Friday, January 14, 2005

Thoughts on Chennai

Well, it’s been a hectic ten days in Singara Chennai. Which, unfortunately, is no more singaram than it was two years before, or even five years before. Or possibly 10 years before. I guess I’m going to be raising the hackles of the staunch Chennai-ites (bloggers included), but I defy anybody to say that there’s no truth in what I say.

There are many more glitzy looking, “exclusive” shops, restaurants, eateries and jewellery stores. The billboard ads are all a lot more “hep” and purportedly reflective of the times. There are more and more and more apartment blocks where there used to be gracious houses. Okay, that has been said before, but there are so MANY more flats and apartment complexes, and quite a few of them have weird outlines because of the odd-shaped building area. What greenery is there is so awfully dusty looking. To think that Chennai looked like a forest from the air, a couple of decades ago…

There are many more flyovers which have changed the surface of the city, squeezed in where there’s hardly any space for roads on either side of the flyovers.There are digital clocks at major signals, counting off the seconds before the light changes. I’ve seen cops who have what I think of as “light-sticks” that flash red and green (I haven’t noticed amber, though).

But I can’t help feeling that these are only cosmetic changes. Under the thin veneer of modernity, lies the same old Chennai - chaotic traffic despite the influx of modern new cars; indisciplined drivers, whether of a dilapidated old truck or a spanking new Mercedes; even more corrupt auto-drivers who, it seems, cannot be controlled; piles of rubbish lying around, presided over by mangy stray dogs; roads that are more holes, bumps and dust than proper tarmac; glamorous restaurants that are hugely expensive but offer indifferent food; superficially westernized boutiques that, again, offer very expensive items but have not yet taught their staff about customer relations or sales techniques -the list can go on…

I’m comfortable in Chennai despite all this only because I’ve lived here before and have so many good memories of the city as it used to be. I cant imagine NOW that I ever wandered the little streets of Triplicane for no reason other than I could. I remember the buses I took to faraway areas that I had only heard of – terminus-to-terminus trips just for the heck of it. I remember the early-morning walks with my friends along the Marina, to see the sunrise (and , after which we would wander back to the Karpagambal Mess, in the heart of Mylapore, for a piping hot, traditional South Indian breakfast. I haven’t been to Annanagar in years and (and probably wont this time either) but I really liked the wide avenues and nice houses there. I guess I’m talking about Annanagar West, because that’s the only area I was reasonably familiar with on account of my friend living there. I’ve no idea if the wide, good roads still exist, or whether the roads have degenerated to their component parts of stones and dirt… but at least I have the memory of a fairly clean, logically designed area that didn’t seem cluttered and claustrophobic.

There are many more things, events and occasions that come to mind, but they would be too many and too trivial to most readers to list out in their entirety. Suffice it to say that no matter how much things seem to change in Chennai, they really don’t. Good or bad? I simply cant decide!


Prabz said...

Not much to expect from city in seige :D
I always preferred bangalore over chennai.. for the weather and the locality! Hmm..with a kinda explosion we are having our cities are no more peaceful!

Shyam said...

I like Bangalore for its weather, but I guess it's getting hotter and hotter there as well, in summer. But at least it has parks - real parks with trees and things!!! :) I kinda like Hyderabad too.

F e r r a r i said...

True Shyam! But I feel this is part of every major city in India. If not for its weather, even a stray dog wont live in bangalore!!
Traffic is the same everywhere again. Come to bangalore next time. You will find scant respect for signals nor for other motorists. And one ways and speed breakers all over.
Its just the same all over :-( What to do? Atleast I try to follow all rules and not throw garbage onto the road. If most people follow these simple rules, all places will be heaven!

Shyam said...

Hi Prabhu, I guess traffic is probably bad everywhere in India, not just Chennai or Bangalore. Hyderabad and Pune are just as much a nightmare! Hats off to you for doing the right thing, though! :)

Harish said...

"But at least it has parks"

I was about to say "But we have them too.. we jus call them IT Parks"

and then I read this

" - real parks with trees and things!!! :)"

DAMN! :)

Shyam said...

Hi Harish, am I ever glad that I added the "trees and things"! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Shyam

GOtta agree with you. But I can only say that having been to b'lore and hyd on my last trip, Chennai traffic is miles better, and beleive me when I say that.
As for the rest of it, well, Chennai will be Chennai. Did u manage to even get near the beach and see the tsunami damage?

Shyam said...

Hi Anonymous,

Last year, when I went to Hyderabad for the first time, I was simply AMAZED that nobody ever mentioned the horrifying traffic to me. I guess there isnt much to choose between Chennai, Hyd, and B'lore in the bad-traffic area...

And no, I havent been near the Marina yet - it's right on the other side of the city from where I live, and life has been TOO busy for idle sightseeing... *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Hey, that was me da, Gee!! The Anonnymous one, I mean.

Btw, chk out my latest post _ we had 9 earthquakes here today!!! And Amma is in Hyd now. Lemme know if u want her ph #.When do u get back?