Chennai throbs with art and culture. There are people on the streets, at all times

I was dying to get away from Chennai’s scorching heat and sweltering humidity. And I was excited about heading to Canada to visit my daughter. It was wonderful seeing her with her new family and we have been basking in their warmth and hospitality.

Canada is a beautiful country. The air is pure and unpolluted, the water is sterile enough to drink straight out of a tap, roads are squeaky clean, cars are big and state-of-the-art, homes are spacious and opulent, malls are huge, and people are gracious and friendly. There are lakes and streams everywhere, verdant parks and gardens in the middle of a big city. Every street looks the same and homes are designed to have the same façade. Every city has the same chain of restaurants and coffee shops.

People respect lines and solemnly queue up for everything. Discipline, punctuality, civic sense, dignity of labour and a mutual respect for fellow citizens are qualities imbibed by Indians living here, while also trying to retain the flavour and ethnicity of their home country. Every Indian here has stories about failing the driving test a few times before getting the license. The men help in the kitchen, children help with clearing garbage, women work very hard at the workplace and home, and everyone strives to fit in, in an alien country that they call home now.

Canada is everything that Chennai is not. Yet, I miss Chennai — its heat, humidity, crowds and noise. Chennai throbs with art and culture. There are people on the streets, at all times. Groups of youngsters hang out near tea shops and juice centres all through the day. There are vendors and hawkers on every street, however posh, selling fruits and vegetables. There are roadside eateries doling out just about anything, including ‘panneer butter’ and ‘Andhra style Chinese items’.

We wake up to a cocktail of sights and smells. The smell of food from a neighbour’s kitchen, vehicles plying and honking on the road, M.S. Subbulakshmi chanting from a distance, Ilayaraja blaring from somewhere, cycle bells, the old lady loudly selling ‘keerai’ on the pavement, the fragrance of agarbathi and and the clanging of dishes as the maid cleans them.

I miss the people. The folk criss-crossing roads all day long. Those who are always toiling to make ends meet and yet do not complain. They are grim reminders of how fortunate we are in more ways than one. There is something about home and routine. When we are stuck in it, we long to get away from the madness. When we are away from it, we miss that very same madness.

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