To watch a movie, Muthu Raja, 31, an IT professional has to travel 20 or more kilometres. For Divya Selvam, also employed with an IT firm, getting hold of necessities entails informing her colleagues a day or two in advance, who then buy and bring them for her.
Mr. Raja and Ms. Selvam may be living the suburban dream – with houses or other accommodation away from the bustle, noise and pollution that is associated with city living, but every weekend, they face that ultimate question: what do we do for recreation?
Cheaper accommodation in Chennai comes at a price – that of having to travel to the city for practically any form of entertainment.
With the growth of the IT and ITes sector in the city, hundreds of residents employed in these firms have chosen to live on the outskirts, primarily because their companies are located in the vicinity, and also because housing in areas that are not centrally located are priced lower. A real estate boom in these areas has helped — according to a report by Knight Frank, a property consultancy firm, the financial year 2012 saw the launch of 14,900 dwelling units in the city. Another 82,000 units are in various phases of construction. A chunk of these, experts say, are located in the suburbs in and around Old Mahabalipuram Road and Grand Southern Trunk Road.
But development-wise, the suburbs are a long way from catching up to the city.
Residents say that while facilities such as pharmacies, supermarkets and clinics have mushroomed in these areas over the last few years, they still have to depend upon the city for entertainment.
Mr. Raja, who has been residing in an apartment in Madambakkam near Selaiyur since 2002, says, “I would love to stay within the city but it has become a far-fetched dream owing to soaring land prices. And there is no way I can stay at home during weekends, so I spend time with my friends at Marina or Besant Nagar beach.
Ms. Selvam, who lives in a women’s hostel in Karapakkam near Tata Consultancy Services, says that even to buy medicines, she has travel at least a kilometre to Thoraipakkam. “The only reason I stay here is that travel to my workplace is greatly reduced as my office is just a ten-minute walk away. The only reason I go to the city is to shop. I frequently shop with my friends in T. Nagar or in one of the malls like Ampa Skywalk or Express Avenue on Anna Salai, says Ms. Selvam, who hails from Vellore and has been living in Karapakkam for a few months now.
Shopping apart, suburban residents also flock to the city on weekends for movies, a fine-dining experience or just to revel in the crowds and noise. Popular destinations are restaurants in Mylapore and Besant Nagar, shopping in Alwarpet and T. Nagar and movies in Royapettah, they say.
Future buyers do consider the distance factor when looking at a property in the suburbs, say experts. However, those who have bought properties in areas such as Padur and Madambakkam seem content with the to-and-fro arrangement,
Ranjit, another IT professional who has lived in a multi-storeyed building near Chettinad Hospitals in Padur, Old Mahabalipuram Road for the last five years now, said that while it was definitely inconvenient to travel all the way to the city just for recreation, he still preferred living in the suburbs.
“Even if I had the choice of an apartment inside the city, I would rather stay here since it is quiet and peaceful, with less pollution and traffic. On the weekends, if I leave home at noon, I return only around 2 a.m. the next morning on both Saturday and Sunday. First we go for lunch to a good restaurant in one of the malls, do some shopping in Mylapore and then head to the pubs late in the evening and return after midnight. This schedule does not bother me and I like working here and going to the city for the weekends,” he said.