I am pushing sixty now and I’ve never had to move away from Mylapore for work or for anything else. It’s funny, but even a trip to Mambalam makes me homesick!
I will have rose-milk nowhere else but at the corner shop and buy my morning paper only at Vijaya stores. Everything I write – a movie script for Kamal sir, a play for my brother Balaji or even a letter to my wife – must be placed first at the feet of Karpagambal. Take me away from the temple tank and I’m a fish out of water.
By the way, I wouldn’t want to be called homesick. I would think wanting to come back home is a healthy feeling!
I really didn’t enjoy that trip to the U.S, despite Niagara, Colorado and what have you. I was like a fisherwoman who was made to sleep beside a basket of jasmine. Now, flowers are fine, but without the smell of fish, she just can’t sleep. Something else too was missing. Probably mosquitoes.
There are mosquitoes in Madras, there’s the Cooum, traffic and pollution, but you see, I live in a joint family, so congestion and pollution are just like home! And I’d rather things remained as they are.
I’m not sure I’m happy with the changes in this city. Triplicane, for instance – back in the day, a walk in one of those narrow lanes would mean negotiating countless little mounds of cow dung. Where have the cows gone? A bit of rain and you could wade in water as high as your hip!
The traffic here too, is an amazing phenomenon. You can see your destination, but you’ll never get there. Sometimes, you think your vehicle is moving, but the scene outside the window never changes.
If you want something else, you’re welcome to leave. This is where I live and I want my home to be ‘like this only’!
Madras ‘valla’ Madras
I love Madras. I love the place, I love the word. Ask me my address, and I’ll say 14/18, Ammani Ammal Street, Mandaiveli, Madras – 28. I can’t get myself to say Chennai – 28.
People come to Madras from all over, in search of success. I live here, so success came looking for me!
The catalysts of my achievements – Director K. Balachander, ‘Muktha’ Srinivasan, Kamal Hassan – are of this city.
There’s something else, too. These cities, its environment, its people, are what made ‘Crazy Mohan’. I realised this when I met Gulzar.
For Chachi 420, the Hindi remake of Avvai Shanmugi, I was translating the dialogue into English for Gulzar, who was taking it all down in Urdu in his notebook. After a while, he just couldn’t stop laughing. He shut his book and said, “The sense of humour you Madarasis have is too much! How do you do it?”
I replied that the answer was in his question – being a Madarasi is mother’s aasi (blessing).
I thank Madras. I am a product of this city and proud of it.
To watch the interview, go to http://thne.ws/madras-mohan Video by S.S. Kumar
As told to Anand Venkateswaran