddhesh

    Wow! Extremely well written article that nicely captures everything good that Chennai has to offer. Kudos on the lovely article Kunal. There are many other insights that can be added, such as the sporting Chennai cricket crowd, which is known to appluad even the opposition upon reaching a landmark. The Dec/Jan carnatic music season, when people from all over the world flock here. The 2days before/after Diwali, when the whole city erupts in a blaze of colours. Chennai is and will remain special to me. Proud to be a Chennaite. 🙂

  27. Haresh

    A very well written article. I am a third generation North Indian in Chennai and although I get stared at as an “outsider” (Bombay or Delhi walla), the assumption ceases once I speak Tamil like a local.
    Without being prejudiced to other cities, I root for Chennai all the way. It is the only Indian city where the local culture has been retained despite the so called modernisation and influx of other communities. It is also the only metro where people are less materialistic and still have a humane approach.
    Love Chennai any day…..

  28. Karthik

    Dude nice to hear from yu about my city after all v r indians in delhi mumbai chennai banglore all r indians and v thorouly enjoy it

  29. Katil

    I was very very happy to leave this pathetic city.The city full of arrogant people ,hot and humid climate.If these people had there way they would put curry leaves in tea also.Nothing good about the city.

  30. Ajinkya Deshmukh

    This seems to be a 3 year old article. I ‘m shifting to Chennai from Pune for work. While my friends got their joining location as either B’lore or Noida, I got Chennai. I have got a mixed review about the city from people. But after reading you article, I have realized that I need to know the city very well. It is only after that, that I will start loving this city. I am really looking forward to meet new people in Chennai, for the fact that u hv mentioned that they are down to earth. This is the only thing I expect from people. What an awesome article Kunal !! U indeed hv done justice to the city, by being a non-Chennaite, and still taking efforts to explore the city very well before forming an opinion about the same. It’s because of you, that I now know that Chennai is gonna be one unique experience for me ! I hope I have loads to write about Chennai when I leave this city. I hope I also have tears in my eyes when I leave this city. And I must tell you that, though it has been 3 yrs since u hv written it, your article is still kicking !!

  31. Rajesh K

    There was a time, say upto end of the 90’s when locals (Tamilians) would not even bear hearing anyone speaking in Hindi (in Tamil Nadu). But, now things have changed. Locals here prefer that their kids LEARN Hindi, as they know that it would expand their kid’s scope in the future. Now, I see no hatred against Hindi. I am a North Indian staying in Chennai since 20 years (I speak Tamil)
    Well, in the work place, if you do not speak Tamil, there is still a bit of hardship (isolation). Perhaps, may be the same in other states, too.
    Tamilians are now modernizing and beginning to appreciate the best of other Indian ethnicities.
    Well, I also appreciate a lot about Tamil food, culture, etc.
    See, let us realize 1 thing. Every place has it’s pros and cons.
    What North, what South ?
    It depends on person to person.
    When I came to Chennai (from North India), the first time, I did not know a word of Tamil. At that time my best friend was s local Tamilian (he did not know Hindi), so we communicated in English.
    You will find good and bad people everywhere, both in North and South of India.
    We cannot generalize, based on regions.
    Are all North Indians very nice ? No.
    Are all South Indians very nice ? No.
    Are all North Indians very bad ? No.
    Are all South Indians very bad ? No.
    Just based on 1 or 2 people we encounter, how can we assume that the entire breed is good or bad ?
    Anyways, being a North Indian, I love Chennai. Yes, everything is not great here, but where is everything great ? Grass is always greener at a distance.

  32. Bala HAREN

    Well Kunal , I returned to Madras in 1969 after my stint with schooling at New Delhi where I studied till Hr.Sec; I felt at home because the Hindi speaking(they hate English..then), students, street boys, girls were terror to me! for they chide south Indians and their children, where as it is opposite here in Madras.
    As a madarasi..I excelled in studies, my first job was to teach maths, science in Hindi medium…can you do that in Tamil medium.
    I love the beach, temples, food, people with deep roots..of Madras.
    Now that Madras is celebrating its birthday week kindly reply visit to see lots of mirth in and around.
    Is there any city or metro which is celebrating its B’day?

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