In Sholinganallur, life is still not perfect. But I am here, never to leave again

In the early 1990s, on a relative’s prodding, we bought a plot of land in Sholinganallur. On hindsight, we had come to own a piece of Chennai’s IT heartland. But in those days, there were few straws in the wind showing where Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) was headed.  To most people, this road linked Madras and Mahabalipuram. Beyond that, they knew little. 

Policy makers probably had an early insight into what this road would develop into. But the common man was left with no clues.  Rickety old vans plying between Thiruvanmiyur and Sholinganallur outstripped the metropolitan buses on the route. Groves, marshes and paddy fields largely defined the stretch. I remember lands proximate to our plot that were overrun with cashew nut trees. For me, the idea of living in Sholinganallur was not inviting.

And then in 2000, the advent of TIDEL Park overturned unflattering perceptions about Rajiv Gandhi Salai (as OMR has come to be known officially). With the government aggressively wooing the IT industry through relaxation of FSI norms for designated IT parks and other concessions, OMR loomed big on the city’s realty map. The IT Corridor project caused land prices on OMR to shoot up.  

I thought Sholingnallur was almost ready for me. In 2006, I moved in. Our family would stay in a rented house and build our own in the waiting plot – that was the plan.  The lack of civic infrastructure was too obvious to be lost on us. Not just that, shops had been razed due to the widening of the road for the IT Corridor project. We convinced ourselves that we could cope with this situation. OMR would soon have all of these things and more, I told myself.

But when I often found myself heading to Adyar even for basic shopping, my patience began to wear thin. I lasted barely three months in Sholinganallur. Shame-faced, we moved back to the city.

Call it what you will — inexplicable fascination or pull of destiny — but we are back in Sholinganallur now, this time to live in a house we can call our own. Sholinganallur is now within Corporation limits. But civic infrastructure is still a sore point. Shopping though, is less of a problem.

The picture is still not perfect. But I am here, never to leave again. Finding reasons to love this neighbourhood has become easier. Here’s one of them: in Sholinganallur, one finds an irresistible interplay between the urban and the rural. And I am totally at home in this setting.

I wonder how I failed to notice this earlier. I guess it all boils down to this: back then, I was not ready for Sholinganallur. Now I am.

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